Tuesday, January 9, 2007

EGO Avatar vs. Avatar

Who’s going to back down first? Two films with the title Avatar were announced within hours of each other, according to the Sci Fi Channel’s entertainment news wire.

James Cameron is finishing up his decade off of feature filmmaking with Avatar, the story of an ex-marine who is unwillingly sent to settle and exploit a faraway planet, who then gets caught up in a battle for survival by the planet’s inhabitants.

Once again Cameron is going to be pushing the edge of technology by combining live action with “virtual photorealistic production techniques,” or in other words using motion capture and cutting edge visual effects to help create an entire alien world and ecosystem that a live-action human protagonist will enter. He’s working with Peter Jackson’s visual effects house, and it shouldn't be a suprise that he is helping create a brand new digital 3-D format for its 3-D release. He starts shooting in April for a projected 2009 release.

Meanwhile, M. Night Shyamalan has his own Avatar in the works. It’s based on the Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender but will be live-action. The show is set in a world of martial arts and magic, and follows one of a long line of “Avatars” who “must put aside his irresponsible ways and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations.” The show is quite popular with kids 6 to 14, and Shyamalan does seem focused on pleasing children (his own and others), what with the “bedtime story” that was Lady in the Water.

As of right now the titles are the same. If it were any other filmmaker besides Shyamalan, I would assume he or she would cede the Avatar title to Cameron, but from what I’ve read this Shyamalan cat is a strange mix of insecurity and ego. He so believes in himself and his own projects that I could imagine him calling up Cameron and asking him to change the title of his movie, despite the fact that it’s been the pet project that he has been thinking about since Titanic.

Shyamalan does have an ego-saving out. The cartoon series does have a subtitle, “The Last Airbender” (whatever that means), which could become the title of the movie. But it is a projected series of films and, even adjusting for a slow creative process, Shyamalan’s film will hit the theaters first. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Thanks again to Sci Fi Channel’s Sci Fi Wire for this information.

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