Fans of the original Avatar: The Last Airbender were thrilled when the cult-classic animated TV series hit Netflix in May. So the news that the show was being reimagined by Netflix in live-action format was thrilling—and, for some, a little worrying, since the content is famously tough to adapt. Creators were sure to note right away that this version is starkly different from M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender film, which was pretty much panned across the board and currently has a 5 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Netflix released the news of the new live-action remake in 2018, but it's not exactly clear what the release date will be: It's currently slated for 2020, but could come as late as 2021, given production delays due to the coronavirus. At the moment, the show is still somewhere in the middle of development/pre-production and details are pretty scarce, but what do we know so far?
Who's working on the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender adaptation?
Production started on the series in 2019, and the original show creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were brought onto the project as showrunners and executive producers (which bodes well for a faithful adaptation). Original composer Jeremy Zuckerman and original voice actor Dante Basco are apparently on board as well.
It's unclear who the live-action cast is or will be, but DiMartino and Konietzko released a statement that is incredibly encouraging: "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...go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building."
They added, "Netflix is wholly dedicated to manifesting our vision for this retelling, and we’re incredibly grateful to be partnering with them.” This has raised some interesting questions—yes, the actors will be age-appropriate (10-15 years old) but it's unclear exactly how the different (fictional) cultures in the cartoon will translate to actual casting.
What other details do we have about Avatar: The Last Airbender?
The only visual we have so far is concept art, but so far it looks beautiful:
Konietzko urged fans to be patient as they work through the details of this "daunting, incredibly complex thing" and explained that they're taking things slowly in order to represent the content as well as possible:
And fingers crossed all the time invested in the new series pays off.
Is the new The Last Airbender series based on the cartoon?
Yes—the original, award-winning Nickelodeon series aired from 2005 to 2008 and actually returned to Netflix in May of this year (the sequel series, The Legend of Korra, is not on Netflix at the moment). In case you're unfamiliar with the basic plot of the original show:
Avatar: The Last Airbender...takes place in a medieval fantasy realm...where certain people are capable of controlling one of the four classic elements: Water, earth, fire, or air. Only one person at a time is capable of using all four; that person is called the Avatar, and when the Avatar dies they are reincarnated into the next generation so there's always someone around to keep balance in the world. The titular protagonist of A:TLA is Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen) who was frozen in a block of ice for 100 years after his people, the airbenders, were wiped out in a genocidal attack. Aang...must work with friends like Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack DeSena) to end the war and restore balance.
The cartoon immediately became Netflix's most popular show. Chances are, in addition to longstanding fans of the series, it also gained new viewers as well—ostensibly a show for kids, people insist that adults can absolutely enjoy The Last Airbender.