You know the premiere date for Netflix’s live-action adaptation, Avatar: The Last Airbender, is drawing nigh because the streaming giant just released an official trailer featuring moments drawn from the original anime series and lots of snazzy element-bending action, plus several adorable shots of Appa. We have high hopes for this series.
As we reported previously, the original anime series was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. It was set in an Asian-inspired world where certain chosen individuals have the ability to telekinetically manipulate one of four elements (earth, air, water, and fire)—a practice known as “bending.” Each generation, there is one Avatar who can bend all four elements and is thus responsible for maintaining harmony among the four elemental nations, as well as serving as a link between the physical and spirit worlds.
A 12-year-old Air Nomad boy named Aang is the current Avatar, but he hid in a state of suspended animation for a century because he was afraid of taking on that huge responsibility. Two Water Tribe siblings, Katara and Sokka, eventually revive Aang, who finds that the Fire Nation has wiped out most of the Air Nomads in his absence. Katara and Sokka join Aang, an airbender, on his quest to master bending each of the remaining three elements. Their mission is hampered by the banished Fire Nation Prince Zuko, who seeks to capture Aang to restore his honor with his father, Fire Lord Ozai, with the help of his uncle Iroh.
The eight-episode Netflix live-action series had a bit of a rocky start when DiMartino and Konietzko departed as showrunners in 2020. Albert Kim (Sleepy Hollow) came on board as showrunner the following year, emphasizing his commitment to authenticity (including not whitewashing the cast) and respect for the characters and cultural influences. Per the official premise:
The four nations of the world once lived in harmony, with the Avatar, master of all four elements, keeping peace between them. But everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked and wiped out the Air Nomads, the first step taken by the firebenders towards conquering the world. Avatar: The Last Airbender follows a young Air Nomad named Aang, as he reawakens to a world ravaged by war. Together with his newfound friends Sokka and Katara, he embarks on an action-packed quest to take his rightful place as the next Avatar.
Gordon Cormier stars as Avatar Aang; Kiawentiio plays Katara; Ian Ousley plays Sokka; Dallas Liu plays Prince Zuko; and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee plays General Iroh. The cast also includes Daniel Dae Kim as Fire Lord Ozai; Ken Leung as Zuko’s arch-rival Commander Zhao; Elizabeth Yu as Princess Azula; Maria Zhang as Suki, who leads the all-female Kyoshi Warriors; Amber Midthunder as Princess Yue; Danny Audi as an inventor known as The Mechanist; Utkarsh Ambudkar as King Bumi; George Takei as Koh the Face Stealer; and Randall Duk Kim as the owl spirit Wan Shi Tong, who is in charge of the Spirit Library.
As we’ve noted before, Netflix has a mixed track record for these anime adaptations, but the teaser that dropped in December was very promising, suggesting that The Last Airbender could join One Piece as another live-action success for the streaming platform. This latest trailer focuses a bit more on the threat presented by the Fire Nation, which has “embarked on a dark path” from which “the world might never recover.” The world needs Aang, the Avatar, who has a lot of maturing and training to do to meet that challenge. He doesn’t even want the responsibility, but fans of the anime series know Aang can’t escape his destiny. At least he’s got his friends to help him, along with Appa, the “flying ball of fur.” What more does he need?
Avatar: The Last Airbender releases on Netflix on February 22, 2024.