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M. Night Shyamalan Compares Last Airbender to The Matrix

by
February 2, 2010
Source: Hero Complex

The Last Airbender

Seemingly out of twists in his storytelling arsenal, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has taken to his first film not based on his own original concept. The film, which now has two fancy posters, is an adaptation of the Nickelodeon series "Avatar: The Last Airbender." However, now it has the less blue-alien-thought-provoking title of The Last Airbender. Shyamalan sat down with Hero Complex to discuss what drew him to the property, comparisons to The Matrix, and some of the thematic elements in the film. So what is it about this series that was more appealing than the previously offered Harry Potter franchise? Read on!

If you're unfamiliar with the series, it's set in a world where the four ancient elements (fire, earth, water and air) can be manipulated by a select group of magical humans known as "benders." The brutal firebenders, known as the Fire Nation, are intent on world domination and the only thing standing in their way is Aang, last of the airbenders, who is also the Avatar, the only one who can wield all four of the elemental groups.

Sounds like a pretty cool premise to see adapted to live-action and Shyamalan was drawn in from the get-go. He recalls a story of his seven-year-old daughter getting her whole family to watch the series:

"She made us watch as a family and all four of us were hooked. I was like, 'This would make a killer movie.'  And my wife who really has been kind of in neutral about my career was insane about it. Insane about it: ‘You have to do it. This is it. This is the one.'"

But on a deeper level, Shyamalan was drawn to the the subtext that is a great representation of the Buddhist philosophy. Even though it's a cartoon, that doesn't mean it can't be this smart. He explains:

"Aang himself needs to find balance to be the Avatar and to master each of these elements. We get to see the process of someone mastering themselves through the three seasons to get to peace."

And of course, a discussion of any upcoming film wouldn't completely without comparisons to a successful predecessor that has similar tones and themes. Shyamalan seems to have a predilection towards The Matrix.

“In the first Matrix, you realize that what you're seeing is all false. Those are really ancient ideas. Basic old, old religion. This has that as well. So if you go on the journey and you'll feel that epiphany on top of a great roller-coaster ride. It's going to be something.“

While I wasn't particularly wowed by the teaser trailer from last year, maybe the forthcoming theatrical trailer and Super Bowl spot wiill change my mind. The premise sounds intriguing and since I haven't ever been interested in the series, this will be as fresh as can be. Stay tuned for the premiere of the new trailer, hopefully sooner than later. And if you're curious to hear more from Shyamalan about the series, be sure to read the entire interview over on Hero Complex. We'll be following this closely for updates. If you want to know more about the series, read our rundown from July. Are you excited for The Last Airbender?

