Friday, June 23, 2023

Will it bend? Or will it break? Netflix Adapts Fan Favorite ATLA

Netflix is teasing the release of a new live action series next year.

There is a lot to talk about here, but first of all, let's take a moment. 

Avatar the Last Airbender is the right series to choose for a live action remake. A succesful remake would be absolutely priceless. If you ask me, you're crazy if you don't think the adaptation is worth the risk.

Aang and Appa

That being said, I know it’s crazy to say there isn’t a good chance it could another maddeningly tone deaf iteration of what happened with the Avatar movie in 2010. The stakes are high.

It’s a sad, sad parade of Hollywood business deals that take our childhood favorites and disfigure them as soulless copies. I’m thinking of Disney's relentless live-action remakes of their entire catalog of cartoons, mostly. Netflix seems all too eager to follow suit. We'll see if The Little Mermaid breaks the cycle of persistent duds. Personally, I'm waiting for it to be released on Disney+. The positive reviews I hear give me some tentative hope, but not enough to spend money on theater tickets. In the interest of full disclosure, I never saw the 2010 Avatar movie. If you have talked to anyone about that movie, you probably know why. The overwhelming disappointment in that movie was enough to convince me not to waste my time.

Kiawentiio Tarbell as Katara

I am willing to hope, tentatively, Netflix could work things out, but here is my concern.

What were the creative differences that led the original creators of Avatar, Brian Konietzko and Michael Dimartino, to
leave the project?

In 2018, it was announced the original creators of ATLA would be executive producing and working as showrunners of the Netflix adaptation. However, both of them left the project in 2020 citing "creative differences" with Netflix. Without these two having any involvement whatsoever with Netflix's direction for the series, it's easy to imagine a number of ways the series could go wrong.

My hope is they get at least a few things right.

The original series meticulously consulted experts in many different disciplines of martial arts. Seeing these moves with real actors would bring a whole new dimension to the experience. A good kung fu movie, to me, is the pinnacle of the action category. With ATLA, the storytelling and the action were inseparably connected. It's a winning combination that I am excited to see again.

Ian Ousley as Sokka

The original Avatar was emotionally dynamic. Every episode was peppered goofy jokes and slapstick comedy, but also put a spotlight on deeper, more mature emotions. The sadness, anger, and desperation in the story arcs of entire nations, as well as the characters transcended what anyone ever expected from an after school special. This remake just needs to honor a few of the big moments with those deeper emotions, and give us some laughs, and it would already be way ahead of most live actions adaptations.

Dallas Liu as Zuko
Art from r/TheLastAirbender, by u/VeganCowJuice

We have an undisclosed amount of time left to wait to see how Netflix does with this series. There is a lot riding on it, as Netflix values its potential enough to invest 15 million per episode. We’ll see if their money was spent wisely.

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