Arguably one of the best animated series of all time, the minds behind the beloved “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series feel it’s time to make some upgrades with a Netflix-produced live-action TV show. This may be news to some, considering mention of these production plans began circulating back in 2018, but due to the pandemic it’s taken three years to finally get the ball rolling. With resurfaced talk of Netflix and the original creators joining forces to bring the animated series to life, they’ve been confronted with pushback from those closest to the show. Especially seeing as to how the 2010 live-action movie bombed, these intentions raise the question of whether or not the series is better left untouched.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” follows four civilizations, each dedicated to one of the four elements: the Fire Nation, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, and the Water Tribes. These tribes have elemental “Benders” that are able to manipulate, through special abilities, the element of their people. The show specifically follows the journey of Aang, the most recent Avatar of the Air Nomads that is awoken from a sleeping state by Katara and Sokka of the Water Tribe after being trapped in a glacier for over a century. When hope for an Avatar seemed lost, the tyrannical Fire Lord became a growing threat to the other nations. Together, they must help Aang learn how to tap into all of his telekinetic abilities to master the elements, as it is his duty as the next Avatar to create harmony between the four nations and eliminate evil from their world .
This is the plot of the animated series, and it is rumored that the live-action remake will be none other than the exact same thing. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” was an attractive show to many for its powerful writing and character development that tastefully addressed mature themes that could still be targeted at children. Artistically, the “Bending” on the show lent itself to creating some of the best animated action scenes ever in a show. With an animated series this beloved, rewatched, successful and well-followed by a dedicated fanbase, many agree there’s really no need for a live-action remake. Olivia Hack, voice of Ty Lee in the animated series, commented, “You’re not adding onto it or expanding the universe. You’re doing the same thing, which feels redundant” and actors collectively feel that this sudden outpour of live-action remakes hurts the creative market more than it helps.
At the very least, though, as production pushes forward, there’s a clear roadmap of what not to do with this series thanks to the critically crucified live-action movie remake of “The Last Airbender.” Their first mistake with this movie was cutting the animated series’ creators from offering input as it hardly respected its source material and offended the fanbase. The greatest source of controversy and contention arose from the white-washed casting. One of the most cherished elements of the animated series is its East-Asian and Inuit influences, along with the strong theme of cultural acceptance. The film completely undermined and slandered this concept, while its acting, characters, plot development, visual effects and direction fell flat. Not only is it perpetually shunned by the “Avatar” community, but forever suffers as one of the worst movies ever made.
Sadly, the original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko will no longer be making a return to this project despite production talk back in 2018, but are leaving it in the hands of talented producers, designers and showrunners entrusted with the task of authentically retelling the story of “The Last Airbender.” In the wake of the film’s horrendous adaptation, it has been ensured that the cast will consist of culturally accurate actors, as well as Katara now scripted as the older sibling of herself and Sokka. While these are the only confirmed changes to this take on a live-action retelling, it seems as though few have hope in the show building the universe for the better.