Retronalysis: 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?



152 thoughts on “Retronalysis: Can We Reboot “The Last Airbender” Already?

  1. give me Guillermo del Toro as director and make sure Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have a strong influence on the writing. Reboot makes the most sense. As you stated there were too many things left out of the POS by MNS.

    • Michael and Bryan were present at the filming, and gave advice, but Shamalama-whatever ignored their advice

  2. thank you, here I was sad thinking am I the only one who doesn’t like TLA?

    • oh dear, no one likes TLA. it’s impossible. it would break the laws of physics and the earth would implode. it’s just SO bad.

      • You forgot about the space-time continuum unraveling and the whole of the universe ceasing to exist. Because liking TLA is just that unthinkable

  3. There’s no greater disappointment than The Last Air Bender. I’m all for a reboot even more than a prequel of Korra because I think the success of the latter would likely be obliterated by the disgrace of the first one. So first things first, make peace with Aang and then move to Korra.

  4. I would buy a reboot made movie of “The Last Airbender”. I would also buy a movie in which the kid goes on to learn the other powers: Earth, Fire and Water.

    • Me too. But just to point something out: he did learn water in the first movie and first season of the show. The movie was painful to watch for both fans and newcomers alike…

    • I would buy a bag of popcorn while I watch a reboot of TLA(yes, I just did that)

  5. M. Night Shamalamadingdong is a piece of shit director. Who thought hiring him for a beloved franchise would ever work?

  6. enjoyed every bit of it, except the bit about the casting for Fire Earth and Air Nations:

    the casting of Japanese as the genocidal Nazi-ite Asian-ish race with mildly megalomaniac tendencies will definitely not got down well with the nation of Japan who get touchy about things like allying with Hitler and Raping places like Nanking.
    My take on this: go generic East Asian casting, don’t discriminate (obviously some flack will accrue regardless, but so long as ALL the credits for Fire Nation don’t go murakami or takahashi etc. that would go well towards placating some of that wrath)

    As for the Air Nation, casting some Chinese in the Fire Nation lot will help with the Fire-Air dynamic that’s messed up with the current suggestion, where you have Japanese killing the Chinese monks: all you’re doing is fanning the Nanking+Senkaku flames, while leaving Tibetans feeling shat on by having their entire cultural system (reincarnation, rinpoche/avatar system, names like Gyatso etc.) essentially raped and plundered for a good Hollywood buck.
    So who to get for the Air Nomads? There are other physically fit asians besides the Chinese, it’s not all Shaolin out there (besides the commercialization of the aforementioned leaves any association with that named farcical by nature)
    South East Asians (who support the Tibetan cause, and also are Buddhists), Central Asians, and Tibetans themselves being cast would be a nice change. Of course box office sales would take a hit in China (i.e. they’d be banned, and the actors as well, but Messirs Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford and the like haven’t really felt the hurt from one of the most criminal and despotic regimes on earth banning their passports from entry)

    Lastly, I think, with over 100 Tibetans in the past year having doused and drunk gasoline before setting light to themselves in the hopes of rekindling the spotlight on the cultural and humanitarian disaster that is called the Tibetan Autonomous Region (Chinese designation) warrants the recast, wouldn’t you agree?

    • I want to shoot myself after reading all that. Keep it simple, we dont need a lecture on history.
      I doubt japan is going to care, nor the chinese.

      • Go ahead. I doubt anyone is going to care. Japanese, Chinese, hell, not even Caucasians.

        • How about hiring Asian looking Americans with names like Peter smith, then everyones happy

          • Haha, Peter Smith is my neighbor.

  7. Personally. I want to see a live action TV series featuring Kyoshi and the creation of the Kyoshi Warrios. I mean we do have 230 years of life to cover with this woman.

    • And the creation the freaking Dai Li!!
      Yea, Kyoshi created both the Kyoshi Warriors and The Dai Li.
      (Luckily, The Kyoshi warriors didn’t go corrupt like the Dai Li)

  8. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini is another adaptation deeply in need of a reboot…

    The cinematic adaptation of the first book Eragon was absolutely terrible. Unfortunately, the series would be wonderful, if done properly.

    • I completely agree with Eragon. If only there could be a TV/Movie series that was up to the standards of HBO’S Game of Thrones. (Minus the graphic qualities of course)

  9. I say do it with an entirely new team from director on down. They left out all of the humor and fun and sucked the life out of the greatest animated series ever. This is the age of the reboot. I say go.

  10. I think breaking the saga up into six movies makes more sense with all the ground that must be covered.

  11. Pleeeeeease reboot this movie!!! It was an amazing serious but one of the worst movies of all time. Get a real director.

  12. It should be rebooted. If they don’t reboot it their making a huge mistake. All they need is good writing, good acting, character development, an amazing climax and awesome fight scenes. It’s not that hard. Infact you’ll make more money by making a reboot.

  13. I too loved the series as much as I hated the movie. That video was almost as great as finding out someone else cared this much about the suck canyon between ATLA and TLA!

  14. I don’t see the point of a reboot/remake/sequel/whatever for The Last Airbender movie. The show is awesome as it is so why make a movie that tells the same story? Even with a better cast, script, and especially director important parts of the show would have to cut or condensed so why bother? I wouldn’t mind a spinoff movie that takes place in the Avatar world that tells it’s own story but adapting the show seems pointless to me even if Shyamalan is booted off the project first.

