It’s official: the team behind Netflix’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender remake is dropping Sozin’s Comet – and they’re making a big mistake.
What Is Sozin’s Comet in Avatar: The Last Airbender?
To recap: in the Avatar cartoon, Sozin’s Comet is (as its name suggests) a cosmic snowball that passes Earth once every 100 years. When this happens, firebenders’ abilities are dramatically amplified. That’s bad news for everyone else, as the Fire Nation is just the worst.
Case in point: the last time Sozin’s Comet swung by the planet, the turbocharged Fire Nation kicked off a world war and wiped out the Air Nomads (except Avatar protagonist Aang). As such, Aang mastering all four bending arts before Sozin’s Comet returns is what drives the overarching engine of the original show.
But in Netflix’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender adaptation? Not so much. That’s according to showrunner Albert Kim, who recently confirmed Sozin’s Comet won’t appear in the remake’s first season.
“All three seasons of the animated series essentially take place in the course of one calendar year,” Kim told Entertainment Weekly. “There was no way we could do that. So we had to design this first season, especially, to accommodate the possibility of some time elapsing between the first and the second season.”
“The comet was their ticking clock,” Kim added. “We removed that particular ticking clock from our show for now because we couldn’t know exactly how old our actors would be for the subsequent seasons.”
Dropping Sozin’s Comet Makes Sense – Up to a Point
It’s hard to knock Kim’s logic – up to a point, at least.
He’s not wrong that Sozin’s Comet locks Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s story into a very specific timeframe. And while it’s possible to shrink and stretch time in fiction – Luke Skywalker’s Jedi training in The Empire Strikes Back springs to mind – there are limits. Eventually, the in-universe chronology breaks, and audiences cry foul.
Consider Stranger Things Season 4: its former child stars are clearly too old for high school. It’d be the same for Netflix’s Avatar adaptation. How could Sozin’s Comet take 12 months to arrive across three or more seasons if Aang and his pals have visibly aged several years? It simply doesn’t work.
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan grappled with this same problem when he mounted the last Avatar remake, 2010 movie The Last Airbender. Interestingly, Shyamalan didn’t scrap Sozin’s Comet entirely, however, he did push out its ETA to three years.
It says a lot that Shyamalan – who infamously trimmed out other aspects of Avatar canon – didn’t cut Sozin’s Comet. Yes, the filmmaker reworked aspects of the plot device (it affects firebenders somewhat differently in the movie), but he recognized it was too important to the story to completely erase.
Kim’s comments to EW suggest he understands this too. Otherwise, why say “for now” and leave the door open for Sozin’s Comet to appear in Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s later season? Here’s hoping that’s the case, because excising Sozin’s Comet altogether would be a major misstep for the Netflix’s Avatar.
Why Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender Dropping Sozin’s Comet Is a Big Mistake
First and foremost, Sozin’s Comet’s “ticking clock” quality is a key reason why the original Avatar cartoon works so well. It ensures the narrative tension never dips, because every potential detour from Aang’s quest for knowledge must be weighed against the comet’s impending arrival. Without this hard deadline, Aang’s training becomes a lot less urgent. He is, essentially, working to his own timetable.
There’s also the in-universe logic of it all to consider. If Sozin’s Comet isn’t part of Netflix’s revised Avatar mythos, how did the Fire Nation rise to power? Are they just better at bending than every other culture? That’s a pretty drastic – and frankly, cheap – revision to established lore. Heck, it’s insulting, given it implies the Air Nomads’ genocide only happened because they were second-rate weaklings.
What’s more, getting rid of Sozin’s Comet lessens the impact of Fire Lord Ozai as the show’s “final boss.” Sure, a powerful firebender is an innately formidable force, especially in a reality where they potentially have the edge over other benders. But if Aang rocks up for Avatar‘s final battle with all the elements at his disposal, will we really buy Ozai as a credible threat? He needs that cosmic power-up.
So, here’s hoping Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender adaptation doesn’t erase Sozin’s Comet entirely – because it’ll be a big mistake if they do.
Avatar: The Last Airbender premieres on Netflix on Feb. 22, 2024.