When it comes to acquiring everything you hold dear, Netflix pulls no punches. The streaming giant resurrected Arrested Development, rebooted Voltron to critical acclaim, and tackled the wildly complicated A Series of Unfortunate Events. They may have done a Death Note thing, I’m not too sure.
But Netflix just took on one of the most acclaimed properties yet: a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series.
For those unfamiliar with Avatar: imagine a world whose denizens control one of four elements: water, earth, fire, and air. A single person known as the Avatar is born able to control all four elements, acting as peacekeeper between the four nations. When an Avatar passes on, they are reborn in a different nation and the cycle continues. The critically-acclaimed cartoon follows Aang, an air nomad Avatar who awakens from a frozen, self-imposed hibernation to find that 100 years have passed since he abandoned his role as Avatar. The Fire Nation have spent the last century waging war against the rest of the world, and Aang sets out with water tribe children Katara and Sokka to learn the four elements.
In cartoon form, handling the fantastical effects of bending water, earth, and fire only requires strong animation. As a live-action, this translates to time, money, martial arts training, and expensive special effects.
And if history teaches us anything, it’s that live-action reboots typically suck.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Avatar tried live-action once. In 2010, M. Night Shyamalan adapted the first season into a film, with a potential trilogy in the works. But the translation to screen was horrendous. Rather than articulate the nuanced races of people in Avatar, Shyamalan whitewashed the main trio and cast a child martial artist with no acting experience. Lore was abridged, details were forgotten. The entire ordeal felt like Shyamalan immersed himself in the Wikipedia article rather than the source material.
The film currently sits at a 6% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
This time around, Nickelodeon and Netflix is bringing back original co-creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino as executive producers and showrunners. In their press release statement, the duo expressed excitement about working with Netflix:
We’re thrilled for the opportunity to helm this live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. We can’t wait to realize Aang’s world as cinematically as we always imagined it to be, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build upon everyone’s great work on the original animated series and go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building. Netflix is wholly dedicated to manifesting our vision for this retelling, and we’re incredibly grateful to be partnering with them.
Alongside the returning co-creators, composer Jeremy Zuckermantweeted to confirm his involvement in the live-action series.
With 13 more years of experience since the original cartoon aired in 2005, the creators and composers of A:TLA have grown exponentially. Their vision for its sequel series Legend of Korra saw stronger animation, more compelling music, and more mature themes like mortality and identity.
With Netflix bankrolling a “reimagined” version at the hands of its creators, we might have the most definitive Avatar series coming our way.