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Well, I’m sure you’ve already heard the bad news by now. The upcoming Netflix Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action TV show just lost the cartoon’s creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. They’ve officially stepped away from the project, citing creative differences. And while I know I have no real reason to be optimistic for the show now, it’s kind of crazy to admit this, but I still am. Somewhat anyway.
Because, look. I understand. A lot of fans (myself included) were only interested in a live-action version of Avatar because we thought the creators would have more creative control over it this time than they did with the movie. We also thought that we would finally get the live-action Avatar that we deserve so we wouldn’t have to pretend that the Shyamalan movie doesn’t exist anymore. Instead of that, we’d have this Netflix show now. But guess what: We’ll still have this Netflix show, which is why I’m still cautiously optimistic about the project. And here are just five major reasons why.
Netflix Can Still Use the Story Lines From the Cartoon Since the Animated Series Has Already Ended
In a lot of ways, I was thinking of Game of Thrones when I came up with this reason. Because as everybody knows, George R.R. Martin still hadn’t (HASN’T!) completed his A Song of Ice and Fire book series when the HBO series was ending, and the show runners had to come up with their own conclusion. And this left a sour taste in a lot of viewers’ mouths since many fans cited that the last season robbed the whole series of its greatness.
And while I can’t speak for Game of Thrones since I didn’t like that show, I very much love Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the great thing about it is that the whole story has already been told. Aang and the gang defeated Fire Lord Ozai, and the 100 Year War was ended. Not for nothing, but if the show runners for the live-action Avatar just stick to the original cartoon's arc, then at least we’ll already have a good story. It will just be the execution that might be off. That is of course unless Netflix shoves in a new story where Aang flies in on Appa and then firebends the life out of everybody in the Earth Kingdom as they run away screaming. Then, all I can say is, God have mercy on us all.
Avatar is Still a Kid's Show, So the Tone Likely Won't Be Too Dark or Too Different in Live-Action Form
My wife has a theory about why the creators of Avatar might have left this new live-action show, and it all connects to one of her favorite book series, Anne of Green Gables. You see, Netflix actually once had an Anne of Green Gables series called Anne With an E, but as somebody who has also read the Anne novels, I remember walking into the room one day when my wife was watching it, and I was like, “What is this?” And she told me, “It’s Anne of Green Gables, but like, much darker.” And while the later Anne books do get pretty dark, the early stuff is very light, children’s material. And so is Avatar: The Last Airbender, which my wife thinks Netflix might have wanted to make much “darker” than the cartoon.
But I don’t think they would do that. While The Legend of Korra got into some pretty dark territory, ATLA has always skewed much younger. So I can’t imagine the tone being dark or gritty when that’s not Avatar. And I’m sure Nickelodeon wouldn’t want that, either, especially since the animated ATLA has been very popular on Netflix and is in the children’s section. I can’t see the tone changing all that much, can you?
The Witcher Proves that the Visuals Can Be Good on Netflix
You know one of the biggest complaints of the The Last Airbender movie? The visuals. They’re ugly. Really, really ugly. The CG is just terrible, and the bending looks absolutely horrendous. A lot of fans who grew up seeing the gorgeous animation from the cartoon wanted to puke in their popcorn when they saw what it ended up looking like on the big screen. And you would think that with Paramount Pictures distributing the movie that it would have the kind of cash to make it look at least somewhat presentable. But no. That didn’t seem to matter and the movie is a visual disaster of epic proportions.
The Show Will Hopefully Still Have a Mostly Asian Cast
One of the major blunders of the movie (out of many) was the blatant whitewashing in the film. The three main characters, Aang, Katara, and Sokka, were not played by Asian actors, but many members of the evil Fire Nation were. This led to a major blow back not only from fans, but also from people who knew nothing about ATLA. The movie became just another example of Hollywood being tone deaf to diversity.
But thankfully, while we don’t really know the cast of the live-action Avatar yet, we do know that before the co-creators of Avatar left, they specifically wanted an Asian cast to fill in the roles of its principal characters. So even though the show may be changing creators at some point, hopefully Netflix will still follow through with that casting plan.
Hopefully, Netflix Learned From the Mistakes of the M. Night Shyamalan Film
And lastly, the showrunners of this new show aren’t going into this blind. There is, of course, something to steer away from, and that’s the movie that I’ve been hating on for the past two entries now (look, I’m just speaking for the fans here). I mean, the movie is readily available to watch on Netflix, so I’m certain the showrunners have seen both it and the myriad of complaints about the film, so they at least have an understanding of what not to do.
And yes, I know. It sucks that the two people with the clearest, most authentic vision for the show were not satisfied with the direction it was heading and left. But let’s be clear here. You don’t always need the original creators to make something great within that universe. Frankly, I love The Legend of Korra, but there are plenty of fans who hate it. So maybe, just maybe, this show will be closer to what the fans actually want this time. Hey, I’m just trying to look on the bright side, okay?
So those are five reasons why I am still cautiously optimistic for the live-action show. Do I wish the creators had stayed on? Absolutely! But they didn’t, so you have to take what you can get, right?