Actor-Inspired Element: During the open casting call, creator M. Night Shyamalan received a video of Noah Ringer doing performance martial arts. He never originally thought about casting Ringer (saying that he thought "wow, that's cool", but didn't originally intend to have so much of it in, or not quite so awesome), but then called him in for some acting auditions and screen tests to see if he could double anyway, and was apparently so impressed by the boy, who does look a lot like Aang as well, that he was hired.
Box Office Bomb: Budget: $150 million for production, plus $130 million for marketing. Box office: $131,772,187 (U.S. and Canada), $319,713,881 (globally). This is one of the cases where the movie would have been considered a modest hit with its production budget, but production and advertising made the film lose the studio money.
Cast the Expert: Noah Ringer (Aang) was cast more for his martial arts experience (he earned a black belt in Taekwondo at the age of ten, and was very proficient with a staff) than his acting ability; in fact, he had to take acting lessons before shooting started because he’d never acted in front of a green screen before. Ironically, however, he did seem to have the personality that would fit Aang (energetic, fun-loving, etc.), and he had already shaved his head.
Creator's Favorite: Shyamalan made no secret that Zuko was his favorite, and "the true hero" of the story.
Creator Killer: M. Night Shyamalan’s career wasn’texactlyspotless before this film, but it looked to be the final nail in the coffin. He was neither the screenwriter (though he did get a “story by” credit) nor the director of his next film, Devil, and his name actually drew jeers from audiences when it appeared in trailers. His next directorial effort, After Earth, did not mention him in any promotional material and also avoided showing his name until the ending credits rolled. He has begun a tentative comeback with The Visit and Split, though.
Dawson Casting: Jackson Rathbone (24) as Sokka (15–16). The actress who was intended to play Suki, Jessica Andres, was the same age. The other characters are played by actors of a closer age. Rathbone apparently had a good screen test with Peltz and very much looked like her older brother. He looks awkward playing opposite Dev Patel, who is six years younger despite playing a character one year his senior.
Deleted Scene: A significant number, the exclusion of them apparently due to Executive Meddling. At 100 minutes the movie had a real breakneck pace, with the deleted scenes fleshing out the story, personalities and doing some more world building. Notably, an entire subplot with Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors were part of the film. Some have noted that a lot of these scenes harken closer to the spirit of the show, with one in particular having Aang enjoy himself dancing with villagers after rooting out the Fire Nation (versus almost always being rather dour throughout the movie).
Disowned Adaptation: Avatar co-creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko seem to share their fan base’s distaste for the film, having said in interviews that it distorted their vision of Avatar and have even advised people, including members of the original cast, not to watch it.
Executive Meddling: Word has been spread that the producers of the movie pulled the strings and caused it to fail. They didn’t bother to watch the series, and this, along with nepotism and a mismanaged budget, caused Shyamalan and the show creators to give up on the movie outright. Apparently the shooting script was rewritten and taken from their hands, and after filming the Southern Water Tribe scenes on location in Iceland was completed, the budget was reorganized so the rest of the film was done in the Pennsylvania countryside and on sound stages.
Missing Trailer Scene: Two of them involve Sokka. One has him flirting with Yue by telling her “I taught him that,” implying that he was talking about Aang. Another one had him cheering during the climactic battle after defeating the Fire Nation. It’s pretty jarring that they were cut, since they were quite in-character for Sokka.
Believe it or not, there was a minority of fans who initially defended this film out of denial. However many of them have since come to accept that the film was awful and unfaithful to the source material.
The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi as Admiral Zhao. At least he’s already got the ham down.
Although M. Night Shyamalan is famous for his supernatural movies, this movie marks his first fantasy action-adventure epic, as well as his first franchise-based adaptation.
Promoted Fanboy: Averted. Shyamalan first heard about the show when his daughter asked to be Katara for Halloween. After watching a few episodes, he decided to make an adaptation almost immediately.
