Netflix’s THE LAST AIRBENDER – Can It Work?

So, I finally have an excuse to write about Avatar: The Last Airbender (I’ve waited 84 years). With Netflix reviving the hit Nickelodeon series, we have to ask the obvious questions, will it work and do we even need it? Well, let’s sort this thing out. Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated series that ran on Nickelodeon from 2005-2008. Set in a mystical world where different nations can bend the four natural elements to their will (water, earth, fire, and air), Aang (the last Airbender), has to become the avatar, master of all four elements and bring balance to both the mortal and spiritual worlds.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an epic adventure that spans across three seasons. It had a very distinct beginning, middle, and end. So, looking at how the show was, can this be done on a Netflix budget, or can it be done in live action at all? The show is being brought to us by the original creators, Michael Demartino, and Bryan Kanizko. It’ll also be scored by original composer, Jeremy Zuckerman. That’s a major change from what happened with the movie from M. Night Shyamalan. Where they completely shut out the original creators, and it showed. I ranted about it a few months back so if you’re interested click here.

This brings us back to Mike and Bryan, they know the source material better than anyone, so we know that it’ll be faithful to the spirit of the animated series. The biggest concern is that neither of them has any experience running a live action project. Does it really matter? I honestly don’t know, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

With the Netflix series having the same creative team, the same writers, and the same composer, it’s going to have to do a ton if they want to separate themselves from the animated series. Is it going to be a straight copy and paste or will they put a new spin on it? Honestly, they’ll receive backlash regardless of what they do. The cartoon was filled with humor (it was a children’s show after all) so will they try and keep some of that or will they go dark and gritty? Avatar might be able to go in any direction. At its core, it’s a story about war, destiny, and redemption. You can make it more mature and it will still stay in line with the themes of the show.

So, getting all of the set up out of the way, back to the real question. Can it work? Yes. With the right amount of care, you could faithfully adapt Avatar: The Last Airbender. Shows like Game of Thrones are a prime example of this. With Netflix losing their Disney content later this year, they have to find a way to keep their subscribers. They’ll be willing to give Avatar the budget it needs to make it worth while. It’ll be one of their heavy hitters come 2020 with huge franchise potential. They can make their own Avatar universe, with the Legend of Korra, Avatar Kyoshi, and Avatar Wan as possible spin-off shows, or better yet, an Avatar anthology series. Each episode or season following a different Avatar. Netflix can’t mess this up. They can lose so much if they do.

Now, do we need it? Of course we don’t. Avatar: The Last Airbender is the best-animated series of all-time. There’s no reason attempt to recreate it. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. After all, it can’t possibly be worse than the movie right? Right???

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