Exploring ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’s Potential Film Trilogy

What started as a cult success on children’s television has grown into one of pop culture’s most exciting new franchises. When Avatar: The Last Airbender debuted in 2005, it was chock full of potential. While that series focused on the adventures of one Avatar, in particular, it also set up an entire universe to play in. Not only is the future of the timeline unknown and full of possibility, but a long history of characters and eras exists for creatives to explore in any way they choose. The latest storytelling avenue was just revealed by Paramount and Nickelodeon Animation to be a theatrically released animated film trilogy.

Lauren Montgomery, who worked on multiple episodes of the original series, is set to direct the first entry in what could be the next major chapter in the story of the Avatar cycle. Yet, there is no word on what this new journey might entail. Rumors have circulated in the past about the potential plotlines of a film series, but nothing has been confirmed one way or the other. With so many canon incarnations of the Avatar, and a world full of intriguing side characters and environments, it’s awfully difficult to narrow down all the options. So, to help everyone out, we at Murphy’s Multiverse have strung together a list of plausible storylines that could end up being the focus of Avatar‘s return to the big screen.

The Kyoshi Trilogy

Avatar Kyoshi

The produced animated series set in the universe of Avatar have mostly focused on the last two Avatars to inhabit the original life cycle, Airbender Aang and Waterbender Korra. However, significant chunks of each show, including full episodes, have been dedicated to uncovering the events surrounding former incarnations.

One of the most popular, and most frequently mentioned, is Kyoshi, the Earthbending Avatar who existed two lifetimes before audiences met Aang in The Last Airbender‘s pilot. She is renowned for her lethal tactics and strong personality, never backing down from her opinions or a fight. Her legacy even includes a group of the world’s most elite warriors, named for her and donning her signature makeup and apparel.

While The Last Airbender only gave fans a glimpse into the later life of Kyoshi, a duology of novels from author F.C. Yee took a dive into her troubled past. The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi explores the titular character’s earliest days as the Avatar, starting with the discovery of her abilities and ending with the moment she discovered who she really wanted to be. The books are brilliant, and while they have yet to receive their own third entry, they could be the basis for a trilogy of films adapting Kyoshi’s origin to animation.

Some of the aforementioned rumors have hinted at the first film is a prequel to the original series, but the Avatar preceding Aang already had most of his story told by the time of that show’s finale. It would make sense for Paramount to go back one Avatar further, and bring to life a series of books that deserve more recognition than they get.

A New Cycle Begins

Avatar Korra’s Past Lives

Perhaps the biggest universal development to come out of The Legend of Korra was the ending of the original Avatar cycle. After learning of its origins with Avatar Wan, a dastardly plot by cultist Unalaq and the powerful spirit Vaatu permanently cuts off Korra’s connection to her past lives and forces her to start the cycle anew. When the show ends, Korra is still very much in her youth, and the world has a long way to go before another Avatar takes center stage. A handful of comics have continued Korra’s adventures with her trusted companions, but they haven’t done much in the way of establishing what the distant future may hold for the Four Nations or the Spirit World.

If the new film trilogy wanted to be completely different from anything else in the Last Airbender franchise, it could tell the story of whoever comes after Avatar Korra. The culture, and society, established in the series are shown to be evolving quickly, much in the same way the real world began to develop after the Industrial Revolution. Where previous Avatars operated out of a planet that looked a lot like ancient Eastern civilization, Korra was forced to deal with problems in landscapes that looked more like major Western cities from the turn of the century.

At that rate, it’s likely the Avatar after her would be facing off against computers in a universe with vengeful spirits and people who can manipulate the natural elements. If that wasn’t enough, they’d be doing it with only a single previous life to guide them. What would that even look like? Maybe Lauren Montgomery intends to find out.

A Non-Avatar Story

Prince Zuko

Essentially all of the major projects in the Last Airbender franchise have been centered around the Avatar of their era and for good reason. The struggle of balancing duty with personal life, the mystique of communing with the Spirit World, and the pure coolness factor of bending all four elements is a hard subject to resist. However, if the stories told in animation and writing have proven anything, it’s that sometimes the supporting characters can be just as interesting.

Every Avatar has their team of friends and family ready to lay it all down for what they believe in, and those lovable sidekicks have a tendency to develop their own fanbase outside of their respective protagonists. If the creatives behind this new series of films wanted to expand this universe from a different angle, they could use the trilogy to tell tales of important figures who changed the world without being the Avatar.

There have been hints of a Zuko solo project in the past, which could end up being part of Montgomery’s new project. The character has a devoted online following and can certainly draw a crowd. He’s also among the best characters ever created for Last Airbender or its many spin-offs and sequels, so Paramount could do much worse than to tell a tale of the legendary Firebender. Although, if this doesn’t turn out to be the case, there are plenty of others who also deserve a chance.

In fact, the films could even create a new lead with no relation to their era’s Avatar. Imagine a movie that tells the story of someone with undervalued abilities, rising to the occasion and saving their people as the Avatar deals with a separate danger in the background. It’s a concept that major franchises should explore more often, and something that worked wonders for Lucasfilm in Star Wars projects like Rogue One and The Clone Wars.

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