“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is coming back to the small screen more than 10 years after its run on Nickelodeon. This announcement has caused mixed responses among fans of the series.
Netflix announced concept art for an upcoming live action remake of the animated fantasy series via their “See What’s Next” Twitter account. “Avatar” ran for three seasons from 2003-2008 on Nickelodeon. The original series imagined a world divided up into four nations: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Each of these nations is home to people who can manipulate these elements at will, an act called “bending.”
“Avatar” is heavily influenced by East-Asian spiritual teachings and religion. This important element of the series was not highlighted in M. Night Shaymalan’s 2010 version. The live action adaptation was faced with immediate backlash and criticism. Shaymalan was accused of white-washing the characters whose rich cultural heritages were paramount to the central story. Each of the four nations were inspired by global traditions from China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Tibet and Inuit and Pacific Islander nations. Viewers felt like it was a disgrace that the cultural history was not shown and even felt a sense of disrespect when character’s names were changed to sound more like Western culture.
Despite the mixed responses, new fans might not have to worry so much about the upcoming adaptation of the beloved series. The original series creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, will be working closely with Netflix to make sure this new adaptation will meet fans expectations.
“We’re thrilled for the opportunity to helm this live-action adaptation of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender,’ Konietzko posted on his official Tumblr page. “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.”
As of right now, it is unclear how closely this live-action retelling will compare against the original, but the series has much to expand on. With the formatting of Netflix, the story will be told on an episode-by-episode arc, which gives the audience more information about the story’s background rather than an hour and a half movie adaptation.
The story of “The Last Airbender” has crossover appeal. “Avatar” fits nicely into an overlooked category of Netflix content. This franchise appeals to the nostalgia of emerging adults that grew up on the show, and a new generation of children that will just now discover its universe. Though a live-action version of “Avatar” is still facing the repercussion of Shyamalan’s adaption, the decision to remake the show is a clear plus for Netflix.