Can We Reboot “The Last Airbender” Already?

2 years ago, we were handed one of the worst movies of all time that was depicting one of the greatest animated series of all time. Our feelings were hurt when The Last Airbender (TLA) failed to capture the greatness of Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA).

With the rising popularity and success of the animated series’ successor, The Legend of Korra, it’s high-time that Hollywood try again with the Avatar series while the timing is still good.

By the way, I spent a lot of time talking about social media last week, so expect this week to be a little more entertainment-heavy.

Now, let’s get some basic points out of the way. ATLA is my favorite animated series of all time. Debuting in 2005, this show had everything I could possibly want in a sprawling epic.

Amazing animation (it is an American cartoon animated in South Korea), deep and interesting lore, a high-stakes storyline (making it accessible for an older audience), some of the most memorable characters on television, and even humor.

So, making a movie out of this show should have been a cinch. As we understand it, the show’s studio gave Hollywood a lot of freedom with the story, over $150 million was put into its production, and the show lends itself very nicely to a trilogy since it was made with three seasons.

The movie even had M. Night Shyamalan directing it.

Well, okay, all of these things ended up being a negative. Hollywood ruined the story because they had too much freedom, they spent way too much money on the wrong things, making three movies meant changing the length of the story to keep up with aging actors, and M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed it.

If you haven’t seen the movie or know what I’m talking about, watch these videos that recap everything wrong with the movie pretty perfectly (SPOILERS from here on out).

The question being asked by some is whether or not Shyamalan will follow-up this disaster of a movie with a sequel the movie begged.

Obviously, no one outright wants it, but the movie did manage make $300 million worldwide. So, the movie does make sense financially, if not critically.

Still, that’s no guarantee the sequel will manage to pull off the same magic, especially if none of the first movie’s mistakes are corrected.

That said, I have two possible solutions that would please everyone.

We should either reboot the first movie or go the way of The Incredible Hulk (Most people did not like Ang lee’s Hulk that came out in 2003, so 2008’s The Incredible Hulk served as an unofficial sequel to the 2003 film).

A reboot is the nice solution, because it would take less effort to rework the movie’s mistakes.

Here’s my wish-list for a reboot:

1. Change the writers. The animated series had different writers for almost all of their episodes. Tapping into their talent for a movie just makes sense, especially since they’re the biggest reason (along with the creators) why the series was successful.

2. Pronounce the names correctly. Shyamalan decided that the names in the show were not pronounced correctly in Asian. That was misguided, considering the show takes place in an alternate world influenced by Asian themes, not Asia. Changing the pronunciation did nothing but annoy all of the show’s fans.

3. Change the casting strategy. In the movie, the Fire Nation was depicted by Indians, the Water Tribe was caucasian, the Earth Kingdom was chinese, and the Air Nomads were diverse. This doesn’t make sense alongside the show at all.

The Fire Nation was clearly influenced by the Japanese, which we see in their culture, architecture, and how we find out later on that “firebending” originated with dragons. So, why not carry that over to the movie? Also, a Japanese actor playing Zuko would be way more interesting.

The Earth Kingdom makes way more sense as the “diverse” nation because they are largest. Even the show implies this, since Zuko and Iroh were able to pass as Earth Kingdom refugees in season 2, and many of the characters in this part of the world look very different from each other.

The Water Tribe is composed of two separate tribes, the North and South Pole. You can get away with having Europeans depict the North Pole, but Katarra and Sokka should just be darker skinned like they are in the show to please the fans. A “white” Katarra is just too much of a change, and our pop culture could really use more diversity anyways.

Also, Dev Patel would’ve made a far better Sokka than Jason Rathbone. Sokka is humorous and very animated. Patel’s “Anwar” in Skins was one of the most animated characters in that show, so why not give him a character with more to do?

Finally, the Air Nomads should be Chinese for the same reason that the Fire Nation should be Japanese. They clearly represent Tibetan monks, and we’d have an easier time casting a child actor for Aang who can handle all of the physical stunts throughout the trilogy.

4. Rework the plot. The first season of Avatar is the most challenging to compress into one movie because almost every episode is “standalone.” It’s basically about a group of friends travelling the world having various adventures.

That said, the movie left a lot of really critical characters out, including the Kyoshi Warriors and King Bumi, who play major roles in the other seasons. 

Here’s how I would break it down: The first act would focus on Aang, Sokka, and Katarra. We needed that more in TLA, which glossed over major character development points.

The second act should introduce us to the Kyoshi Warriors and King Bumi, who could be Aang’s method of receiving his world-saving mission from Roku. This could all culminate with Book 1’s most important episode, The Blue Spirit, which teaches us a lot more about Zuko.

