When Netflix announced in September of 2018 that it was producing a live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, it sent fans into a frenzy. And by frenzy, we mean they were over-the-moon thrilled with the idea.
AVATAR’S AIRBENDING HISTORY
First off, let’s clear up a possible misconception: This Avatar is not related to the 2009 James Cameron movie Avatar. Their resemblance is in name only, storylines differ greatly.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) is an animated Nickelodeon series that ran for three seasons, 2005-2008. It was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and for those three seasons, it brought the highest critical response a series can receive. Not only were critics enthralled with Avatar: The Last Airbender, but audiences were also pulled in by the wonderful balance of drama and humor the series provided.
Avatar: The Last Airbender tells the story of Aang and his journey as the Last Airbender and is set in a world where human civilization is comprised of four nations. Each nation is named after the four elements: the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, the Water Tribes and the Air Nomads. In these nations, there are individuals who are known as “benders”, they have the ability to control and manipulate their nation’s element through martial arts.
The Avatar is the one person who keeps peace and harmony between the four nations and humans and spirits. He is the only one who has the ability to bend all four elements. When the Avatar dies, his reincarnated spirit goes to the next Avatar. Aang is this Avatar.
BUT THAT MOVIE
Yes, part of the franchise’s history is tied to M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Glass). In 2010, Shyamalan wrote and directed The Last Airbender, based on the animated series. It has become known as one of the most reviled movies in history, critically panned and sending fans into a frenzy. And by frenzy, we mean not a good one.
NETFLIX TO THE RESCUE
Not only did Netflix bend in to save the day, but they also brought in creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko to be the showrunners and executive producers for the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series.
Netflix feels the series is in great hands with these two, as does The Last Airbender animated series head writer Aaron Ehasz says. “I think it’s an opportunity for the fans,” Ehasz tells Inverse. “It’s definitely an opportunity for Mike and Brian to do a live-action telling of this story right, which I think is both going to be a combination of how they cast it, how they creatively cast it, who are the producers and writers involved.” Unfortunately, Ehasz’s is not directly involved in the new series as he is involved with his own series, The Dragon Prince, at Netflix.
THE PLOT OF NETFLIX’S LIVE-ACTION AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER
While Netflix hasn’t come out with an official synopsis, it is said that the new live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender will closely mirror the animated show. They would be smart to follow this path as it was such a huge hit for Nickelodeon. So far, details have been very scarce on what direction the live-action Avatar will take.
AVATAR’S LIVE-ACTION NETFLIX CAST
With the lack of news on the plot, there is also a noticeable lack of news on Avatar: The Last Airbender’s live-action cast. One of the biggest issues fans and critics had with Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender was its lack of diversity when it came to casting. They all felt he whitewashed his cast.
Voice actress Jessie Flower, who portrayed the voice of Toph in the animated series has this to say on the Wyrd Crafts Chit-Chat podcast, “We are excited about the casting being true to the location and background heritage and all that stuff. Where each nation is based and will be casting from that location. Or at least casting someone who is primarily from that ancestry location. So they are trying to be really PC about the whole thing.”
It looks like Netflix and the series creators are trying hard to stick to the original vision of the animated Avatar series, which will be a great thing to see in live-action form.
AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’S NETFLIX DIRECTOR
It is still too early to say who will be directing the live-action Avatar series for Netflix. It’s possible that there will be more than one director brought on board, for each episode.
WHEN WILL LIVE-ACTION AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER ARRIVE ON NETFLIX?
According to Flower, Netflix’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender expects to go into production in February of 2020.
In late May of 2019, Konietzko offered this update on the series status via his Instagram: “We’re moving into a new office space, transitioning into the next phase of production. Our core team is growing. We’re writing, planning, and testing. Though there’s plenty that’s new for us in this live-action process, we’ve been on this long rollercoaster ride twice before and a lot of the climbs and twists and turns feel familiar. Right now, everything seems slow, and we’re itching to speed up; before we know it, everything will be moving too fast and happening all at once. For those who are eager to see this new series and are asking if we have a trailer yet: thank you for your enthusiasm, sincerely, but you wouldn’t want to see a version of this series that was made within 9 months. Too much Hollywood fare is fast-tracked and the results speak for themselves. Thankfully for us and this series, Netflix is committed to doing it right.”
Anticipation for Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender remains high, let’s just hope the live-action series lives up to the animated version. It can’t be worse than the live-action Last Airbender movie.