Ever since the audacious final act twist of his 1999 supernatural thriller, The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan’s films have tended to buckle under the weight of expectation and, perhaps, the extra scrutiny placed on them by audiences keen to spot an impending ‘big reveal’. 2004’s The Village, 2006’s Lady in the Water, and 2008’s The Happening all met with either critical or commercial apathy. Will the enigmatic director fare any better with his latest offering, The Last Airbender? Here’s the trailer…
Based on the successful Nickelodeon animated TV series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the film follows the adventures of Aang, a youngster who is able to manipulate or ‘bend’ the four elements (fire, water, earth and air), as he attempts to bring order to a world under threat from the destructive Firebenders of the Fire Nation. Aang is joined on his quest by a young Waterbender named Katara and her older brother Sokka.
It’s easy to see why the story would appeal to Shyamalan. It’s suffused with mythology and tied to ideas about nature, religion, destiny, and belief. But, if the trailer is anything to go by, it’s much grander in scale (and budget) than his previous output. Indeed, this film is the first part in a planned trilogy. Moving away from the atmospheric thrillers that have characterised his work to date and taking on an effects-laden adventure is almost certainly a good move for Shyamalan, but is he now set to add fans of the acclaimed animated TV series to his list of detractors?
The Last Airbender is released on 13 August 2010.