Above is the teaser trailer (hat tip Peter Chattaway at A&F) for M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar: The Last Airbender, a live-action rendering of the Nickelodeon animated series--of which, I must admit, I have become a pretty big fan.
The animated series takes place in a world of four nations based on their abilities to manipulate one of four elements: fire, water, air and earth. It follows the adventures of 12-year-old Aang, the last “Avatar” (who can “bend” all four elements) whose destiny is to help maintain peace between the four nations. The mythic foundation of the series draws heavily on Asian influences, from its art to philosophies and religion, and explores themes like redemption, sacrifice, suffering, good versus evil, and what it takes to face the challenges involved in saving a world. At first glance, its Eastern influences might seem to take it out of the God-talk realm, but I found it a good story, one that presents Aang and his friends with hard challenges and choices in their quest to "save the world," and along the way they make mistakes but also are able to find answers outside the box--and all of these elements have the potential to bring God-talk into open spaces (and periodically did as we watched the series with our kids).
After recently watching again the last season of the series, however, I am growing somewhat concerned that Shyamalan (whom I also adore) may have a difficult time pulling this one off. I developed a surprising amount of affection for the main characters, and this time through I found the last couple of episodes particularly moving and, at points, poignant (I noticed how the musical score contributed to that this time). That is something that comes with good stories, but perhaps in this case it also comes because the time was taken to tell the story over a period of three seasons. How do you cram three seasons of that kind of character and story development into three movies?
But, then, I believe one of Shyamalan's strengths is in his ability to tell a compelling story. And I'm still willing to give him a chance with this one.