Finally the third act would focus on the North Pole, giving us more time to commit to Yue’s character, Aang’s confrontation with Koh, the fight between Zuko, Katarra, and Zhao, and Aang’s epic fight against the entire Fire Nation navy.

5. Make the movie longer. Yes, this is a kid’s movie, but that didn’t stop us from letting Harry Potter have at least 2 hours, and there’s really no other way to tell the show’s story.

I’d go on, but you get the point. A reboot would be a much-needed, major overhaul of the 2011 iteration.

As I said before, we could also just skip the reboot and do the sequel as an unofficial follow-up to the reboot I just described. After all, season 2 of the show was far more like a serialized saga with major set pieces, making a movie easier to create.

Or we could leave ATLA alone and just skip to a prequel for Legend of Korra. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a young version of Korra mastering water, earth, and fire?

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109 thoughts on “Can We Reboot “The Last Airbender” Already?

  1. I’ve seen the Avatar series’ numerous times, watched them over and over and I know pretty much everything there is to know about the entire show, and I was pretty dam excited about the movie, that is, before it came out. never did I think that they would butcher such a great story with such poor casting and direction, M Night clearly has no idea about the show, maybe he watched it once through and that’s it, but his making the fire nation indian is the worst creative decision I’ve seen in a movie depiction of well, anything. Ruined it. Pretty much everything said in the original post is exactly what I’ve been thinking so well done, they should do it again and do it right, make it longer, do it the justice it deserves

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  2. I just want to point out that he also changed LAWS setup in the avatar universe like fire benders needing a PRE-EXSISTING source of fire to bend.

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    • I’m not disagreeing with you, but should’t that make sense? Like, waterbenders can’t create water and nor can earthbenders create earth. I wouldn’t know how to explain that to the audience. I guess I’m just asking for a reply because I would know what to do either. Would it just be like airbenders and air?

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      • In the series the fire is just supposed to come from within. At first it is thought that the fire comes from rage but later when Z and Ang find the dragons, they discover that the fire comes from the warmth of life within. There are a few real cases around the world where people can channel heat from their body to their hands. They actually raise the temperature of their extremities above 100 degrees. This is how the idea should be portrayed.

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  3. If they are doing this again they should go with 6 to 7 movies at least 2 movie for each books so at least they can manage the story without butchering all the greatness of the story

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  4. Okay first off just because a director takes an idea from a previous show and make a movie from it , doesn’t mean its crap… Or it wouldn’t have made $300 million haha Another thing … I first saw this movie in theatres, which then brought my attention to the original show .. I love them both … The show for its own amazingly written and illustrated… But I also love Avatar:TLA because its m. Nights version of that story, he put his own twist to it .. If you would like to put your own version out .. I’ll be first in line to buy a ticket! Till then you shouldn’t be So judgmental of someone else’s concepts… Just saying..

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    • Just because a movie makes $300 million, doesn’t mean it’s not crap.

      And that’s fine if you like the film. But I won’t change my own opinion just because one person I don’t know happened to like it.

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    • Regardless of how well the movie did or whether you liked the movie as it is, there is a certain method of story telling that should have been adhered to. There are a ton of movies ripped on by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTraxx that were just atrocious yet people liked them anyway because of their hokeyness. I mean Sharknado has a major cult following and it is just not good. I feel the same way about Last Airbender. He could have given it his own take while actually making a good story. He did it for Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Why not TLA? But no. He glossed over character development, forced an entire season’s worth of content into 90 minutes, brought forward rather dry humor and dialogue, and spent his budget on the final battle sequence of the movie where nothing actually happened. Had it not held the Last Airbender label, it would have bombed opening weekend. The only reason it did so well was because diehard fans expected an awesome rendition of their favorite series. Bringing something new to the table. Delivering memorable moments. Instead, there were scenes like the beginning where it looked like Sokka was going to beat the life out of Katara. It made me cringe and want to get up and walk out right then and there. But I stuck it out and left feeling an empty, shallow void in my gut. It just doesn’t stand as a good movie. Try it yourself. Remove any idea that it is a movie about Avatar the Last Airbender and see if it’s something you’d actually like to watch over and over again. I’ve watched it four times hoping maybe I just missed something. I gotta tell ya, it still feels me with a void in my gut.

