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“Avatar: The Last Airbender” - balance was not restored

A man standing looking out onto a mountain range.

By Adam Levine

Editorial Staff

Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” - a remake and reimagining of the original animated series of the same name released by Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008 - was something I have been anticipating for months - maybe even years.

Personally, I hail the original animated series as the best animated series of all time and it is one of my favorite shows. I have rewatched it in full twice within the past two years and every time I learn more and fall in love with it again.

My anticipation was high, despite the previous live-action adaptation - M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender” released in 2010 - which is largely considered a disgrace to the franchise.

After finishing the series, there were two additions I loved, and there was one change I tolerated - at first I liked it but looking back I have mixed thoughts on it.

Other than that, the only three redeeming factors of the series were the action sequences, some of the acting performances, and when the end credits finally came.

While the series fell very, very short of its source material, I recognize it was following in the footsteps of arguably one of the greatest television series of all time.

Unfortunately, Gordon Cormier as Aang, Kiawentiio Tarbell as Katara, and Ian Ousley as Sokka all fell short in their main character performances.

In the end, it was Dallas James Liu’s and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee’s performances as Zuko and Iroh, respectively, which stole the show. As individuals, their performances stole every scene they were in. But their dynamic together stole the entire show.

The series began with one of the two pleasant additions - a flashback to the Fire Nation’s rise to power. We see Fire Lord Sozin’s (Hiro Kanagawa) tactical genius with his use of espionage to attack and wipe out the Air Nation.

The action-packed and drama-filled opening sequence displayed Netflix’s portrayal of bending in action and made me hopeful for what the show would be.

Unfortunately, my hope dwindled fast.

Episode 3 - “Omashu” - felt to be the most forced and overpacked episode. While I was happy they attempted to include various side storylines, it was evident the limitation of eight episodes was not enough.

While in Omashu, the major storylines of King Bumi (Utkarsh Ambudkar) and Omashu, Jet (Sebastian Amoruso), and Teo (Lucian-River Chauhan) and The Mechanist (Danny Pudi) were intertwined, tangled up, and all completely missed the mark.

King Bumi’s reimagining from Aang’s fun-loving best friend, still a hundred years later, to a bitter king was a realistic adaptation which intrigued me at first. After reconsideration, King Bumi is a crazy, rock-eating king who should not have been changed.

The other pleasant addition to the series was giving depth to Zuko’s character by providing backstory to the troops he commands on his ship. Without revealing the details, a seemingly minor aspect of their unit’s backstory gave layers of appreciated depth to Zuko.

For sake of nit-picking every change between Netflix’s adaptation and the original, I will skip to one of the most frustrating changes to the show - Sokka and Hahn’s (Joel Oulette) relationship in the Northern Water Tribe.

They instantly become friends and Hahn actively seeks out Sokka’s advice to help defend the tribe from the Fire Nation’s attack. This took away from part of Sokka’s character development as a warrior, but also as the leader we know and love from the character.

The show clearly struggled between being different from the original source material while also appealing to its longstanding fanbase.

I will watch the next two seasons to see how this all ends, but I will be happy when it's over.

Rating: C- 

And it all changed when Netflix attacked



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