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Avatar: The Last Airbender Review

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You miscalculated. I love Avatar: The Last Airbender more than I fear Live Action adaptation. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender by Netflix recently came out on the 22nd of February.

It was not surprising that fans of the original animation were both excitedly anticipating and dreading the show when it was originally revealed.

The original Avatar: The Last Airbender is known and still loved by such a big community. Being a comfort show to many, it is a show that people still actively watch. 

It was an absolute hit. So much so that even Hollywood had a go at attempting to make a movie of it. A movie that was completely rejected by the fanbase and that did not do well at all. 

So when the Netflix adaptation was announced, some fans saw in it a spark of hope. Hope of finally seeing their favourite show get the adaptation it deserves. However, the other fans saw it as a reminder of the movie and an inevitable way to see their beloved show get butchered again. 

Undoubtedly, the Netflix show is bound to face a lot of criticism. 

Before this article gets into the ins and outs of what makes this show good or bad, it is important to reiterate that this version is an adaptation. 

As such, it is not going to be perfect. It will not perfectly follow everything previously done by the cartoon, simply because that is not what adaptations are made for. It is going to take creative liberties. What is vital is for it to respect the essence of the original. 

With that being said, the live-action has several issues. Nevertheless, it is a good and enjoyable adaptation.

The biggest problem of the show was its pace. The directors tried to implement too many things for only eight episodes, even with them being roughly an hour each. 

The show often blends stories from what would be in different episodes of the cartoon together. This idea makes sense in theory, considering an episode from the original is only around 20 minutes so it could work and it does work for some episodes. 

However, there are some instances where two stories are mixed and it imposes the episode into an impossible rhythm. Not only does it make the plot of that episode feel rushed but it also forces some changes that are not always for the better. This is particularly true in some of the episodes that take place in Omashu, a city from the Earth Kingdom. 

Additionally, it does not help that they implemented plotlines and characters that are from later seasons. 

The pace is particularly problematic since it heavily impacts Aang’s journey and aspects of his character. 

In this show, Aang lacks his carefree and goofy side, part of his essence as a character. 

This side of Aang’s character is important since it makes his growth through the episodes so much more meaningful, it also creates a contrast with when we see him be serious and scarily powerful and it reminds the audience that after all, he is just a kid. 

Gordon Cormier, Aang’s actor is not to blame as he does an excellent job at portraying Aang’s innocence. In episode seven, “Masks”, the audience can catch a glimpse of what feels like a more truthful Aang during his interactions with Zuko. 

This proves that the pace of the episodes is what does not let him tap into those aspects of his characters. How could he have time to play around if so much is happening in so little time?

This same issue brings up another one. Aang does not learn how to waterbend. Just as he does not have time to be a child, the writers did not give him time to start learning waterbending.

The show builds it up so that Katara will be his master in the next season, which is accurate. However, in terms of fidelity and what the Avatar is supposed to be, Aang should have at least tried to learn waterbending. Would it have only been while he watched Katara train maybe two or three times that would have been enough.

Only that would have been enough to align with what he is supposed to do and be as the Avatar. 

Maybe it was because they wanted to fit too many things and didn’t have time to implement this, maybe they wanted to leave it for the next season and leave this one as an introduction.

Whatever the reason, the directors need to either make more episodes, leave out some plotlines or have more than three seasons because the story needs time. 

It is vital that we see Aang’s journey of learning how to bend different elements and now they are potentially going to have to fit him learning two types of bending in one season, one being his opposed element. 

Another thing worth pointing out is that there were no signs of Aang having feelings towards Katara. Now, because this is the first season and, as mentioned above, its pacing was a bit too fast, it is understandable. However, the writers will have to be careful and will need to add it soon without it feeling rushed since it impacts the development of the story and the decisions that will be made.

The last major downside was Azula’s character. 

It was a choice to bring her in this season but not a bad one necessarily as it has a purpose to the plot. It just feels as if they completely misread her personality. 

Azula is cold, mean and manipulative. She barely shows any signs of weakness till later in the story which is the start of her mental downfall. 

Netflix’s Azula, played by Elizabeth Yu, was written almost too emotionally which seems wrong. They might make it make sense with the rest of the story and with the character they are creating but for now, she and Aang’s character do not feel like the ones we know from the cartoon. 

On the other hand, Dallas Liu (Zuko), Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Uncle Iroh) and Ian Ousley (Sokka) did an outstanding performance. 

The writers and the actors completely nailed these characters. 

Every interaction between Zuko and Uncle Iroh was perfect and felt so genuine. They bring so much emotion and depth to their performance that it is hard to not tear up during some of their scenes. They brought their characters to life and they could not have done a better job. 

Same with Sokka, Ian Ousley manages to balance Sokka’s seriousness and goofiness wonderfully. They switched the patriarchal views the character originally has at the start of the season to a lack of confidence and it works. This changed his first interaction with one of his love interests, Sukki, but it worked because she still taught him something.

It was a bold move but it resonates with Sokka’s character and it gives him room to grow as a leader and grow his confidence with time. 

Now, something that this adaptation did a brilliant job at are the fight scenes and the special effects. They along with Zuko’s and Uncle Iroh’s interaction were the highlight of the live-action. 

The choreographies of the fights are amazing and create a good flow between each move. The bending feels natural and there is a clear respect for how each bending technique is supposed to look like. It is easy to recognise the different styles of each element. 

Minus the occasionally blurry effect for Airbending, the visual effects created dynamic and thrilling fights, especially when firebenders were involved.

Combined with the settings and the scenery which are truly breathtaking. The show in terms of looks is a masterpiece. Each new scene is beautiful in its way making it worth seeing.

So yes, this adaptation clearly has its flaws, but at the end of the day, not only is it a good adaptation, but it is also a good show. 

And no worries, Appa and Momo are as cute and huggable as they are supposed to be. 

Edited by Georgiana Madalina Jureschi

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