Avatar: The Last Airbender remake draws on "the graphic novels and the novelizations"

Netflix's live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender will change things from the original show, and maybe add in material from the comic books that came afterward.
Avatar: The Last Airbender. Elizabeth Yu as Azula in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024
Avatar: The Last Airbender. Elizabeth Yu as Azula in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024 /

This Thursday, Netflix will release Avatar: The Last Airbender, the beloved Nickelodeon show about a 12-year-old with the power to control all four elements — earth, air, fire and water — and his quest to bring peace to a world at war. The show has remained popular for over a decade, so there are a lot of eyes on this remake, especially since the showrunners have said they intend to change some things.

"I've used the term that this is a remix, not a cover, in that you've got to hit a lot of familiar notes, but you can't forget that this is supposed to be a new song," showrunner Albert Kim told IGN. "So obviously, there are story points and characters that you have to do fairly faithfully from the original. But at the same time, you're literally translating something from 2D to 3D, and that meant dimensionalizing the story, taking it into new places, filling in some of the gaps."

"When I brought up the subject of doing the live-action version of it, my daughter was very excited. My son, who was also a huge fan, was like, "I don't know if you should do that," because he is in the contingent of fans that think you cannot improve upon the original. So he was a little wary. And he was also probably a little worried for me because he also knows how ruthless the fans and the online community can be if you get something wrong, so he was a little bit protective of me on that side, but I think we won him over."

We'll get to see what changes Kim and company have in store very soon. We know some already. The new show will be more serialized than the old, which had a lot more standalone episodes. We know we'll spend more time in the Fire Nation with characters like Azula (Elizabeth Yu) and Ozai (Daniel Dae Kim), villains who don't come into focus until later on in the original show. According to Kim, part of the reason they have more scenes in the Fire Nation is "because it gave us kind of some regular sets and environments that we could go back to in every episode, because our heroes are traveling from location to location every episode, but we can always go back to the Fire Nation throne room for a scene or two in each episode. And it gave us a little bit more stability in the storytelling. So that was another reason for bringing them more into the fore in the first season."

That means we'll see new material in the remake. Some will surely be invented for the series, but the showrunners could also draw from the wealth of graphic novels and other supplementary material published since the original show ended. "[W]e, above all, are fans of the franchise. And so, we were very aware of everything, from the comic books and the graphic novels and the novelizations, and we went through all of that stuff," Kim said. "And there's some really rich material that we drew on from there. And I think fans will be ... Some fans will be very excited to see that. Other fans, it'll be new for them because they haven't gone through that kind of stuff. I'm not sure if we should talk about some spoilers."

The Last Airbender graphic novel "The Search" digs into the character of Azula, a fire-bending princess and one of the main antagonists of the series. So that one could be useful if the show wants us to spend more time with the members of the Fire Nation royal family.

The first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender drops on Netflix on February 23.

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