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  5. Totally agree with you, Jon; The Last Airbender should definitely be remade. Regardless of how much money it made, it was an absolutely terrible movie. Here are some additional thoughts that I have:

    I think they should split each Book into 2 movies.
    By splitting each Book into 2 movies, they can fit much more content into each movie. The filmmakers will be able to easily fit all the important plot points and interesting characters into the movies without having the movies feel rushed. I think it will give the story a much more polished and cohesive feel. There’s also the potential for a LOT more money to be made if the Books are split in two, which should entice the filmmakers and producers.
    On top of that, it should be very easy to split each Book into 2 movies since each Book has a distinct midpoint. For Book 1, the midpoint is The Winter Solstice. For Book 2, the midpoint is the Desert. And for Book 3, the midpoint is The Day of Black Sun.
    Just as a side note, I was thinking that in Book 1, Part 1, Aang could be captured at the Fire Temple instead of escaping. Then, they could start the next movie out right at the Blue Spirit.
    Bouncing off this point, I totally agree that Book 1 would be the most difficult to translate into a movie because of the standalone nature of each episode. With that in mind, a large portion of the Book may need to be reworked to make it feel cohesive. Perhaps storylines from the episodes could be interwoven and combined in a way that makes them feel more cohesive?
    Finally, even if they make each Book into 2 movies, it will still be difficult to fit in ALL the content. Sacrifices will sadly have to be made. With that in mind, here’s a potential breakdown of the episodes that should be covered in each movie:

    Book 1: Water, Part 1: The Avatar Returns (approx. time: 2hrs 30min)
    The Boy in the Iceberg
    The Avatar Returns
    The Southern Air Temple
    The Storm
    The Warriors of Kyoshi
    Imprisoned
    The Winter Solstice Part 1
    The Winter Solstice Part 2
    NOTES:
    a) Removed Omashu; I thinks it’s ok if Bumi is introduced in Book 2. In terms of tone and plot, I just don’t think it’s necessary for Book 1.
    b) Perhaps the Warriors of Kyoshi and Imprisoned could be combined in some way? I think all the other episodes are won’t be much of a issue in terms of standalonishness.
    c) The Storm is placed in Part 1 to make sure that Part 1 has a good deal of depth and character development. I also think it just fits well into Part 1.
    d) As I said before, Aang should be captured at the end of Book 1.

    Book 1: Water, Part 2: The Siege of the North (approx. time: 2hrs 30min)
    The Blue Spirit
    The Waterbending Scroll
    Bato of the Water Tribe
    Jet
    The Deserter
    The Waterbending Master
    The Siege of the North Part 1
    The Siege of the North Part 2
    NOTES:
    a) Aang starts off imprisoned in the Pohuai Stronghold.
    b) Combine Bato and The Waterbending Scroll. I think the stories can be reworked to make them fit together. The nuns and the perfumes and not necessary so those can go. I was originally leaning toward eliminating Bato altogether, but I think it’s an important episode in terms of character development and character introductions (June and the Shirshu).
    c) Jet and the Deserter are both kind of standalones, and I’m ok with that. Perhaps there’s a way to make them flow nicely into each other.

    Book 2: Earth, Part 1: The Blind Bandit (approx. time: 2hrs 30min)
    The Avatar State
    The Cave of Two Lovers (Zuko and Iroh only)
    Return to Omashu
    The Swamp (Zuko and Iroh only)
    Avatar Day (Zuko and Iroh only)
    The Blind Bandit
    Zuko Alone
    The Chase
    The Library
    The Desert
    NOTES:
    a) Some episodes should only be used for the parts with Zuko and Iroh since the parts with Aang are irrelevant.
    b) Bitter Work is unnecessary; we don’t need to see a lot of in depth earthbending practice. Just a few mentions of it, and a demonstration or two should be sufficient.

    Book 2: Earth, Part 2: City of Walls and Secrets (approx. time: 2hrs 15min)
    Appa’s Lost Days
    The Serpent’s Pass
    City of Walls and Secrets
    Lake Laogai
    The Earth King
    The Guru
    The Crossroads of Destiny
    NOTES:
    a) Appa’s Lost Days should be interspersed throughout the start of the movie.
    b) No Drill. It was a bit silly, and there are other ways of proving to the Earth King that the war is happening.

    Book 3: Fire, Part 1: The Day of Black Sun (approx. time: 2hrs)
    The Awakening
    Sokka’s Master
    The Beach (Aang’s part only)
    The Puppetmaster
    The Day of Black Sun Part 1
    The Day of Black Sun Part 2
    NOTES:
    a) The episodes in Part 1 of Book 3 is unfortunately just as standalonish as Book 1. Perhaps they’re even more standalonish! Something will have to be done about that…
    b) There are not many relevant episodes to use for Part 1 of Book 3. In place of the irrelevant episodes, I would love to see more backstory on Iroh. Perhaps they could add depth to his character by showing his transformation into the character we know him as. They could elaborate on death of his son, his vision of conquering Ba Sing Se, and his journey into the Spirit World.

