Avatar the Last Airbender(ATLA) is a beloved Nickelodeon cartoon series that first premiered in February of 2005. The three-season show, following protagonist Avatar Aang, and his friends on their journey to restore peace and stop the Fire Nation, was a staple of many childhood memories for fans growing up. Recently these old memories have resurfaced with the addition of the series to Netflix on May 15th 2020. The show’s addition to the Netflix menu has sparked a huge resurgence in ATLA’s popularity, as Netflix’s easier accessibility has given veteran fans the chance to re-watch, and new fans the ability to get invested in a timeless, and popular series.
As well as this, more attention has shifted towards plans for the streaming services’ upcoming live action reboot of ATLA, which was announced in 2018. Not much information is known so far about the live action; no cast or release dates have been announced yet.
“When I first heard about the news I was really excited to hear about a live action”, said senior Savannah Mitchum, a new fan of the series, who, like many new fans, binged the show over quarantine. The promising new adaptation was also being spearheaded by original creators Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko.
Unfortunately though, this excitement was short-lived. Michael and Bryan have recently announced they left the project, causing many fans to lose faith in the reboot.
“When I found out that the creators dropped out of production, I became a bit skeptical of what the outcome would be”, continued Mitchum. “I don’t want another ‘The Last Airbender’ incident”.
What Mitchum is referring to is the universally hated, ‘The Last Airbender’, remake from 2008, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, which unfortunately, must be addressed.
“It is one of the worst movie adaptations I have ever seen, I had to force myself to get through it”, Brooke Taylor, senior at PV, and long time fan of the show, said.
The movie adaptation has even gained a sort of notoriety in the ATLA fandom for being so comically far removed from the original series. The scarring memory of this adaptation, filled with white washing, plot holes, and horrible CGI animation, has left fans wary of any new adaptations not made by the O.G team, and fearful that Netflix will soon repeat history now that DiMartino and Konietzko are no longer involved.
“When Netflix brought me on board to run this series alongside Mike two years ago, they made a very public promise to support our vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise. Though I got to work with some great individuals, both on Netflix’s side and on our own small development team, the general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and unsupportive environment”, Dimartino shared in his statement on leaving the Netflix reboot of ATLA.
“It was the hardest professional decision I’ve ever had to make, and certainly not one that I took lightly, but it was necessary for my happiness and creative integrity”, said Konietzko in his own post about leaving the project.
After receiving harsh backlash from ATLA fans, Netflix recently released its own statement in response to DiMartino and Konietzko leaving, “We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series. Although they have chosen to depart the live action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation”.
However, some fans are still hopeful that the new adaptation will not be bad.
“I honestly expect it to be worse than the original, but I expect a certain standard to be held in the quality and content. If it is more mature I hope they do it well”, said senior Aneesh Anandanatarajan.
“I’m honestly so torn. I had high hopes that because the original creators had a say that it would be good, but they had to back out because Netflix was taking it in a direction they didn’t agree with. I’ve heard some rumours about what Netflix wanted and if it’s true all my hope is crushed”, explained Taylor.
It’s hard to say where Netflix will go from here, if they even decide to continue with the live action remake, however DiMartino’s ending statement can hopefully give fans some solace. “Thankfully, Iroh offered some wisdom for that, too: ‘Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel. You can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving you will come to a better place’”.