Last week, the creators of the animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, announced they are no longer involved in the live-action Netflix adaptation.
Creators Michael Di Martino and Bryan Konietzko signed on as executive producers and showrunners back in 2018, which gave many fans high hopes for the adaptation.
Avatar takes place in a world divided into four nations — Water, Earth, Fire, and Air — and benders have the ability to control the element from their nation. The Avatar, who can bend all four elements, must end a 100-year war.
Asian and Inuit cultures influenced the world and characters, but M. Night Shyamalan’s notorious 2010 adaptation cast white actors. Critics called out the “drabbest, darkest, dingiest” SFX and “Kids-R-Us dialogue.” Time Magazine‘s Richard Corliss questioned whether it is the “worst movie epic ever.”
Fearing a repeat, the creators assured fans that their new series would “be cinematically as we always imagined…with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast.”
In an exit statement, Konietzko said: “Netflix made a very public promise to support our vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise.” Di Martino’s message echoed these frustrations: “I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series. The decision…was necessary for my happiness and creative integrity.”
They have declined to elaborate.
“We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series,” a Netflix spokesperson told The Verge. “Although they have chosen to depart the live action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation.”
It is heartbreaking to witness another missed opportunity for the creators to execute their vision, but this isn’t all bad news.
The Avatar universe is not short on content. Di Martino and Konietzko have created ten graphic novels since 2011 including standalone stories for the characters Katara and Toph, expected in October 2020 and February 2021, respectively. Last month, Di Martino and author F.C. Yee released The Shadow of Kyoshi as part of the Kyoshi Novels series. And an unofficial video game, Avatar: Rise of the Phoenix King, is in development.
The creators are also free to devote their time and energy toward projects that will respect and trust their creative decisions.
The show Netflix is creating may not be the Avatar the creators or fans envisioned, but Di Martino and Konietzko did bring people from the original series to the live-action development team. The series has the potential to bring in a new audience, whether or not it wins over the original fanbase.
Ultimately, the original did not need a live-action remake. Seeing real-life bending would undoubtedly be awesome, but the animated series is far better than any remake would be. The voices, faces, and Avatar world we know will be different. It wouldn’t be right to hear “Leaves from the Vine” performed by anyone other than Iroh’s original voice actor, Mako Iwamatsu.
So if any die-hard fans are crushed at the departure, I suggest rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender and it’s sequel, The Legend of Korra, which are on Netflix now.
Those will always be perfect.