These are exciting times for fans of the animated Avatar, especially for those who have a Netflix account. The streaming service recently saw the release of The Dragon Prince by former Avatar writers Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond, and more recently, Netflix announced a live-action adaptation of the original series, Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Aside from the fact that the creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko will act as showrunners, not a lot of details have been released. But, as you might expect, that hasn't stopped fans from debating whether or not this is a good idea.
Some of the pessimism stems from the recent controversy surrounding Netflix's upcoming Witcher series, involving a leaked casting call description that many perceived to be evidence of unnecessary changes made to key characters. But most of the negativity surrounding this recent announcement is rooted in the overall failure of the only live-action adaptation currently in existence: the infamous film that some like to pretend never existed, The Last Airbender.
Director M. Night Shyamalan approached the creators and Nickelodeon with his pitch to make a live-action adaptation of the series. The Last Airbender was released in 2010, and adapted the plot and characters of "Book One: Water." Its success would have turned it into the beginning of a trilogy, but it wasn't to be. While the film performed decently enough at the box office, it fell short in other important areas. To say that it failed to impress audiences and critics would be a gross understatement. The majority abhorred the film, which is why the creators of the show immediately distanced themselves from the project, eventually expressing their disappointment in how Shyamalan chose to adapt the world they had created as well as its messages.
Even before the film was released, it managed to disappoint fans of the series thanks to its whitewashing controversy. The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender takes inspiration from numerous cultures, the majority of which are Asian, including Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan, all of which were -- and continue to be -- underrepresented in mainstream films. In retrospect, then, it's little surprise that the film experienced immense backlash when it appeared that no effort had been made to cast actors from the appropriate cultures.
But controversy, while a massive contributor, was not the only reason the film failed. Critics and audiences agreed that the overall quality of the film was just plain poor. Every action sequence was full of obtrusive and obvious CGI, and nearly every scene contained needless exposition through narration, which spoke to the quality of writing and direction behind the film. With all that in mind, it's understandable that fans are now hesitant about allowing their hopes to be raised by the proposed live-action series.