‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ live-action is rushed but overall saved by some stand-out castings

March 27, 2024 — by Kavya Patel
Courtesy of Netflix
Aang, Katara and Sokka on their journey to the Northern Water Tribe to help defeat the Fire Nation.
The remake of the 2005 animated series may not have been my favorite, but many of the actresses and actors did not disappoint.

While most people’s favorite TV shows are popular series like “Friends,” “Stranger Things,” “Outer Banks,” I am not even slightly embarrassed to say that my go-to comfort show is “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Yes, it’s meant to be a kids’ show — and I don’t care.

The 2005 animated Nickelodeon show follows Aang, a 12-year-old boy who is the Avatar, a singular person who possesses the power to master all four elements (earth, air, fire and water) to restore harmony between all four elemental nations. He travels through the nations with his friends, Katara and Sokka, working to defeat the Fire Nation, which is trying to conquer the world. 

Though the show is meant for children, I take no shame in my obsession with it; I spent all of quarantine and my freshman year in Zoom classes binging the show over and over again. 

When I heard the live-action for the series was coming out in February, I was excited but also worried — the previous live-action movie released in 2010 was nothing like the original series and a similar live-action was bound to be disastrous. Also, there are only eight episodes in the first 2024 live-action season while the animated show had 20, so I knew that the series was going to feel rushed.

When the show finally came out on Netflix, however, I was immediately hooked. I finished the series in two days and enjoyed it overall, but I definitely have mixed feelings about some of the remake’s plot changes. 

Upon watching the first two episodes, I thought the casting for the show was on point, especially with Gordon Cormier as Avatar Aang, Dallas Liu as Prince Zuko, Daniel Dae Kim as Fire Lord Ozai and Momona Tamada as Ty Lee; their acting and body language mimicked the animated version to an uncanny degree of accuracy. 

My favorite episode by far was No. 2, “Warriors,” where Aang, Sokka and Katara visit an island home belonging to one of the previous avatars, Kyoshi. Sokka and one of the “Kyoshi warriors,” Suki, have a tension-filled romance in this episode. Without a doubt, Suki is one of the best casting choices in the whole series — Maria Zhang successfully portrayed her as someone with confidence and high self-esteem, while also capturing how awkward and inexperienced Suki is with romance after being cut off from the rest of the world. 

However, I didn’t like how the producers blended so many of the original show’s episodes into one with the third episode, “Omashu.” This episode took characters across several episodes in the original — like Jet, Teo, Sai and Azula — and completely changed the plots of the individual episodes in order to put the characters in the same place, Omashu. The result was a mess: Why was Jet in Omashu and why was the Earthbender who captured Iroh deliberately trying to kill him multiple times? And although I know the live-action cannot be exactly like the animated series due to the limited number of episodes, I would rather have them remove the minor characters than twist the plot to a confusing degree. 

I felt the same way with many of the following episodes, but the last two episodes proved to be entertaining and were enhanced by the CGI included in the fight between the Northern Water Tribe and Fire Nation soldiers. 

Many fans of the animated series pointed to some of the fight scenes being underwhelming — but that doesn’t mean the live-action is terrible. I would give the show 3.5/5 Falcons; it doesn’t hurt to watch, especially if you’re a fan of the original series. It’s nice to relive the feeling of watching a beloved animated show for the first time in a live-action production while not knowing exactly what to expect.

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