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: This was not necessarily a bomb, having roughly broken even, but Paramount had much higher expectations as to what it should have made. The production budget was $150 million but a blockbuster usually needs to make a little over twice its production budget to be in the green. This total budget includes things like: marketing ($130 million in this case), residuals off the gross for the cast and crew , using partner companies to distribute in foreign markets, and interest to financiers. Box office: $131,772,187 (U.S. and Canada), $319,713,881 (globally). Had the production budget or marketing budget been a bit lower, it would probably have been considered a very modest success.
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 hed never acted in front of a green screen before. 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 Shyamalans career wasntexactlyspotless 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.
Creator's Oddball: M. Nights only direct adaptation, only childrens film, and also only action-adventure film.
Dawson Casting: Jackson Rathbone (24) as Sokka (1516). 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 fanbases 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: This CinemaBlend article suggests that the film may have been more a case of this trope than solely the fault of M. Night Shyamalan. Nepotism, script rewrites, and cut scenes to keep the movie under 100 minutes long seem to have ultimately killed Shyamalan and company's enthusiasm for the project, leading them to phone it in just to get their paychecks.
Additionally, a crew member of the movie posted just how nightmarish the production was to everyone, including Shymalan.
To add insult to injury, production of the film was rushed at different times just to get it converted to 3-D in time for its release; it probably wasn't really worth it as it made the movie much worse with many of the major problems this movie has.
In fact, there are said to be about twenty differences between the film and its novelization alone.
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. Its pretty jarring that they were cut, since they were quite in-character for Sokka.
The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi as Admiral Zhao. At least hes 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 (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. Likewise, Nicola Peltz managed to get later roles albeit only because of her producer of a father.
Stillborn Franchise: The intention behind this film was clearly to be the first of a trilogy, and that the other two seasons of the original show were to be adapted next. But its lackluster performance at the box office put an effective stop to these plans. Even after the film failed, Shyamalan expressed hope that he could one day get a sequel off the ground as late as 2015. By 2018, however, the announcement of a live-action series that is to be produced by the original series' co-creators on Netflix effectively killed off any potential sequel films.
Shyamalan, a fan of the series, wrote a seven-hour treatment spanning all twenty first season episodes, one reason why it gained Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko's approval. Unfortunately, Paramount was 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's the daughter of businessman Nelson Peltz, who the producers owed a favor; 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 characterization 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 Paramount realized 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 disowned the film altogether.
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 McCartney 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.
Seychelle Gabriel (Yue's actress) originally auditioned for the role of Katara, but subsequently lost out to Nicola Peltz.
Sokka's actor mentioned wanting to tan for the role. That didn't happen.
According to Aaron Ehasz, the head writer of the original series, there were ideas for the series to have a Book Four. Shyamalan encouraged them to pursue creating a fourth season but DiMartino and Konietzko pushed for any Book Four plans to be cancelled and for the movie to made.
One of The Last Airbenders Razzies was for Worst Picture of 2010. Another was the one-time Worst Eye-Gouging Misuse of 3-D. It also "won" Worst Screenplay, Worst Director and Worst Supporting Actor (Jackson Rathbone, who also won for his role in Twilight Eclipse). The film also received four additional nominations, tying it with Eclipse for the most razzie nominations of that year.
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.