Star-Derailing Role: Most of the performers with major roles in this film saw this happen to them, with Ringer only appearing in one other nuclear Box Office BombGenre-Killer, Cowboys & Aliens, the next year, and he hasn't appeared on the big screen since. However, Dev Patel, who played Zuko, Shaun Toub (Iroh), Cliff Curtis (Ozai) and Seychelle Gabriel (Yue), escaped this.note Gabriel, as a matter of fact, remained in the Nickelodeon Avatar franchise and took the major role of Asami Sato in The Legend of Korra, which was a Star-Making Role for her. Bryan and Mike even note that getting to meet Seychelle was one of the few positives that came from this train wreck of a film.
Stillborn Franchise: Despite the obvious Sequel Hook hooks, the extremely negative critical reception and the somewhat lackluster profit margin seems to have killed the chances of any sequels, though Shyamalan expressed the desire to work on a sequel in 2015.
Shyamalan truly was a fan of the series and poured this into his original draft of the script (a seven-hour treatment spanning all twenty first season episodes), one reason why Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko gave it their seal of approval. Unfortunately, the film's producers were not nearly as familiar with or fond of the series, and they were in charge of some of the film's more poorly-received aspects, starting with the casting. Nicola Peltz was cast as Katara largely because she was the daughter of a studio bigwig to whom the producers owed a favour; her audition tape was described as "subpar at best". A Caucasian Katara forced the casting of a Caucasian Sokka, and Jackson Rathbone was at least a fan of the series who could capture the character's humour; however, the producers cut the intentional jokes from the script in the interest of time, leaving the dull characterisation of Sokka that landed in the finished product. Noah Ringer as Aang had talent but lacked experience, and felt particularly lost in talking to air for scenes that would be greenscreened later.
Jesse McCartney was originally cast as Zuko, but it finally began to dawn on the producers that their primary cast was all-white; they couldn't get rid of Peltz (and Rathbone with her), so McCartney voluntarily stepped down and was replaced by Dev Patel, fresh from his star-making turn in Slumdog Millionaire, which had the unfortunate side effect of necessitating the re-casting of the Fire Nation characters, the film's antagonists, with South Asian actors.
The budget was also very sloppily allocated. The opening scenes at the South Pole were shot on location in Greenland at great expense, but after the producers decided that they couldn't believably render the scenes of elemental manipulation with camera practical effects and so gave a large fraction of the budget to Industrial Light and Magic for post-production of those scenes, most of the rest of the location shooting was done on a far more modest scale in Pennsylvania. The Fire Nation palace was a Philadelphia high school, the Earth Kingdom was the area in and around Reading, and the North Pole scenes were shot in an old aircraft hangar and greenscreened.
Post-production was similarly rushed and left in the hands of staff members hopelessly out of their depths, leading to such scenes as the widely derided "pebble dance". By this point, Shyamalan had given up arguing with the overheads, and DiMartino and Konietzko were only listed as executive producers because they created the original series, not because they were allowed any input into the film itself. Finally, 30 minutes were cut when Paramount decided at the last minute to convert it to 3-D and found there wasn't enough money to convert the entire film. The result was eviscerated by critics and fans of the series, and DiMartino and Konietzko have publicly said that they prefer to pretend it never happened.
The first draft of the movie included all twenty episodes of the series, adding up to a whopping seven hours. Instead, the movie was cut down to barely two hours, and then studio bosses had another half-hour of film cut from theatrical release because they wanted to convert it into 3-D as quickly as possible.
Before things turned stillborn, Shyamalan planned to counter the “Racebending” complaints in the sequel by casting an Asian actress as Toph.
Jesse Mc Cartney was originally going to play Zuko, but had to drop out due to his tour dates. This probably would have resulted in the Fire Nation citizens being played by white people as well. Avan Jogia apparently auditioned for the movie, presumably as either Zuko or Sokka.
Early promotional images showed Fire Lord Ozai with the long hair and goatee he had in the cartoon, but in the final movie, Ozai had short hair and was clean-shaven.
Bonus Material: The game has little tokens scattered around the levels. Each contains movie concept art, which did have the cartoon in mind when it was drawn. Others focused on what the movie actually went with.