Netflix Drops First Fully-Costumed Look At Upcoming Live-Action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Adaptation
Undoubtedly riding high after the breakout success of One Piece, Netflix has officially begun to thaw the ice around the Avatar’s return by providing fans with their very first glimpse at the streamer’s upcoming live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series.
Coming in the form of set photos released on October 17th as part of Netflix’s annual ‘Geeked Week’ preview event, these new images featured the fully-costumed cast of the series’ principal cast, including the Gordon Cormier (Joe in The Stand (2020) as the latest reincarnation of the eponymous Avatar, Aang:
Kiawenti:iuo Tarbell (Bkeans in Beans) as the resident Water Bender and level-headed member of the series’ core team, Katara (replete with a quick tease of her aforementioned abilities):
Ian Ousley (Robby Corman in 13 Reasonss Why) as the core team’s funny-man boomerang expert and – at least as far as he’s concerned – leader, Sokka:
Dallas Liu (Ruihua in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) as Aang’s fiery, heavy-is-the-head-that-wears-the-crown rival Prince Zuko:
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Captain Carson Teva in The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Ahsoka) as Prince Zuko’s closest family member and mentor, Uncle Iroh – otherwise known as one of the Fire Nation’s most legendary generals:
Elizabeth Yu (Mary Atherton-Yoo in May December) as the shockingly cruel, Fire Bending princess of the Fire Nation, Azula:
And finally, giving his live-reaction to the news of the Avatar’s return, Daniel Dae Kim – who previously provided the voices of General Fong in the original animated series and Hiroshi Sato in The Legend of Korra – as the series’ main antagonist, the tyrannical Fire Lord Ozai:
First announced as in development back in 2018, Netflix’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender will, according to its showrunner Albert Kim (Sleepy Hollow, Nikita), supposedly strive to be as close as possible to its original source material.
Speaking to Netflix regarding his experience working on the series, Kim explained, “I also knew what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to change things for the sake of change. I didn’t want to modernize the story, or twist it to fit current trends. Aang is not going to be a gritty antihero. Katara is not going to get curtain bangs. (I was briefly tempted to give Sokka a TikTok account though. Think of the possibilities.)”
“Don’t get me wrong,” he continued, “We’ll be expanding and growing the world, and there will be surprises for existing fans and those new to the tale. But throughout this process, our byword has been ‘authenticity.’ To the story. To the characters. To the cultural influences. Authenticity is what keeps us going, both in front of the camera and behind it, which is why we’ve assembled a team unlike any seen before—a group of talented and passionate artists who are working around the clock to bring this rich and incredibly beautiful world to life.”
However, while Kim’s outlook is surely welcome in an age of constant ‘reimaginings’, the weight of his sentiment is undercut by the fact that the franchise’s original creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koneitzko, left the project in 2020 over creative differences regarding the direction of the series.
“When Bryan and I signed on to the project in 2018, we were hired as executive producers and showrunners,” explained DiMartino in an open letter published to his personal blog. “In a joint announcement for the series, Netflix said that it was committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and to supporting us on creating the series. And we expressed how excited we were for the opportunity to be at the helm. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped.”
“I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded,” he further detailed. “So, I chose to leave the project. 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.”
“And who knows?” he added. ‘Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar has the potential to be good. It might turn out to be a show many of you end up enjoying. But what I can be certain about is that whatever version ends up on-screen, it will not be what Bryan and I had envisioned or intended to make.”
Likewise, in a statement published to his personal Instagram account, Koneitzko similarly asserted, “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.”
“To be clear, this was not a simple matter of us not getting our way,” said Koenitzko. “Mike and I are collaborative people; we did not need all of the ideas to come from us. As long as we felt those ideas were in line with the spirit and integrity of Avatar, we would have happily embraced them. However, we ultimately came to the belief that we would not be able to meaningfully guide the direction of the series.”
As of writing, the eight-episode first season of Netflix’s Avatrar: The Last Airbender adaptation is currently due sometime in 2024.