Shyamalan talks Avatar: The Last Airbender
M. Night Shyamalan has been talking about Avatar: The Last Airbender, the live action adaptation of the epic children's cartoon series. While there's nothing overly earth shattering in it, he does give a run down of the plot for us and of where the story is to kick off from.
He also talks about how the film cannot rely on special effects alone.
"The actual plot is in a place where there are four tribes of people. And these people each have people within their tribe that have mastery over one element: water, earth, fire or air. They all live in a balance and harmony and once every generation there is born an individual who can bend - that is manipulate - all four of those elements and thereby keep a balance between all. They are kind of a Buddha figure to some extent.
The story is about how, in this particular time, this avatar is born into the airbenders and disappears. Then all hell breaks loose and the fire nation basically commits genocide and eradicates the air tribe in the hopes of killing the avatar and taking over control of everything. This child then re-emerges, which is the beginning of our story. He reappears having been frozen in the ice - there is a whole story about how that happens - a hundred years later and this world is all fucked up and he is the last airbender, but he doesn't want this job. He's forced into the position of putting the world back together again.
It actually has a lot of Shakespearean overtones to it. There's lots of family angst, and fathers denying sons in different storylines."
Now that sounds rather interesting, the plot is epic and he's considering the spiritual tone and the connections to Shakespeare. Both those make me think that this could be much, much more than the average cartoon turned live action. This could really be a film for children and adults alike.
Of course there's Lady in the Water (Filmstalker review) to look back on and the poor performance it had when released. Personally I think that was a bit over stretched. Lady in the Water was a good film but it had its faults.
Shyamalan goes on to talk about how the story should feel, and he comes up with some more positive comparisons.
"Buddhist and Hindu philosophies run through the stuff…When I realised that is what it was, it really drew me as the template for putting storytelling on a new level. There is a kind of thread that connects Star Wars and The Matrix - the first one. That same thread is in this story, about a forgotten belief system, or the illusion of the world now."
There's a strong Buddhist-type spirituality in both those films that would seem to connect well with Avatar: The Last Airbender, although I wonder if this is going to show it a bit more overtly than the other films.
With live action instead of cartoon he is opening himself up for the need for a lot of CGI work, and that will no doubt increase the budget drastically. I mean these people will have to harness the elements and use them in and out of battle. Bending water, air, fire or earth and harnessing them in battle is going to provide for some great scenes.
"Just imagine if you saw a little girl bending water out of a glass into the air as an extension of her own personal discipline. It's three movies about the hero learning three elements. Live action…
…It's daunting on the level of not doing it properly…It can't be special effects for the sake of special effects, it has to be [that you use] take seven because the girl breathes properly on take seven. I have to tell the animators that. Everything, has to have that detail. I can't leave it. I have to make sure that I make it the same kind of storytelling, but with just one more tool."
Sounds fantastic, and a trilogy too. I think this has the potential to go much further than that, and M. Night Shyamalan makes a great choice for the first, if not all, the films. I'm a big fan of his and even with his less-liked films I still believe he's a great writer and director.
Surely you have to be getting excited about the prospect of Shyamalan helming this epic live action film?