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  • Xerxex
    isn't that kind of a bold statement?
  • Wylles
    on the fence about this one...
  • Mike
    I think this actually looks kind of cool from the short trailer I've seen so far, but, his name all over it certainly gives me hesitation. Why do they let him keep plastering his name all over it? Its not the Last Airbender, its M Night Shyamalan's the Last Airbender !!!!! Like we're supposed to get excited just from seeing his name on it, but, almost everyone one his movies kind of sucks, and a few of them REALLY suck.
  • silver
    The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable won't cover your ass if you fuck this one up Night
  • Robert
    I find it weird that the fire nation is noticeably all Oriental in the way they look, and Mr. Shymalan made all of the Fire Nation basically Indian. What does he have against Oriental looking people?
  • Patrick
    man he's got some fuckin' BALLS to compare this to the matrix...
  • Mark
    "In the first Matrix, you realize that what you're seeing is all false. Those are really ancient ideas. Basic old, old religion. This has that as well. So if you go on the journey and you'll feel that epiphany on top of a great roller-coaster ride. It's going to be something." I've read this on a dozen news sites so far, and every single one has posted it out of context. If you read the original interview, he's not comparing his film to The Matrix in terms or success or style, but purely story structure. "Aang himself needs to find balance to be the Avatar and to master each of these elements," the director said. "We get to see the process of someone mastering themselves through the three seasons to get to peace." Shyamalan sees similar spiritual motiffs in “Star Wars” and “The Matrix." "In the first Matrix, you realize that what you're seeing is all false. Those are really ancient ideas. Basic old, old religion. This has that as well. So if you go on the journey and you'll feel that epiphany on top of a great roller-coaster ride. It's going to be something."
  • @ #7, That's why I made sure I said "similar tones and themes." However, it's important to note that he's not comparing it to a poorly received film that may have had the same connotations in story structure. The comparison is to a successful one to help create buzz and also get people thinking about a film that is similar in its tone and themes. Hence his comparison to The Matrix. Not out of context. We get it. Spiritual undertones.
  • sounds interesting, but the name - I don't know.
  • DoomCanoe
    Aang: "are you saying i can dodge bullets?" Morpheus: "I'm saying when the time comes....you wont have to"
  • Robbie
    I freakin' love the tv series. I can't wait!!!!!!!!
  • jennie
    I'm having this pessimistic feeling that the reason why we haven't seen another trailer is because they're having difficulty pulling a decent one. I mean, it's less than 6 mos before showtime and all they're showing is few minutes of karate and some toy boats. What's the hold-up? People's expectations are building up and his interviews are not helping. We need some more physical evidence that this is going to work.
  • DEADPOOL,MERC WITH A MOUTH
    mr m .night shyamalan comparing this to the matrix,are you of your head you made two good film's the sixth sense & unbreakable,the rest sucked balls.so i wouldn't start comparing your film's to the modern classic that is the matrix.
  • geesh
    Some of the comments show how warped some people are. Should have never been touched, doesnt hold true to the original stroy, blah, blah, blah. I guess the fact that the original writers collobarated with M.Night is not sufficient enough to satisfy your need for duplication of the defunct original cartoon production as your warped brains have decided it should be. Its all make believe after all so get a freaking life and i am sure they are more interested in making Potter dollars than sitting around collecting measely residuals for a canceled cartoon series! So dont watch it if you are offended, idiots.
  • l.21
    Love the series, sooooo scared about what shamalamadingdong has done to it. He has such a narcissistic approach to all his work, it ruins it.
  • Cineprog
    Bender’s , Ive been on a few of those, But Seriously what I have seen of the film it looks good.
  • Trevor
    Not getting the comparison too much, not even philosophically. I'm sure its going to be good.
  • Linkfx
    The matrix sequels were absolute dreck, regardless of if they made money they sucked balls. If I had only made one good film (the sixth sense) and one good film with a terrible ending (signs) I wouldn't be comparing my supposed franchise to a halfbaked dissapointing one. Yes they share certain philosophical aspects but I don't think it would be a stretch to say airbender is a shade of lord of the rings as well. This all being said, I thought I would hate the cartoon before I just recently watched it. It's fantastic! Great story, wonderful animation, surprising for an American cartoon. My only gripe is that they seem to be changing the ethnicities in the film, to basically white vs eastern indian with only a few Asian. I'm pretty sure everyone in the cartoon was at least half Chinese. The only Asians I've seen cast in this film are Korean...and there is only three of them.
  • Aaron
    @ #14 hey, nice little rant you went on there, except the series was never cancelled. It was a huge hit, and they finished up the story and had a series finale in 2008. Get your facts straight before you pms all over everybody. As for me, I am excited for this movie. It's pissing me off a little bit for how long it is taking for them to work up a full-length trailer, but I was a fan of the Nickelodean series as a kid. I just hope Shamylan doesn't fuck it up with some stupid uneeded twist at the end. Stay true to the story, why fix something that isn't broke?
  • runxerox
    "Even though it's a cartoon, that doesn't mean it can't be this smart. " THATS MY WHOLE POINT with the other AVATAR!!!! and on another note, the matrix sucked donkey balls! I hope this isnt as laughable as that bubble gum crap...
  • NeoSlyfer
    #20 totally disagrees with ya bub.
  • runxerox
    and I respect your right to disagree.
  • SlashBeast
    Maybe if he cast actual asians for the asian characters I'd give a fuck.
  • Aaron
    @ #23 Lol, Yeah, that's true. I thinked he fucked up when he cast Dev Patel-A fellow Indian-for the role of Zuko. Not saying he's a bad actor, it's just that almost every character in the show has an asian backround, and I honestly don't know any asians that have been cast, and it might take the "reality" aspect of the whole movie out just a bit.
  • Julian
    The lack of a trailer since July is kinda maddening...I wanna see what Night does with his first big budget fantasy flick though.
  • Alec
    Oh yeah...the super bowl spot got me super excited! Can't wait to hear JNH's score. What a jump for Shayamalan. This will be interesting to see how well he can make a VFX packed blockbuster.

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