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Seven things to know about 'The Last Airbender,' first of three

The Last Airbender, an action-adventure fantasy and the first of a planned trilogy, explores Book One of an animated television series, centering on the element of water. The airbending avatar, Aang, must master Water, Earth and Fire to save the planet.

In a world ravaged by the Fire Nation and destined for total destruction, this story follows the tribal nations of Air, Water and Earth trying to defend themselves. When "The Last Airbender," Aang (Noah Ringer), who possesses the gift of controlling all elements, is discovered by a water-bender named Katara, hope for the end to war becomes possible.

The film is a departure for writer/producer/director M. Night Shyamalan ( The Sixth Sense, Signs), whose young daughters were fans of the television show on US children's cable channel Nickelodeon, and who has turned the story into an epic, and converted it into 3D.

Newcomer to acting, Ringer is a young martial arts champion from Dallas, Texas, who won a title in Korean Taekwondo. The co-star Dev Patel ( Slumdog Millionaire) also has a black belt in Taekwondo and plays the exiled son of the Fire Lord. The film also features Jackson Rathbone ( The Twilight Saga) and a total of 6,000 actors.

The Chinese martial art Wushu was incorporated in the film, with four of its many fighting styles to differentiate the four types of "bending." Baguazhang was employed for airbending, Tai chi for waterbending, Hung Ga for earthbending, and Northern Shaolin Kung Fu for firebending.

There are fantastical creatures in the film including Appa, a 6-legged bison that is 16-feet (4.9 m) tall and 12-feet (3.7 m) wide and swims through the air, inspired by the manatee and platypus. The Fire Nation's Kimodo Rhino, a 32-foot (9.8 m) long and 17-foot (5.2 m) high rode in battle, a flying lemur bat called Momo, and the Dragon Spirit who guides Aang on his arduous journey.

The four element nations have a distinct location, climate and clothing. More than 1,800 costumes and armor pieces, plus 50 pairs of shoes and boots in four different color schemes were designed for The Last Airbender, from the Water Tribe's blues and grays to the Fire Nation's blacks, reds and golds to resemble ancient Asian warrior costumes.

The film was shot in Greenland, Vietnam and various locations in Pennsylvania. The film opens in North America July 1, followed by worldwide releases through July and August.

Sources of information including featurettes and clips from the film can be found at:

http://LastAirbenderFans.com and http://LastAirbenderFilm.com