While the summer of 2010 continues to have disappointment after disappointment at the box office, there is one summer tent pole release that I think is about to take the box office by storm. And no I am not talking about Twilight: Eclipse. I am talking about this week’s other huge release: The Last Airbender.
The film, directed by M. Night Shaymalan (more on that factor later), is an adaptation of a popular US and Japanese anime show called Avatar: The Last Airbender. The title was shorted to avoid confusion with a certain film that kind of took the world by storm only seven months ago. I’m not exactly sure what the film is about, even after seeing the trailers, but it is a big special effects driven story about fighting factions that can control the elements—kind of like Captain Planet, but probably nowhere near as awesome. Paramount Pictures though, has a lot of faith in the production—reports have shown that the film cost about $150 million to make, and another $130 to publicize, and two sequels ready to go if it’s a hit. That kind of money is rare for this kind of project. The first Iron Man cost about the same, but the most recognizable star for this film is Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, and most of the cast is of Indian origin.
However, the film has been tracking extremely well, and I’ve heard a lot of buzz from very different people, from at least three of the four marketing quadrants (male and female, over and under 25). The film’s PG rating gives it a kids appeal (and something non-CGI for the kids) and the action sequences in the trailers might bring a large teen portion in as well.
Where the film may trip up though is in its direction, Shaymalan, who hasn’t had a successful film since Signs in 2002. However, with Mr. Shayamalan only in the director’s chair and far away from the script, as well as being in charge of a firmly studio production that needs none of his quirks as a director, as the focus is the special effects, Shayamalan, even if being put up on top of the title, is a non-factor in my opinion. I am personally uninterested in the film, and even less with Shaymalan’s name attached (unless the trade reviews start some buzz about this being quite entertaining).
When the box office numbers emerge for this July 4th weekend, don’t be surprised if The Last Airbender puts close to Twilight’s numbers. If families are going to the movies this weekend, that film has a much better chance of bringing in masses than boys who don’t want to sit through Edward Cullen’s pale body. If the summer is in need of a breakout hit, then The Last Airbender is certainly it.