It’s been nearly seven years since we’ve said goodbye to the wonderful world of Nickelodeon’s Avatar universe. Many of us grew up watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and in our humble opinion, it is one of the greatest TV series of all time. No, we don’t mean it merely within the genre of animated kids shows. We mean throughout all genres. It is up there alongside “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos”.
While its sequel “The Legend of Korra” wasn’t quite as great as the original, it still holds a fond place in our collective childhood hearts. The series came to an end in 2014 and it seemed for the time like it was the end of the franchise. At least in terms of TV shows and films. Recently though, there’s been revived interest around the Avatar universe.
This is obviously exciting news for fans looking to reenter the Four Nations once again! That being said, there are some developments that have left us with concerns. While other reports have indicated some potentially great things coming our way. There’s a lot to unpack here, so join us as we explore the future of the Avatar universe beyond “The Legend of Korra”.
The Cycle Continues
We won’t keep your suspense any longer and get the big question out of the way: Will there be a sequel series to “Legend of Korra”? The answer seems to be pointing to a resounding yes! Nickelodeon alongside ViacomCBS has recently announced that it’ll be working with creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko to create Avatar Studios. That’s right, an entire studio dedicated to expanding the Avatar universe with new animated series and films. Currently, Avatar studios will be working on an animated theatrical film soon. Needless to say, we are beyond excited about this!
One of the highlights of watching the “Last Airbender” and “Legend of Korra” series were the unique art styles brought to life. While heavily inspired by Japanese anime, the series distinguished themselves by drawing inspiration from other Southeast Asian influences. Especially when it came to the way the series depicted elemental bending. In spite of the fact that we are slightly disappointed that “Last Airbender” head writer, Aaron Ehasz isn’t joining the gang, we are still thrilled at the prospect of this news. We can’t wait to see new gorgeous and innovative takes on the four bending style in future properties.
Right, so while we are confident that a sequel “Avatar” series is coming our way, what can we expect to see in it? Every Avatar cycle follows the sequence of Water, Earth, Fire then Air before returning back to Water. Aang was an Airbender and Korra was a Waterbender. So based on the canonical Avatar cycle, we know that the next Avatar will be an Earthbender. Provided the new series doesn’t skip a whole generation of course. “Legend of Korra” made some major changes and additions to Avatar history though.
The reason why Avatars are so immensely powerful is because they draw upon the powers of their past lives. From the island-splitting Kyoshi to the volcano-bending Roku, they lend their power and wisdom to the current Avatar. Unfortunately in the second season of “Korra”, we see Korra lose her connections to all her past lives. Essentially, she is now the only Avatar in the spiritual database. Sorry new guy, it’s just going to be you and Korra.
As of now, that’s all the canonical details we can tell you about the next Avatar. That being said, fans of the Avatar series have taken matters into their own hands after “Korra”. As far back as 2018, a group of Avatar fans have actually been working on an unofficial comic series called “Legend of Genji”. The series is set to follow the story of a Sandbender, a subset of Earthbenders, named Genji. A brash teenager who longs to return to his carefree days in the desert before the Earth federation forced him and his family into urban centres. His life will forever change when he discovers his true destiny.
Curious enough, Avatar studios and the showrunners have remained awfully mum about this project. Neither outrightly condemning it or showing support of it. These fan-creators are clearly passionate about the universe Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko created. So, perhaps there could be some sort of collaboration to make “Legend of Genji” the official third Avatar series.
The Four Nations and Beyond
Sequel series aren’t the only things in development though. The Avatar universe is massive and there’s a ton of fascinating stories and characters worth exploring. While Aang was frozen for a hundred years, there was a secret society consisting of warriors and benders from all four nations. All dedicated to maintaining balance and stopping tyranny wherever they could. You may know them as the Order of the White Lotus. Imagine seeing a younger Iroh, gathering forces in secret to one day stop his brother’s madness. A thrilling spy-adventure set within the Fire Nation and beyond.
We could also see a spin-off series following Korra’s master Tenzhin and his daughter Jinora as they lead the new Air Nation. Once considered a near-extinct group of benders, the Air Nation is given a second chance due to their reemergence in the world post-Harmonic Convergence. Throughout the series, we see the new Air Nomads become righteous crusaders, battling injustice throughout the Four Nations. The Water Tribes, the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom have had more than enough development. It’s time for the Air Nation to rise again!
The world of Avatar is chalked full of rich human stories but there’s more to the world that just the Four Nations. In the second season of “Legend of Korra”, “Book Two: Spirits”, we learn a ton of history about the first Avatar, Wan and how he maintained harmony between the spirits and humans. We learnt about the Lion Turtles, the battling spirits Raava and Vaatu and how the human and spirit world were severed.
We saw glimpses of it as well in “Last Airbender” when we met the vicious Black and White Spirit Hei Bai and the o’so creepy Koh the Face Stealer. An anthology series exploring the stories between humans and spirits would be a great idea. One that explores the wonder of the Spirit World…and the creepier side of it as well. There have been some genuinely horrifying moments in “The Last Airbender” and we’d love to see some Spirit World ghost stories brought to life.
At the moment, it seems like the road is wide open for the Avatar animated universe. We’re expecting great things to come from Avatar studios soon. There is, however, some less than exciting news coming from other projects related to the Avatar universe from third parties.
History Repeats Itself
Hey, remember that time director M. Night Shyamalan attempted to adapt the entire first season of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” into a single film? Well, we do and we truly wish we didn’t. It was one of the worst films ever put to screen. Both fans and critics eviscerated the film for its disjointed storytelling, poor characterisation and its failure to live up to its source material.
The rationale behind why Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender” needed to exist is beyond us. The series had just ended a mere two years before its release in 2010. Too short a timeframe to warrant a reimagining. Furthermore, none of the characters portrayed on-screen were anything like the complex and wonderful cast of heroes and villains we’ve come to know and love.
Oh and then there’s the casting. You’d think a film adapting an Asian-inspired series would have Asian actors, right? Apparently not, seeing that Aang, Katara and Sokka are all Caucasian actors! The worst part of it all was that the creators of the series weren’t able to give any input on the project. In a 2014 interview on Nerdist, we hear about how the two eventually had a falling out with Shyamalan and how the director prevented them from having any creative control.
Since then, no attempt (or mistake) had been made to try to create a live-action adaptation of the animated properties…then 2018 came along. Netflix had announced that the service would be teaming up DiMartino and Konietzko to create a live-action version of the series. This time, the creators did agree to collaborate with Netflix to bring an authentic representation of the series to life. They even promised to keep true to the spirit of the original series.
Then in 2020, Konietzko announced on his official Instagram account that he and DiMartino were no longer involved in the project. There are number of theories behind the two’s departure. Most likely due to creative differences. Regardless, history had repeated itself and like it or not, we’re getting yet another live-action adaptation without the creator’s blessing.
As fans of the series, we’re conflicted with Netflix’s decision to move forward with the project but we’re more than willing to give the series a fair shot. It feels a little weird that there’s going to be a separate live-action Avatar universe running alongside the animated one in development, though. Hopefully, Netflix will do right by the property. That being said, you can now check out both “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Legend of Korra” on Netflix!
So, what do you think of all this Avatar news? Are you excited to see new animated films and series taking place within the Four Nations? Do you think Netflix’s “Avatar” series will be any better than Shyamalan’s adaptation? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!