Avatar coming to big screen

Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan is gearing up to write and direct a big-screen adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon kids' cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender for Paramount Pictures. Avatar will be the first film Shyamalan directs that is based on characters created by someone else.

Avatar follows the adventures of a gifted 12-year-old boy who is the last hope of a race of beings who can control the elements. The show regularly lands in the top 10 animated programs on TV and is Nickelodeon's top-rated Friday-night show.

Paramount hopes to turn the cartoon into a three-picture film series, according to Variety. Both Paramount and Nickelodeon are owned by Viacom.

Shyamalan was last in theaters with The Lady In the Water, which was based on a kids' story he wrote for his daughter. Lady received withering reviews from critics and grossed $42 million in the US, the director's lowest box office to date.

The film was also reportedly responsible for his break-up with Disney, whose Buena Vista Pictures produced and distributed his previous films Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village. The tumultouous behind-the-scenes drama was detailed in Michael Bamberger's 2006 book The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale.

Coincidentally, this week Terminator and Titanic maestro James Cameron also announced his intention to create a movie named Avatar, this one about a futuristic space war in which soldiers control fighting "avatars" with their minds.

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