Benders of all nations, rejoice! Netflix announced today that a reimagined, live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender is being developed by the popular streaming service. No details were shared about when the remake would be available to watch but production for the series is expected to begin in 2019.
The new show will have enormous shoes to fill, as the original series, which aired on Nickelodeon from 2005-2008, is widely considered one of the greatest animated TV shows ever made thanks to its memorable characters, intricate world-building, and thrilling action. The success of the show even spawned The Legend of Korra, a sequel series, that was met with a similar level of acclaim. While the news of a remake is sure to excite most fans of the original series, there will surely be skeptics as well, especially since this isn’t the first time someone has tried to bring the animated classic into the live-action sphere.
In 2010, The Last Airbender, a live-action film based on the show’s first season, was released into theaters riding a tidal wave of hype, with hopes that Director M. Night Shyamalan would get to build an entire franchise re-telling the story of Aang, Katara, and Sokka attempting to thwart the Fire Nation’s global takeover. However, those expectations quickly disappeared when the film proved to be a massive flop, earning a six percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and sweeping at the Razzies, including winning Worst Picture, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay.
A reboot is a tricky thing. When it’s done well, like Queer Eye or The Magic School Bus, the new show simultaneously feels familiar and new, paying tribute to the previous format while blazing a new trail that is entirely its own. When done poorly – remember that godawful remake of Charlie’s Angels? – it is TV at its worst: cynical, unoriginal, and painfully boring.
For what it’s worth, there is reason to be optimistic about the new show, primarily the fact that Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of the original series, have been brought on as showrunners for the new series. In a statement, the two expressed their excitement while assuring fans the new Avatar will be nothing like the movie.
“We’re thrilled for the opportunity to helm this live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender,” the statement reads. “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. Netflix is wholly dedicated to manifesting our vision for this retelling, and we’re incredibly grateful to be partnering with them.”
So will the new Avatar properly pay tribute to the beloved original show or go the way of the live-action movie that forced Shyamalan to go into hiding for a few years? Hopefully, the latter but only time will tell.