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Home > Netflix’s ‘Avatar The Last Airbender’ (2024), A Review

Netflix’s ‘Avatar The Last Airbender’ (2024), A Review

Despite Its Best Efforts, The Series Ran Out Of Wind

Avatar: The Last Airbender, the classic Nicktoon, has received a Netflix live-action remake. Avatar: The Last Airbender takes place in a world where people can bend the four elements to their will. The show follows Avatar Aang (Gordon Cormier) after waking up from a hundred years trapped in ice. Now, he must travel with his allies to master the elements and defeat the Fire Nation. The show was a joint production between Netflix and Nickelodeon and was released to Netflix on February 22, 2024. 

A Collection Of Iconic Yet Hollow Moments

Because Avatar: The Last Airbender was one of the most beloved cartoons of all time, along with having a reviled predecessor in the 2010 film, this series had a lot to prove. Ultimately, while it’s not nearly as bad as Shyamalan’s film, this series leaves much to be desired. The most significant change is that the series is no longer twenty individual episodes but eight huge “chunks” of story. By doing this, the series loses the episodic quality that helps maintain pacing. 

Generally, when adapting the story, the show does the bare minimum to ensure it is seamlessly translated. The live-action does little to boil the story down to its core ideas, make any major digressions from the main path, or build upon the characters in a way that makes this adaptation unique. 

At worst, it feels as if the series treats the iconic moments of the original story as a “checklist” of events to include rather than building blocks to create a story, and because of the series’ shifted pacing, these moments sadly lose much of their buildup and payoff. Given the length of the material from the original series, one of the clever tricks done by the live-action is layering events atop one another. The Omashu tunnels plot is done simultaneously with the King Bumi story; Koh is directly tied to June, Hei Bai, and several others.  

One of the mistakes made by the live-action is having offscreen moments from the original series, such as the genocide of the Air Nomads and Zuko’s duel, moved onscreen or expanded upon far earlier. This removes the impact in a way, as the remaining unseen was supposed to leave it up to the viewer to imagine. Furthermore, these events appearing earlier again remove the buildup that they had in the original show. 

Characters/ Acting 

Along with its brilliantly told plot, the original series was famous for its evolving and human dramatis personae. At the very least, Netflix gave the show a star-studded cast to display how seriously they took this project. These include Daniel Dae Kim, George Takei, Ken Leung, Irene Bedard, Amber Midthunder, and others. 

Generally, the show had a solid cast. The main trio is reasonably well-acted, even if their writing is more rushed and spartan compared to the original show. However, the translation into live-action takes out much of the original spirit from the animated series. This is usually the problem with live-action adaptations. As with the storytelling, the shifted pacing also deters from their arcs. Of course, the cast’s standout is Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Uncle Iroh, who nails the classic character with his upbeat attitude and wisdom. Furthermore, Dallas Liu gives a solid performance as Zuko, capturing his fury as well as his angst.

Image courtesy of ONE Esports I ‘Avatar’ The Last Airbender | From Albert Kim and Netflix| Jordan Cormier as Aang | Directed by Michael Goi

One of the shallower changes made to this version was the significantly earlier appearance of Azula, one of the series’ most famous characters who was given an accurate performance in this show. However, because she appears so much earlier, she has little to do, as with her allies Mai and Ty Lee. Much like Sephiroth’s earlier arrival in Final Fantasy VII: Remake, her entrance only exists to excite fans rather than add to the story. 

As with the story, the remake tries to capture the magic of the original, yet only meets the basic story beats without understanding how they worked in concert with one another. 

Capturing The Magic Of Avatar’s World 

For what it’s worth, the series does have good VFX, costume design, and set designs. Firstly, the costume and set design has all of the magic of the original show. They manage to combine the colors and spirit of the original designs while adding a level of detail and realism fitting live action. As for the special effects, they’re certainly a step up from the 2010 film. All of the bending effects are top-notch and feel both real and fantastical. The live-action setting allows the showrunners to breathe a level of detail and liveliness into these settings that you cannot get with 2D animation, for all its advantages. Also, Appa doesn’t look like an abomination in this version.

As for the action, it was by all means bombastic, well-choreographed, and intense. Viewers won’t see a squad of earthbenders defeat a foe by slowly earth-bending a rock toward him this time. Even if the series only reimagines set pieces from the original, moving them to live-action adds a unique impact and power.

Finally, the score Takeshi Furukawa goes all out. He combines a bombastic orchestra with traditional East Asian instruments to score the show. Fans will recognize many of the iconic motifs from the original series. Overall, even if the spirit of the original show wavered at times, at the very least, this adaptation looked and sounded like Avatar: The Last Airbender

Final Rating 

To conclude, while Netflix clearly went to great lengths to recreate Avatar: The Last Airbender, they fought a massive uphill battle in doing so. While it hits all the main story beats and character moments, the series’ reduced time and straightforward plot remove much of the grounding and humanity. At the very least, the show was at least a feast for the eyes and ears. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender is available for streaming on Netflix.

Image courtesy of J-14 I ‘Avatar’ The Last Airbender | Kiawentiio as Katara Ian Ousley as Sokka and Gordon Cormier as Aang | From Albert Kim and Netflix| Directed by Michael Goi

Avatar: The Last Airbender (2024) Official Netflix Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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I am an aspiring author living and working out of Honolulu, Hawaii. I received my bachelor's degree in Art History at Westmont College and then pursued a master's in Museum Studies at the University of Hawaii. I am currently working on a few novels, and am thankful for the opportunity to expand my creative writing voice at Dead Talk Live.