Hey! Hallie here!
We haven’t really talked about ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ much on this blog but that’s definitely not because we don’t adore the series. It’s undebatably one of the best animated series of all time. I think about how much I love Toph on a regular basis. And if you’ve kept up with this fandom at all you know that the idea of a live action remake has been a heavily debated one. The series already had a live action remake in the form of a 2010 film that most fans will glare at you for even mentioning. Trust me, it isn’t an overreaction. Because of this horrifically awful adaptation, most were skeptical when it was announced that Netflix was going to attempt an entire live action series for ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’. A lot has changed since this project was first announced, and there’s plenty of reasons to be skeptical just as there are plenty of reasons to be excited. So let’s look at what this series has going for it and what could potentially cause this whole thing to fall apart.
Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are the creators behind the original ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and were originally set to be executive producers on the live action series as well. This was a major comfort for many fans, who felt as though the major issue with the film was the director’s (M. Night Shyamalan) refusal to include them in the story creating process. However, last year Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko announced that they were leaving the project due to creative differences. And they didn’t seem to believe these differences were small. They went as far as to say that whatever version of the show ended up being created, it would not be the show they intended to make. That’s a pretty condemning sentiment. It also stirred up quite a bit of rumors as fans started to speculate what these creative differences could have been. Many fans spread the idea that the cast was going to be white-washed again, similar to the way it was in the 2010 film, and that once the cast was announced the fans would boycott Netflix. In the very least it’s safe to say this particular theory isn’t all that realistic now that we have some of the cast confirmed. But I’ll get to that in a second. With the creators gone, the role of show runner has been given to Albert Kim. This isn’t an immediate comfort for the fans hoping for someone they can trust to take over. Albert Kim hasn’t done a ton of projects and his most recent work, ‘Sleepy Hollow’, doesn’t exactly align with ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’. However, choosing someone who isn’t as well known is no crime. Kim is a passionate fan of the series who has promised an authentic take on the source material while simultaneously making the story feel more connected than the thirty-minute episodes did originally. He’s also joined by a diverse selection of producers whose unique outlooks could definitely benefit the series.
I have yet to see anyone frustrated at this cast. It’s a really excellent cast so far, though we still don’t know the entire cast at this point in time. Aang will be played by Gordon Cormier, a young actor who’s been in various interesting projects, such as Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. Katara is being played by Kiawentiio, who took part in Netflix’s ‘Anne with an E’. Sokka will be Ian Ousley, who many know from ’13 Reasons Why’. Zuko is being portrayed by Dallas Liu, who was recently seen in ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’. As of right now, these are the major roles announced for the younger characters in the show. And all of these announcements are really exciting. We see no white-washing here. Instead, we have a mix of Asian and Indigenous actors who are the right ages to be playing such young characters. All of them are also excellent actors with some really impressive roles under their belts. As for the adult characters, Daniel Dae Kim is Fire Lord Ozai. Need I say more? He’s perfect and an icon in his own right. We also have Ken Leung as Commander Zhao, Kay Siu Lim as Gyatso, and, quite importantly, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Uncle Iroh. Most people know Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Appa from ‘Kim’s Convenience’, a show that also included the likes of Simu Liu. Though we don’t have the entire cast, and I’m still eagerly waiting for a Toph announcement, this cast has me very excited. Everyone involved so far is more than suited to their roles and very capable of portraying them.
Why Remake Something Already Great?:
This seems to be the question on most people’s minds. Fans already like ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ as it is. They like it so much, in fact, that when an unconfirmed report that Katara would be older than Sokka in the new series began to spread, fans were outraged. Though this may seem inconsequential, many felt the age change would ruin their dynamic. This rumor has remained unconfirmed, and looking at the cast it seems like it’s untrue. Ian Ousley is a few years older than Kiawentiio and does look it, making it unlikely they’ll try to make him seem younger than she is. Still, these concerns, along with concerns that the series won’t be different enough, are valid. Feeling as though there’s no reason for a live action remake has become a feeling many audiences are familiar with given Hollywood’s recent obsession with them. But Albert Kim has commented that he’s trying to address these feelings while creating the show. He himself wondered what purpose there would be in making ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ a live action series when he was first approached about the project. But because he’s aware of this, he’s reassured fans that he’s trying to strike a balance. He will be changing enough to make the story interesting in its own right and to fit with today’s medium of storytelling a bit better, but will not change anything simply for the sake of changing things. It’s a complicated task but I’d like to take his word on it. Unfortunately, we won’t know anything for certain until the show is released.
That’s really all we know so far. What we know about the story is a synopsis that pretty clearly matches the story of the animated series. So nothing new to discuss there. We also don’t really know when the series will be released. IMDB still seems to be promising a late 2022 release date, but it’s important to keep your expectations in check considering that filming for the show only just began. Either way, I’d like to remain optimistic. I was certainly skeptical for a while, but the new show runner’s devotion to the source material, and this cast in particular, managed to reel me back in. Here’s to hoping the show deserves my recaptured attention.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!