Home Channels Could The Live-Action Avatar: The Last Airbender Project Be….GOOD?

Could The Live-Action Avatar: The Last Airbender Project Be….GOOD?

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New York Comic Con Avatar Legend and Legacy Panel

We have been awaiting Netflix’s upcoming live-action adaptation of the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series with feelings of dread and wishes of cancellation. You can’t blame us. The one previous attempt to translate this show into a fleshy production with physical actors was a disaster, and with this one, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko ominously washed their hands of the project last year, openly complaining they “would not be able to meaningfully guide the direction of the series.”

Fans started furrowing their brows and wondering just how bad this could possibly be. A rumor spread that the series was full of un-Avatar-like soapy plotlines and was basically a rehash of Riverdale. This was never confirmed, but the damage had been done — we’d believe anything.

Today showrunner Albert Kim, who has previously worked on Sleepy Hollow (hopefully Season 1) and Nikita, spoke up in a blog post, offering the very first authentic details about the A:TLA live-action project. Hooboy, here we go. How bad is it?

The first thing Kim did was acknowledge how bad the previous adaption was and commit to avoid the same mistakes. “A live-action version would establish a new benchmark in representation and bring in a whole new generation of fans. This was a chance to showcase Asian and Indigenous characters as living, breathing people. Not just in a cartoon, but in a world that truly exists, very similar to the one we live in.”

Er…um….

“THERE! Try saying something bad about THAT, press! I DARE YOU!”

Shaymalan’s A:TLA had a lot of issues, and one of the big ones was his using an all-white cast to portray an all-POC crew. It led to the term “racebending” to describe any Hollywood project where the ethnicity of a character is changed for no good reason. That won’t happen here, and the cast sounds pretty good: Gordon Cormier (The Stand, Lost in Space) as Aang, Kiawentiio (Anne with an E) as Katara, Ian Ousley (Physical, 13 Reasons Why) as Sokka and Dallas Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) as Zuko.

Kim kept speaking.

My first thought was, ‘Why? What is there I could do or say with the story that wasn’t done or said in the original?” A:TLA had only grown in popularity and acclaim over the last decade and a half, which is a testament to how complete and resonant a narrative experience it had been. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. VFX technology has advanced to the point where a live-action version can not only faithfully translate what had been done in animation — it can bring a rich new visual dimension to a fantastic world. We’ll be able to see bending in a real and visceral way we’ve never seen before.

Also, Netflix’s format meant we had an opportunity to reimagine a story that had originally been told in self-contained half-hour episodes as an ongoing serialized narrative. That meant story points and emotional arcs we’d loved in the original could be given even more room to breathe and grow.

Y’know what? I think I trust you, Kim. Unlike Shaymalan you really seem to know what you’re talking about. I can’t believe I’m saying this but now I’m actually looking forward to the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender show. Who woulda thought?

Netflix has still not set a release date for the series.