With The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan challenged himself not with devising the original twist endings his movies have become synonymous with. Instead, this test required realistically animating the elements — fire, water, earth and air.
“I was most apprehensive about fire because I’ve never seen fire look good on film,” said the Oscar-nominated filmmaker in New York. “But it turned out water was the most difficult. It’s very labour intensive, each use of it is so specific and different and so scrutinized.”
And scrutiny is something Shyamalan is familiar with. After becoming Hollywood’s golden boy manufacturing mindbenders like The Sixth Sense and Signs, Shyamalan’s latest films (Lady in the Water, The Happening) were mostly roasted by the critics.
By turning his attention to proven source material — the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender — Shyamalan is hoping he’s on the cusp of a hit franchise.
“What was great was that I (discovered) it before anyone knew about it,” admitted Shyamalan of the cult show he latched onto three years ago. “I’d tell my agent, ‘I keep making my thrillers and I love those but if I’m ever going to do anything, I want you to find me Harry Potter before its Harry Potter.’”
Whether The Last Airbender will spawn sequels still remains to be seen but weekend box-office numbers bode well for Shyamalan.
Airbender finished second behind The Twilight Saga: Eclipse with nearly $41 million in ticket sales.