Every ’90s kid will no doubt remember the iconic Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA). It’s the show that redefined the words water, earth, fire and air for a whole generation and it’s about to do it again in with a new live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender coming to Netflix.
Avatar: The Last Airbender in live-action… again?
Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.
Or, more accurately, everything changed when Hollywood gave us 2010’s The Last Airbender.
I know a lot of my fellow ATLA fans are probably still burned from M. Night Shamalayan’s The Last Airbender. It was nothing short of a traumatic experience.
But there are a few reasons Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender series looks like it will be different.
For starters, the casting is on point, with an ethnically diverse group of age-appropriate actors on board for the series already.
The Netflix series will also cover the same story as the original series, which depicts a world divided into four nations, with each containing benders that can manipulate the natural elements. Only one being, known as the Avatar, has the power to bend all four elements and unite the nations.
Over three seasons, Avatar: The Last Airbender told a pretty perfect story. So why do we even need a live-action remake?
This was a question Albert Kim, executive producer on the Netflix series, asked himself as well. The answer was a combination of things:
“VFX technology has advanced to the point where a live-action version can not only faithfully translate what had been done in animation — it can bring a rich new visual dimension to a fantastic world. We’ll be able to see bending in a real and visceral way we’ve never seen before. Also, Netflix’s format meant we had an opportunity to reimagine a story that had originally been told in self-contained half-hour episodes as an ongoing serialised narrative. That meant story points and emotional arcs we’d loved in the original could be given even more room to breathe and grow.”
“Finally, a live-action version would establish a new benchmark in representation and bring in a whole new generation of fans. This was a chance to showcase Asian and Indigenous characters as living, breathing people. Not just in a cartoon, but in a world that truly exists, very similar to the one we live in,” Kim said in a Netflix blog post.
Kim also said he didn’t want to change things for the sake of changing them to fit modern trends and that the Netflix series will strive for “authenticity” above all else. It’s a bold promise (and one that we will hold him to) but an admirable promise nonetheless.
The first season will apparently comprise 8 hour-long episodes and judging by the cast so far we can expect it to cover at least the entirety of ‘Book One: Water’. It’s also reportedly one of the most expensive Netflix series ever made, so expect it to look pretty damn good.
Who is part of the Netflix ATLA cast?
A lot of the success of Avatar: The Last Airbender comes down to its iconic characters, which means casting faithfully is critical. The good news is that Netflix seems to be nailing it so far.
In the lead as Aang, aka the Avatar who has been frozen in ice for a hundred years, is Gordon Cormier. He’s joined by Kiawentiio Tarbell and Ian Ousley as Aang’s water tribe friends, Katara and Sokka.
Dallas Liu is playing Prince Zuko, the exiled Fire Nation prince bent on capturing the Avatar, and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee stars as his lovable Uncle Iroh. Daniel Dae Kim will play Zuko’s tyrannical father, Fire Lord Ozai, and Elizabeth Yu will be his cunning sister, Azula.
Filling out the rest of the cast is Ken Leung (Commander Zhao), Maria Zhang (Suki), Lim Kay Siu (Gyatso), A Martinez (Pakku), Amber Midthunder (Princess Yue), Yvonne Chapman (Avatar Kyoshi), Case Camp-Horinek (Gran Gran), C.S. Lee (Avatar Roku), Irene Bedard (Yagoda), Joel Oulette (Hahn), Nathaniel Arcand (Chief Arnook), Meegwun Fairbrother (Avatar Kuruk), Arden Cho (June), Utkarsh Ambudkur (King Bumi), Danny Pudi (The Mechanist), Lucian-River Chauhan (Teo), James Sie (Cabbage Merchant), Momona Tamada (Ty Lee), Thalia Tran (Mai), Ruy Iskandar (Lt. Jee), Hiro Kanagawa (Fire Lord Sozin), François Chau (The Great Sage), Ryan Mah (Lt Dang), George Takei (voice of Koh) and Randall Duk Kim (voice of Wan Shi Tong).
It’s a stacked cast and you can already tell they’re going to smash it.
The Netflix series had enlisted the original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko to helm the adaptation, but the duo ended up leaving in 2020 due to creative differences.
Albert Kim replaced them as showrunner alongside executive producers Dan Lin, Lindsey Liberatore, Michael Goi and Roseanne Liang.
When will Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender be released?
Netflix confirmed that filming was underway for Avatar: The Last Airbender in Vancouver, Canada, in December 2021, and it’s believed the series has since wrapped shooting.
Therefore it looks like a 2023 release window is most likely for the live-action ATLA series. When it releases you’ll be able to stream it exclusively on Netflix.
If you want to prepare yourself by rewatching the Nickelodeon series you can stream it now over on Paramount+ and Binge. The sequel series The Legend of Korra is also available to watch on Paramount+.
The post Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender Series Has All The Right Elements appeared first on Kotaku Australia.
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