Two very interesting and very different film projects were 'officially' announced yesterday and both of them are called Avatar.
The first that I'll mention is the lesser in terms of cool excitement factor. According to Variety, M. Night Shyamalan has partnered with MTV to write, direct, and produce a trilogy of live action films based on Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender. I am not generally speaking a huge fan of Shyamalan personally, ever since seeing some of the extras on Unbreakable and hearing him come off as an egotistical prick. His films however have generally been pretty good, despite the "surprise-twists", and obnoxious self-awareness. The cartoon is unfortunately not one I have had a chance to watch yet. Although I don't really have a good reason for that, and have as of today put it onto my DVR schedule. By all accounts this is one of the best cartoons in the past few years. And, forgive me if I'm a bit off here, as far as I understand it follows Aang a boy with a destiny to save the world. In his world of magic and martial arts he is part of the Air Nation of people and must use his froce like 'airbending' powers to defeat the evil Fire Nation who are trying to take over everything. For more info check out the show's wiki. It really is supposed to be extremely cool, and I have to say I'm glad about this pairing. Perhaps especially because this is Shyamalans first time going after material that is not his own, I think having to answer to the higher ups at Nickelodeon ne:-Paramount and deal with stringent license issues might force him to create a better film. At the least it will hopefully stop him from doing anything too crazy.
The second and really much more exciting Avatar film that was announced is the 10+ years in development James Cameron sci-fi epic. This is going to be his first directorial effort since Titanic, and I am very excited about it. Apparently he has been waiting for the technology to get to the level where he feels it can support his vision. He plans to shoot the film, which he says will be a seamless blend of live action and CG, on his personally developed 3D high definition digital camera technology. The story revolves around 'a wounded ex-marine who is thrust unwillingly into an effort to settle and exploit an exotic planet rich in bio-diversity. Eventually though he crosses over to lead a band of indigenous people in a battle for survival.' The film isn't going to come out until 2009 which is like ages and ages away.... but considering the man behind it I have a feeling that the wait will be worth it. Cameron has cast two relative unknowns in the lead roles, Australian actor Sam Worthington, as Jake Sully, the protagonist, and Zoe Saldana as a beautiful local woman who Jake apparently betrays and then falls in love with. Is it just me, or does this sound a lot like one of the John Carter pulp novels? Anyhow, until Favreau finishes Iron Man and gets on the John Carter film I'm more than happy to have James Cameron take a crack at a cool sci fi war epic. Check out this great interview Cameron did with Ain't it Cool News yesterday after the story broke.
As a final side note, after he's finishing up on Avatar, Cameron is planning on launching into production on an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel Alita. Pretty cool, eh?
Oh and as for both films being named Avatar. I'm sure that won't last. Paramount has apparently registered the name with the MPAA already, and is strongly staking their claim to it. So it looks like the Airbender will win that battle. But I have a feeling Cameron might just win the war.