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Avatar The Last Airbender Review : Netflix Live-Action Take on The Animated Series

Avatar The Last Airbender Review : Netflix Live-Action Take on The Animated Series

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   Adapting a beloved animated series like Avatar: The Last Airbender into a live-action format has proven to be a formidable challenge. In 2010, M. Night Shyamalan's attempt resulted in a disastrous feature-length movie, widely criticized for its shortcomings. Despite this setback, Netflix and showrunner Albert Kim took on the challenge of creating an eight-episode TV series based on the first season of the animated show. While the endeavor faced obstacles, including the departure of the original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the live-action series is finally here. However, the critical question remains: Has Netflix learned from past mistakes, and does the new adaptation successfully capture the essence of the beloved animated series? So here is Avatar: The Last Airbender' Review.

Avatar: The Last Airbender Review

One of the primary hurdles faced by the live-action series is the constraint of time. The first season is based on the initial season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, titled "Book One: Water." Despite the concise duration of each episode, there is a substantial amount of storytelling to cover. The animated series unfolds in a world where certain individuals, known as benders, possess the ability to manipulate natural elements such as water, air, earth, and fire. The narrative introduces Aang, a boy who emerges from a hundred-year slumber into a world where his kind has been decimated by a genocidal war. Aang is also revealed to be the Avatar, tasked with mastering all four elements to save the world and restore balance.

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In the animated series, so-called "filler" episodes provide profound insights into the intricate world inhabited by Aang and his friends. Understanding the political dynamics between the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Water Tribes is crucial to comprehending the overarching story. The encounters with diverse individuals from various corners of the world shape the perspectives of Aang and his friends as they embark on their mission. Despite the original series catering to a younger audience, it delves into mature themes, never shying away from addressing them. The challenge faced by the Netflix series is the limited time available to establish the same connection with the audience. While the eight episodes touch upon significant events, they miss the nuanced details that elevate these scenes in the animated counterpart. Although the new series begins on a strong note, it falters when attempting to weave together various storylines.

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Narrative Struggles and Positive Aspects:

Despite these narrative struggles, the live-action adaptation excels in casting. Netflix has a track record of successful casting in adaptations, and with Avatar, this accomplishment is particularly commendable. The heart of the show lies in the hands of its youngest character, Aang, portrayed by Gordon Cormier. Aang is characterized by his free-spirited and youthful nature, juxtaposed with the weight of responsibility and guilt as the Avatar. Cormier effortlessly embodies these aspects, displaying the early conflicts and inner turmoil that lay the foundation for the character's growth in subsequent seasons.

Dallas Liu takes on the role of Prince Zuko, the brooding and tortured prince of the Fire Nation, making relentless efforts to capture Aang and reclaim his honor. While Zuko is initially presented as the main antagonist, he evolves into the show's favorite anti-hero, experiencing significant growth alongside Aang. Liu's performance captures the potential for this growth, contributing to the series' strength. The overall cast, including supporting actors like Daniel Dae Kim's Fire Lord Ozai and Elizabeth Yu's Princess Azula, showcases promising performances for potential future seasons. Yu, in particular, offers a nuanced portrayal of Azula, a character known for her menacing presence, adding a three-dimensional dimension to the role.

Need for Improvement:

While the casting stands out as a strong point, there is need for improvement in other aspects of the live-action adaptation. The series could benefit from longer seasons to allow for a more comprehensive exploration of the narrative. Perhaps splitting Book One over two seasons or extending the episode count could provide the necessary breathing space for the story to unfold organically. This extended format could also enable the inclusion of new elements, going beyond a mere remix of the original content.

Despite the challenges faced, some aspects of the adaptation display creativity. The blending of plot points and the approach of addressing multiple storylines with a "kill two birds with one stone" mentality prove to be clever strategies. While purists may be irked by the combining of elements from the Spirit World, it becomes a necessary step to explore Aang's backstory and understand the realm's importance. However, one cannot help but wonder if a slightly longer series or a split-season approach could have allowed for more in-depth exploration without sacrificing crucial details.

Embracing Adaptation:

An essential consideration for the success of the live-action adaptation lies in the willingness to deviate from the source material when necessary. Nostalgic callbacks to scenes from the animated series, such as the secret tunnel or the cabbage merchant, may amuse dedicated fans but are not integral to the story. Embracing the adaptation as a unique interpretation rather than a direct replica can significantly enhance the series. Being unafraid to trim extraneous plotlines or explore familiar characters in novel ways can allow the live-action version to stand on its own merit. While Season 1 of Avatar The Last Airbender in live-action presents a solid foundation, there is potential for growth and improvement in future seasons.


Adapting Avatar: The Last Airbender into live-action was never going to be an easy task, and the challenges faced by Netflix's series are evident. While there are shortcomings, particularly in the limited timeframe, the adaptation shines in its casting choices and certain creative approaches to storytelling. The series lays a solid foundation, but the key to its long-term success lies in embracing the freedom to diverge from the source material when needed. As the live-action journey of Aang and his friends unfolds, there is room for growth and improvement, making the prospect of future seasons an exciting possibility for both fans of the original series and newcomers alike.

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