Netflix’s Live-Action Avatar: The Last Airbender Will Be More Mature Than the Cartoon

With the adaptation of Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, Netflix has a monumental task on its hands. The show, which ran from 2005 to 2008, was one of the most beloved and celebrated animated series of all time. Avatar bolsters a 9.3 on IMDb, placing it in the 8th spot in the top 250 shows of all time. The story follows a war-torn world of elemental magic and a young boy frozen in ice for over 100 years, who suddenly reawakens to undertake a dangerous mystic quest to fulfill his destiny as the Avatar, and bring peace to the world. The series won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation, along with six other nominations.

Now Netflix is taking over the reins from Nickelodeon, putting a live-action twist on the series. However, that’s not the only change being made to the show. During a Funboxing Sundays episode, Uncle Iroh actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee shared details regarding the show’s target audience and maturity level.

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I think one of the things about Avatar, I mean obviously they’re keeping the fans of the original animated show, you know very much, they’re mindful of them. But it really is, because it’s an adaptation, it’s about growing that audience. And I think it’ll be targeted to, I mean the main characters are [all youths], so I think that it’s the young audience crowd, teens, tweens for sure. I think it might be a little bit too intense for younger younger kids. But I also see you know it being accessible to adults. Fans, like I’m a fan of the show and I would totally watch it, and I’m almost 50. I think it’s got a wide breadth of it. I think while the Nickelodeon cartoon, the animated version of it, really was for the younger audiences, it didn’t mean older audiences couldn’t enjoy it, I think they’re making it a little bit more mature in that sense, so it’s not for little little kids, and I think that’s part of growing that audience. And I think a lot of fans of the animated show, I think they’ll be very, very happy with what they see because there is a definite respect for the source material.

Can Netflix Pull Off the Perfect Adaptation?

Nickelodeon

Respect for the source material will be crucial for the new adaptation. This won’t be the first live-action version of the popular cartoon. In 2010, The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, was released in theaters worldwide. The film, which loosely followed the show’s first season, was considered a monumental failure. Receiving a 20 on Metacritic and a measly 5% on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie was said to be one of the worst adaptations of all time. Netflix also has a rough track record in live-action adaptations, with the series Cowboy Bebop getting canceled less than three weeks after the premiere in Nov. 2021.

We will have to wait and see how Netflix treats Avatar: The Last Airbender and whether they have more success than some previous outings. The series stars Ken Leung, Daniel Dae Kim, Gordan Cormier, Ian Ousley, and Kiawentiio. There is no official release date for the series, but you can expect to start watching sometime in 2023.