    Book 3: Fire, Part 2: Sozin’s Comet (approx. time: 3hrs)
    The Western Air Temple
    The Firebending Masters
    The Boiling Rock Part 1
    The Boiling Rock Part 2
    The Southern Raiders
    Sozin’s Comet Part 1
    Sozin’s Comet Part 2
    Sozin’s Comet Part 3
    Sozin’s Comet Part 4
    NOTES:
    a) It’s the final movie; let’s make it a bit longer ;)
    b) I think all the episodes here are relevant and interesting in terms of character development and plot; however, if we were to cut episodes, we could cut The Firebending Masters and/or The Southern Raiders….But I would prefer to leave them in.

    Well, that’s about all I can think of right now! Let me know what you think!

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    • I second what Jon said. That is what should have been in the beginning, you hit the nail right on the head. Sending that and perhaps along with creating a petition to reboot as well. It has a strong enough fan base to get some attention. I would like a properly told story to do the show justice as much as anyone, and truth be told, The Last Airbender was never going to work as a single movie to represent the entire 1st season, no matter who directed it, who was cast, or who wrote it. At best it could have been decent, but there was too much materiel and variety from episode to episode. Having it split into two good 2 hour long features stands a much better chance at effectively retelling the story.

      Since the film was still considered a success due to the box office it received I hope the rumors I keep hearing about a sequel in 2015 aren’t true.. But does it stand a better chance at being rebooted sometime in the future if they actually ended up doing all the sequels now? or would that just eradicate all hope of a proper reboot altogether?

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      • I hope the rumors are false and that they keep M. Night Shamalamalanana far far away from the franchise. That having been said, I think season I could be made into a single movie. IF they concentrate on the spirit of the series and don’t cram a whole season into the flick. Focus on what made the season so good and get those aspects into it. That way it could be original AND faithful all at the same time. I really don’t want to see Shamylan remake Lady in the Water again.

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        • I believe even if they did go with a sequel, M. Night Shyamalamadindong would not be directing. Although an article was released this month mentioning that someone a part of the production said Shyamalans first draft of the script was actually pretty tasteful, but the studio hired a ghost writer to change it and ended up being a shadow of the original. Ah well, too late now.. There was no hope for the poor casting choices though..

          I guess you could probably do a whole season in 1 film, if it were a good 2 and a 1/2 hours. I didn’t realize the last airbender was only 1 and 1/2 hours long, (why it wasn’t longer baffles me..)

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  6. Ok, everyone here has made very good points about the terrible movie made by M Night, but I have a serious question. Why didnt they make a season 4 for ATLA? I mean they had so much material they could have used to make a season 4. First point they could go over would be Zuko finding his mother. Aang and Katara actually getting to together as well. They also could spend more time around Zuko and Aang raising their families and starting up the city of Republic City. I mean those are just a few ideas of the top of my head. I want to hear all of your guys’ ideas though. On why they didnt make a season 4, if you think they didnt need a season 4 or even more ideas of things they could have done for episodes if they had a season 4.

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    • Hi James I’m pretty sure there are tons of other people who wished the creators made a book 4, and I definitely agree with you. But I think that’s just me wanting more of the show. Logically, it’s best that the show ended where it ended. The whole point was for Aang to defeat the fire lord and bring peace, and that’s what was delivered. It had to end on that note.
      But, as for Zuko’s mother, there is a comic on the story of how Zuko and the gang actually search for Ursa. It’s called The Search. I’m not sure if you have heard of it but the creators wrote it and were going to make into a mini series, if not a nickelodeon movie. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon decided not to air it because the Legend of Korra was airing and they thought it wasn’t the best time. So the creators went ahead and made it into a comic. You can watch it on Youtube actually, its divided into 3 parts. It literally explains everything and more and it was really good!

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      • Thanks for bringing this up. The Search is fantastic, along with the rest of the comic series that have come out. The first one is The Promise, which is an interesting prelude to how they came up with the idea of Republic City and further explored Aang and Zuko’s fragile friendship. The Search came out after and is even more phenomenal. Finally, the Rift has been coming out recently (Part 3 is the next to come out) and focuses on Toph and Aang, as well as Toph’s potential love interests.

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    • I believe the reason for that was this: each season was a book (Book One: Water; Book Two: Earth; Book Three: Fire). Each book was named after the type of bending Aang needed to learn. He already knew Air bending, and there was only three more bending techniques to learn, so three seasons.

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