Pros and Cons of a New "Avatar: The Last Airbender" Series

On September 18th, 2018, Netflix announced that they would be producing a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series, which is set to air in 2019. This news first filled me with elation, then with trepidation. I’m a huge fan of the original Avatar series, and the idea of a live-action remake has, in my opinion, both benefits and downsides. Since I am, overall, excited for this adaptation, though, I’ll start with the pros.

1. Avatar: The Last Airbender includes a cast and characters that are almost entirely POC.

The characters in the original show, though it took place in a world that is different from ours, were based on people from various South and East Asian cultures, as well as from Indigenous cultures. The Netflix creators of the show have expressed their commitment to keeping the cast non-white, which would be a really great step for the culture of media that exists today. It’s pretty rare to find a Western TV show that has more than a few people of color, and there are even fewer shows that have majority non-white casts. Especially as a kid’s show, Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender would be setting a great example, not to mention contributing to diversity on screen, for children’s shows everywhere.

2. We’ll get to spend more time in the world of Avatar.

One of the most commended aspects of the original Avatar was the show’s worldbuilding. It wasn’t just impressive for a kid’s show; it was impressive for any show. The creators built cities and kingdoms, codified economic systems, and displayed a world in the midst of war that was gratifyingly real and relatable. Seeing what the remake will do in terms of worldbuilding, especially considering the difficulties it faces as a live-action show, is one of the things I’m looking forward to most.

Now that I’ve covered the areas in which Netflix’s Avatar could be great, I also have to mention the places it could fail.

1. It could just retell the same story.

While a live action rendition of Avatar with the exact same characters and storylines would probably be fine, I think it would ultimately be wasted potential on something that could be greater. Fans have already seen the original Avatar story, and while we loved it, there isn’t really a need to have it remade in the exact same format as before. Where the Netflix remake could really shine would be an exploration of side stories and backstories to characters that weren’t developed as fully in the original series.

 

2. It could try to tell a darker version of the story.

As has been popular recently (see: the controversy surrounding the Sabrina the Teenage Witch reboot), the creators of the new Avatar could try to take the show in a darker, grittier direction. Depending on its intended audience, the show might want to appeal to an older age bracket of viewers, and think that the way to do that is to darken the show’s subject matter. But in my opinion, the light, happy, and unabashedly silly aspects of the original Avatar were what made the show so great! Admittedly, the subject matter in later seasons got a little heavier, but this was emphasized and balanced by the lighthearted messages at the core of the story.

 

3. It could follow in the path of the 2010 film adaptation.

The 2010 rendition, entitled The Last Airbender, was an infamous failure to perform on many levels. It holds a 6% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is largely viewed as one of the worst cartoon-to-movie adaptations in history. Fortunately, some of the things it got wrong (for instance having a mostly-white cast) are things that the Netflix adaptation has already proven to understand the dangers of. However, other places the movie failed (like bad acting, a low budget, and poor special effects) are factors that we can’t be sure of, but which I hope a media monolith like Netflix will not fall prey to.

 

Ultimately, the story of Avatar is one that I love, and will always love. I hope that the Netflix rendition is everything that it could be, and even if I find problems with it, I know that I’ll be happy to see the Avatar world on screen again.

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