Water, earth, fire, and air. These were the elements that built the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it was the direction of Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko that would make Avatar the iconic franchise that it is today.
Since its inception in 2005, Avatar would become an iconic staple for Nickelodeon and spawn a range of comics, novels, and even a second series in 2012, The Legend of Korra. These shows generated hundreds and hundreds of fans to be inspired by the adventures of Aang, Korra, Katara, Sokka, Toph, Zuko, and many more characters within this universe. Receiving many awards ranging from Kid’s Choice Awards to Peabody, this franchise’s critically acclaimed shows made thousands of childhoods in the late 2000s and made it another classic brand for Paramount.
However, when it came to a live-action adaptation for the beloved series (not looking at the abysmal 2010 M. Night Shyamalan live-action failure), it was clear that Avatar would finally come to fruition in real life. Luckily, with a more serious and cultural-focused tone, a live-action adaptation would finally succeed where its predecessor failed to.
The live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender originally was announced around September 2018 with DiMartino and Konietzko signed on to produce the show. However, the two showrunners would part from the series due to creative differences with Netflix due to a negative and unsupportive environment. Composer Jeremy Zuckerman was also signed to return until parting with DiMartino and Konietzko. DiMartino and Konietzko are currently running Avatar Studios, a production company under Nickelodeon to produce more Avatar-related content in the future. Avatar Studios was launched in February 2021.
Albert Kim would be signed on to be the showrunner of the adaptation in August 2021 and would be joined alongside Dan Lin, Lindsey Liberatore, Michael Goi, and Roseanne Liang as executive producers.
In the same month, Netflix announced several actors and actresses joining the adaptation in top roles: Gordon Cormier as Aang, Kiawentiio Tarbell as Katara, Ian Ousley as Sokka, and Dallas Liu as Zuko. In November, Avatar-veteran Daniel Dae Kim (General Fong in Avatar and Hiroshi Sato in Korra) would be joining as Fire Lord Ozai. In addition to Dae Kim, more roles were announced including Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Iroh, Lim Kay Siu as Gyatso, and Ken Leung as Commander Zhao. In December, actresses Elizabeth Yu, Yvonne Chapman, Tamlyn Tomita, Casey Camp-Horinek and Maria Zhang were casted as Azula, Avatar Kyoshi, Yukari, Gran Gran and Suki.
In April this year, more roles were announced: Arden Chen as June, Momona Tamada as Ty Lee, and C. S. Lee as Avatar Roku. In June, A Martinez would join as Master Pakku and Amber Midthunder would join as Princess Yue. In July, another Avatar veteran, James Sie would return as the infamous Cabbage Merchant. While not officially announced back then, Netflix revealed these castings this month.
In addition to those roles, the following roles were also casted: Irene Bedard as Yagoda, Joel Oulette as Hahn, Nathaniel Arcand as Chief Arnook, Meegwun Fairbrother as Avatar Kuruk, Utkarsh Ambudkar as King Bumi, Danny Pudi as the Mechanist, Lucian-River Chauhan as Teo, Thalia Tran as Mai, Ruy Iskandar as Lt. Jee, Hiro Kanagawa as Fire Lord Sozin, François Chau as the Great Sage, Ryan Mah as Lt. Dang, George Takei as Koh, and Randall Duk Kim as Wan Shi Tong.
What’s The Plot?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the plot of the live-action adaptation is said to follow in a similar vein to the original Nickelodeon series. While there are some switches in the live-action casting that changes some bits of the original series, Aang, Katara, and Sokka, are still planned to follow their animated counterparts’ foot-steps in stopping the Fire Nation from spreading throughout the world.
After the Air Nomads are dwindled down due to the Fire Kingdom, the last of the Air Nomads and exiled Avatar, Aang, remained frozen in the ice for hundreds of years until Katara and Sokka, two kids from the Southern Water Tribe, find Aang and break him free. However, after news of Aang’s release spreads, Fire Nation prince Zuko, on behalf of his father Ozai, promises to stop the Avatar in order to bring a new age. Together, Aang, Katara, and Sokka must put a stop to Ozai’s plans before civilization falls to the hand of the Fire Nation.
Though the original creators of the show had left the adaptation’s development, Netflix promised to be committed to honoring the creators’ wishes and supporting a more creative vision. Hopefully, with the commitment to such a diverse casting, this live action adaptation can pull off what its 2010 precursor was unable to do before and add on to the growing franchise that is Avatar: The Last Airbender!
Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are available to stream on Paramount+, Netflix, and Roku.