Since the original animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender proved so persistently popular with viewers, it is not unreasonable for fans of the franchise to wonder why the show’s 2010 live-action adaptation – The Last Airbender – never got a sequel. There are actually several reasons why The Last Airbender 2 hasn’t happened. Deftly weaving mature themes of war and social upheaval into its dramatic, fast-paced plot, the original Avatar: The Last Airbender had all the hallmarks of a successful fantasy franchise.
This made the divisive director M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender movie adaptation a hotly anticipated release in the summer of 2010. However, over a decade after The Last Airbender’s release, there is no sign of a sequel to the fantasy adventure. As unfortunate as it was, it is not hard to speculate as to why Avatar: The Last Airbender 2 never happened.
The Last Airbender’s Failure Made A Sequel Impossible
Avatar: The Last Airbender was a disappointment for fans as a result of the movie’s refusal to stay faithful to the source series. Moreover, The Last Airbender‘s controversial casting of white actors as non-white central characters led to a boycott of the movie, and the original series’ lore made the film too dense and inaccessible for viewers unfamiliar with the source material. Finally, The Last Airbender arrived after a slew of “magic child” movies underperformed in the years leading up to release, making its failure all the more inevitable. As a result, the few hopefuls clamoring to see Shyamalan’s Avatar: The Last Airbender 2 were doomed to remain unsatisfied.
The sequel would likely have adapted “Book 2 – Earth,” the second season of the source show’s story. Fortunately, the fact that most fans of the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series didn’t like the movie made the absence of a sequel easier to accept. While the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender 2 will never happen due to the movie’s dismal critical reception and bad box office, a new, rebooted version of Avatar: The Last Airbender is far more likely to be viable. This project, unlike Avatar: The Last Airbender 2, can avoid connections with the earlier failure and could make up for the epic faceplant that was 2010’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The Last Airbender Movie Director Doesn’t Want To Do Big Budget Sequels
Avatar: The Last Airbender director M. Night Shyamalan has since spoken out about the process of making his live-action Avatar adaptation, which further underscores why The Last Airbender 2 is unlikely to ever see the light of day. Shyamalan’s comments reveal how the director’s filmmaking process didn’t exactly align with the overall intent behind The Last Airbender. Here’s what M. Night Shyamalan told the The Hollywood Reporter:
All of us go through moments in our lives where we want to be accepted. We get tired of the fight and having to defend who we are. And tacitly, or sometimes overtly, they’ll say, “You are wrong for doing it this way. You’re arrogant. If you just do this, this and this, it’ll all work out for you.” And I went, “OK, maybe you’re right.” So I made a genuine effort to join the system, but I learned that the special thing that makes me happy was hard to do within that system. It was so wonderful to have that opportunity, but there are so many people who are so much better at that kind of storytelling than I am.
Avatar: The Last Airbender Will Be Better As A Live-Action Series
While it seems that even Shyamalan is uninterested in pursuing The Last Airbender 2, the good news for long-time viewers of the franchise is that Netflix’s live-action Avatar adaptation seems to be the most promising take on the lore. In fact, showrunners already avoided Shyamalan’s whitewashing controversy based on Netflix’s Avatar cast, which most notably features Gordon Cormier as Avatar Aang, Kiawentiio Tarbell as Katara, and Daniel Dae Kim as Firelord Ozai. Furthermore, the details revealed by Netflix indicate that, although there will be departures from the original story, it will largely stay faithful to the animated series.
Indeed, the Netflix adaptation has the distinct advantage of fleshing out Avatar‘s lore and story through the series format, which is much more appropriate for a story like Avatar Aang’s journey. By combining long-term storytelling with live-action elements, Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender show has all the elements needed to do justice to the source material, possibly even becoming a more relatable and better version of the original cartoon – depending on the performance of its actors. Even The Last Airbender‘s problems – a highlight reel of lessons for future adaptations – have laid the groundwork for what could become the greatest Avatar: The Last Airbender story ever told.
Next: Netflix’s Avatar Can Show Both Sides Of Bending (That The Movie Didn’t)