The Last Airbender Being A Casualty Of The Live-Action Remake Trend Is A Tragedy

In September 2018, Netflix announced that a live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender was in the works. We finally got an update this week: the series is slated to hit the platform in 2024, and it makes me miserable. There is nothing technically wrong with the post. I’m excited to see Asian and Indigenous actors cast in the show, because that was a big criticism of Nickelodeon’s previous attempt at a remake of the original live-action version – so many white people and so few Asians. My problem with this is the whole premise: it’s a live-action remake.

I voiced my feelings about it. I don’t think everything deserves to be remade or adapted to a different medium. I’d go so far as to say most things don’t, but if the studios are going to go ahead and do it, there’s definitely a right, worthwhile way to do it, and a terribly, terribly wrong way. But Avatar doesn’t need to be remade, and I really believe that. The animated show was an all-time classic that still holds up today. It is well written, well paced and explores complex themes such as colonialism, genocide, war, oppression and free will. People still love him today. My friends and I played a D&D home campaign based on it, 15 years after the show first came out. People on Twitter keep saying “There is no war in Ba Sing Se”. It’s an icon.


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It’s understandable that Netflix wants to capitalize on this because Netflix loves money. But if, like me, you’re in the camp that believes that television should have artistic value and that beating a dead IP horse serves no one, you probably hate the idea of ​​making live action just for profit. The animated version was already great, and I don’t see the point of a live-action version other than to show how realistic CGI can make firebending look. I’m not interested in that, and that’s not why the show resonated so much with people. Animation is not an inferior medium and it is not a medium that needs to be translated for mass appeal.

What worries me even more is that Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of the original Avatar, left the project a long time ago. They were originally attached to the project as executive producers and showrunners, but left because Netflix was changing the creative direction of the series. In an open letter on his website, DiMartino said he decided to leave because it was “necessary” for his “happiness and creative integrity” and that while the adaptation had the potential to be good, it wasn’t what they were. he or Konietzko conceived.

Even the show’s new host, Albert Kim, admitted in a blog post that much of what the team is planning focuses on the visuals. Specifically, he said, “What can I do or say with the story that wasn’t done or said in the original?” and “The more I thought about it, the more interested I became. VFX technology has advanced to the point that a live-action version can not only faithfully translate what was done in animation – it can bring a rich new visual dimension to a fantastical world.” In the blog post, he also says that he hopes that with the extension episodes “gave the story points and emotional arcs we loved in the original” more room to “breathe and grow”.

I try not to screw things up too much before they come out. There’s no way to know for sure it’s going to be bad, so I’m not going to say that. But it’s unnecessary and it’s not the same. I thought HBO’s The Last of Us was unnecessary, but it was also pretty good. Maybe DiMartino is right, the adaptation has potential and I’d love to see a show with a primarily Asian and Native cast succeed, but that doesn’t mean I think the show should be made in the first place. Unfortunately, representation is not enough to justify the medium’s existence.

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