  15. Great discussion Pgaz13 nailed it.

    “give me Guillermo del Toro as director and make sure Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have a strong influence on the writing. Reboot makes the most sense. As you stated there were too many things left out of the POS by MNS.”

  16. I NEED THIS REBOOT SOOO BAD 🙁 the movie was terrible in comparison to the epic series

    • The thing is…..It’s bad even if you don’t compare it.
      I’ve seen people’s comments, some of them didn’t watch the show,and still hated the movie.

  17. I think that another important thing they left out is the fact that all fire benders can create fire at will and in the movie they all need fire sources. I would go for the reboot, it is the best and more reasonable option.

  18. I think that de problem was the name, every body nows AVATAR and

  19. I would like to see a reboot. Tla was absolutely horrible. I didn’t like talk because of these key points,( some you have already said); 1- the pronunciation of the names, 2- the devolopment of the characters , 3- leaving out some of the major characters like the kiosh warriors, king bumi, and jet, 4- the way aang is supposed to be a kid that doesn’t wanna grow up (Peter Pan) and just wants to have fun, 5- and last but not least the humor, I was really looking forward to being able to laugh at some of sokkas corny but funny jokes and the way that aang is always trying to act cool in front of katra. I think that if the movie is to be reboot they should either get Michael bay or jj Abrams to direct the movie just because they have giving us great entertainment like transformers, Independence Day, and fringe. Just my thoughts on the matter. And with that being said I am looking forward to Michael bay’s film teenage mutant ninja turtles.

  20. I think the Shyamalan movie’s biggest flaw was that they tried to squeeze the entire first season into a 90 minute movie. It forced them to cut too much out, relying on Katara’s annoying expositional narrative to move the story along. The story was rushed, with no character development or pacing. Even with the right cast and director, they would need more time to do the story justice. Therefore, I think the best course of action would be to adapt it into a minimum of 6 films, with each one covering approximately half a season. The only problem, as you said, is that it means Aang would be in his late teens by the end, but I honestly don’t think the fans would mind. It would be similar to the Harry Potter formula (but a million times better).
    Here’s how I think it should work:

    Movie 1: Introduces the world of Avatar, the history of the 100 year war and the Avatar’s legacy. The first act focuses on Aang, Katara, and Sokka, as they make their way to the North Pole while dealing with blows from Commander Zhao, Zuko and Iroh. Aang and Zuko’s backstories are examined more thoroughly (as in The Storm), and end with The Blue Spirit, making Aang realize his enemy may not be all he seems.

    Movie 2: Focuses on the 3-way conflict between Team Avatar, Zuko and Zhao. Upon arrival at the North Pole, the heroes must fight off Zhao’s naval fleet, who has also attempted to kill Zuko. It leads to a climactic battle with Aang in the Avatar State.

    Movie 3: Team Avatar traverse the Earth Kingdom in search of an earthbending master. Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh have gone into hiding after Azula’s attempts to arrest them. Mai and Ty Lee are introduced, as well as Toph. The movie ends with Appa being kidnapped while the others escape from Wan Shi Tong’s library.

    Movie 4: Aang and company travel to Ba Sing Se in search of Appa. While there, they fight off Fire Nation forces and the corrupt Dai Li. Aang visits the Guru to master the Avatar State, but abruptly returns to Ba Sing Se to save Katara. He is wounded in battle, and Katara takes him to safety.

    Movie 5: Aang awakens and strategizes with the others. Meanwhile, Zuko is conflicted about returning to the Fire Nation, and eventually disowns his father. Team Avatar launch an unsuccessful attack during the solar eclipse and must retreat, unaware that Zuko is following them.

    Movie 6: At the Western Air Temple the group meets Zuko, who warns them of Ozai’s plan to destroy the Earth Kingdom. He becomes Aang’s firebending master, but Aang flees because he doesn’t want to kill Ozai. In Aang’s absence, his friends fight off Azula and the Fire Nation armada. Aang returns and defeats the Fire Lord using his new Energy Bending ability. Zuko declares a new era of peace, and Aang and Katara fall in love.

  21. How about just fuck all of that and make an Avatar Wan movie. Wan is awesome and his story is fantastic.

  22. Look I was going through my spindals of dvd’s, ran across The Last Airbender movie decided to watch it, I’ve read all the comments up above me, look I don’t tear apart movies like a lot of the others although I am a critic of them, some movies just can’t have a sequel, but if it’s true it made money well the what the hell, make book 2 and 3 why not, he can bend air and water already, wouldn’t you just like to see him learn how to bend earth and fire, the movie is almost 3 years old, with todays graphics and special effects, just use them and make a entertaining movie, it will make money no doubt I’m sure other people feel the same way I do, just finish the sequels I want to see them……

  23. i dont care wat they say.i loved .the movie.n cant wait for part 2 .i understand the movie.

  24. I loved the series they need to do a complete reboot. Use the writers that created the series. I definitly did not like the fact that bending was more kung fu, or the fact that fire benders couldnt produce their own fire made no sence. Stick to the original. Why is it that they are benders yet they use swords. Didnt see that in atlab.

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