Fresh off its critically acclaimed live-action adaptation of the hugely popular animated series. One pieceNetflix has released the first official teaser for another live-action adaptation: Avatar: The Last Airbender, based on the Nickelodeon animated television series of the same name. As we’ve already noted, Netflix has a mixed track record for these anime adaptations, but if the teaser is any indication, The last air Master could join One piece as another smash hit for the streaming platform.
(A few spoilers for the animated series below, but no major reveals.)
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the original animated series was set in an Asian-inspired world where certain chosen individuals have the ability to telekinetically manipulate one of the four elements (earth, air, water and fire), a practice known as “folding.” Each generation there is an Avatar who can bend all four elements and is therefore responsible for maintaining harmony between the four elemental nations, as well as being a link between the physical and spiritual worlds.
A 12-year-old Air Nomad boy named Aang is the current Avatar, but he hid in a state of suspended animation for a century because he was afraid of taking on this enormous responsibility. Two Water Tribe siblings, Katara and Sokka, eventually resurrect Aang, who discovers that the Fire Nation wiped out most of the Air Nomads in his absence. Katara and Sokka join Aang, an airbender, on his quest to master each of the three remaining elements. Their mission is hindered by the banished Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, who seeks to capture Aang to restore his honor with his father, Fire Lord Ozai, with the help of his uncle Iroh.
The animated Last Airbender premiered on Nickelodeon in February 2005 and ran for three seasons, each covering Aang’s quest to master one of the other three elements (Water, Earth, Fire). It was hugely popular and critically acclaimed, earning praise for its sophisticated (yet child-friendly) storytelling, universal themes, and skillful incorporation of East Asian art and mythology. Netflix added all three seasons (61 episodes) of The last air Master to its streaming library in 2020, and in four days, the animated series reached the top spot on the platform and spent 60 days in the top 10. Netflix naturally gave the green light to a live-action adaptation.
This is not the first attempt to adapt the series into a live-action format. M. Night Shyamalan made a truly terrible feature film in 2010 that was heavily criticized by critics and viewers. We’re hesitant to even mention it except as a warning and a reminder of what Netflix is up against in winning over fans of the original series. It’s hard to overstate how poorly received Shyamalan’s speech was. Last Airbender was – it has a 5 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and practically won that year’s Golden Raspberry Awards, including a special award created especially for this film (Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3D). Dev Patel, who played Prince Zuko, publicly expressed his regret for appearing in the film. Shyamalan also regretted taking the director’s job and so began financing his own projects.
The Netflix series got off to a bit of a rocky start when DiMartino and Konietzko stepped down as showrunners in 2020, citing pervasive “creative differences.” (DiMartino also complained on his website about a “negative and unsupportive” environment on the streaming platform.) Albert Kim (Sleepy hollow) became showrunner the following year, emphasizing his commitment to authenticity (including not whitewashing casting) and respect for characters and cultural influences. The series reportedly cost $15 million for each of its eight episodes, so Netflix has a lot to live up to The last air Masterr. According to the official premise:
The four nations of the world once lived in harmony, with the Avatar, master of the four elements, maintaining peace among them. But everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked and wiped out the Air Nomads, the first step the firebenders took toward conquering the world. Avatar: The Last Airbender follows a young Air Nomad named Aang, as he wakes up in a world ravaged by war. Along with his new friends Sokka and Katara, he embarks on an action-packed quest to take his rightful place as the next Avatar.
Gordon Cormier plays Avatar Aang; Kiawentiio plays Katara; Ian Ousley plays Sokka; Dallas Liu plays Prince Zuko; and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee plays General Iroh. The cast also includes Daniel Dae Kim as Fire Lord Ozai; Ken Leung as Commander Zhao, Zuko’s main rival; Elizabeth Yu as Princess Azula; Maria Zhang as Suki, who leads the all-female Kyoshi Warriors; Amber Midthunder as Princess Yue; Danny Audi as the inventor known as The Mechanist; Utkarsh Ambudkar as King Bumi; George Takei as Koh the Face Stealer; and Randall Dun Kim as the owl spirit Wan Shi Tong, head of the spiritual library.
Avatar: The Last Airbender will debut on Netflix on February 22, 2024.
Listing image by Netflix