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Netflix Better Do ‘Avatar’ Justice!

Source-Nickelodeon, Netflix, YouTube

My Reactions to the Teaser for Netflix’s Avatar: the Last Airbender Series

The trailer that started it all for me.

I was ten years old when I first heard about Avatar: the Last Airbender. It was from a trailer attached to the movie release of The Spongebob Squarepants Film, promoting its premiere on Nickelodeon less than a few months away. I thought little of it at the time, but little did I know that it would become my favorite show of all time. Now, almost twenty years later, Netflix is adapting Avatar into a live-action TV show, scheduled to premiere February 2024. And while the new teaser blew me away with its visuals and music, I remain cautiously optimistic.

To find out why, keep reading.

In the Beginning

Created by Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and debuting on Nickelodeon in February 2005, Avatar: the Last Airbender proved to be unlike any cartoon airing at the time. Despite being a western cartoon, it was heavily inspired by non-western influences. The animation and tone were inspired by Japanese anime, particularly the works and themes of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. The cultures and philosophies of the world were heavily influenced by those found in the Far East. The fighting styles used by the characters were based off of real-world martial arts, to the point where the show hired a martial artist to serve as a consultant.

All told, Avatar: the Last Airbender was a western cartoon, but at the same time, it wasn’t. It blended things from all over the world, and it did almost flawlessly. Needless to say, when I watched the premiere the night it came out, I was blown away.

During its three year run on Nickelodeon, Avatar was a TV goldmine. Critically acclaimed and beloved by fans worldwide, it was a phenomenon. To this day, I consider the night of the series finale among the best nights of my life! Fast forward twenty years later, and Avatar continues to thrive. It’s got a sequel series that’s great in its own right, several graphic novels and comics, an ongoing series of novels, and future animated projects in the works. Needless to say, Avatar is more popular than ever. Thus, when Netflix announced that it was going to make a live-action adaptation, it was a big deal. And now, after what seems like an eternity of teasing, fans have finally gotten their first look at the upcoming series. 

My Reaction

The teaser released at Netflix Geeked revealed a show with a great amount of promise behind it. The setting, appearance, and fighting styles all seem to seamlessly translate the show from animation to live action. If you watched my reaction to it on YouTube, then you know that I expressed very positive feelings about it. At the same time, though, I remain cautiously optimistic for a number of reasons.

Shyamalan Almost Ruined Everything

Firstly, this isn’t the first time someone tried to adapt Avatar into a live-action format. M. Night Shyamalan attempted to do so in his 2011 film The Last Airbender. What he wound up giving the world, though, was an unmitigated disaster. Fans and critics hated it, they hated the tone, and they hated how Shyamalan didn’t seem to really know what he was doing. The franchise own creator’s weren’t even allowed to help out, and have essentially disowned it altogether. I never saw it in theaters, and I’m glad I didn’t. To this day, The Last Airbender film is considered one of the worst movies ever. 

The film was intended to be part of a trilogy of films adapting all three seasons of the show, but needless to say, it never happened. As a result of this massive flop, many fans grew sour at the idea of adapting Avatar into live-action, a stigma that continues to this day. So when word came out that Netflix was going to do just that, fans didn’t know how to react, even after the news that the creators were returning as executive producers.

Which brings us to the next point. 

DiMartino and Konietzko’s Departure From the Adaptation

In August 2020, DiMartino and Konietzko announced in separate posts on social media that they were leaving the Netflix project. Both of them explained how they had been excited to be brought on by Netflix for the series in 2018, with Konietzko saying that many talented people were still working on it. However, they began to run into conflict with various issues that, they claimed, created a negative and unsupporting environment. Furthermore, while they did say they were more than happy to try new ideas so long as they felt it was in the spirit of their creation, they felt that wasn’t happening. Thus, they decided to leave the Netflix project.

Many fans took the creator’s departure to be a bad sign and expressed concern for the projects future online. Some went so far as to say that the reimagining would fail without the creator’s guiding it, and they might have had a point. Shyamalan didn’t listen to them, and the film he created was almost unwatchable. In addition, Netflix was infamous for trying to adapt anime into live-action and failing at it. So, it looked like Avatar would be another victim of that trend.

Then, this past summer, Netflix seemed to break that trend with One Piece.

Could Avatar Repeat the Success of Netflix’s One Piece?

Earlier this year, Netflix managed to take the entertainment world by storm with their live-action adaptation of the legendary manga/anime, One Piece. Despite many fans fearing that the best-selling manga would be another victim of Netflix, something incredible happened: the live-action One Piece…was good. Whereas their versions of Cowboy Bebop and Death Note got the short end of the stick, One Piece didn’t. It was faithful to the series and adapted it in a manner that most fans seemed to love. Not to mention, there was the fact that Netflix made sure mangaka Eichiro Oda actively worked alongside everyone to make sure it was done right. 

The end result to all of this: One Piece became more popular than ever.

So, with One Piece proving that Netflix can make a good adaptation of a popular animated series, can they repeat that success? After seeing the teaser trailer, I’d say its possible. Granted, the fact that the creator’s left the series is concerning, but it seems to have captured the show’s sense of wonder and action. Plus, not everything good that comes out of a popular franchise needs to be held to its creator and them alone, right?

Fingers Crossed Netflix Doesn’t Mess this Up

In a nutshell, I’m cautiously optimistic about how the live-action Avatar will end up doing. I was genuinely impressed by the teaser; it’s already leagues above what the movie gave us! If Netflix can still capture the spirit of the franchise, then it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Plus, even if it’s not as good as the original series was, then that’s not the end of the world. Nothing that Netflix does can take away the fact that Avatar is the GOAT.

So, yes. I’m looking forward to seeing how this series goes. Furthermore, even if it does do bad, we shouldn’t blame it on the actors or the people who worked on it. Keep an open mind and go with the flow like Aang would.

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