Live action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ alters tone and plot points

The wait is finally over as Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the beloved Nickelodeon show “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has finally dropped on the streaming service, leaving fans with mixed emotions on what the platform has done with the first season and where it’s headed if it gets renewed for a second season.

The show follows 12-year-old Airbender Aang, who has been frozen in ice for a hundred years after escaping the Air Temple and his fate of becoming the Avatar. While he was in the ice, the Fire Nation created an all-out war to take over the remaining nations, and as Aang awakens and recognizes that he allowed this to happen, he teams up with siblings Katara and Sokka to fulfill his destiny and put the war to rest.

Airing originally in 2005, the show gained nearly 20 million viewers in the under-14 demographic when the two-hour series finale graced our screens, and it regained its audience after Netflix launched the animated show in 2020.

As a long-time fan of the original series, I have been anxiously awaiting the live-action series and pleased with what has been shown thus far. Undoubtedly, this would be a shot-for-shot remake of such a beloved series. 

Yet, there have been a few letdowns in the episodes that don’t capture the tone of the animated version and have been changing very important plot points. While I understand that the showrunners wouldn’t be able to include every plot point from the original, it seemed very dismissive and poorly executed. 

Episodes including Jet and the Freedom Fighters or Aang needing King Bumi’s help are used to drive the plot, but are instead shoved into one episode together and not given ample time to be expanded on. Many filler episodes in the original allowed the audience to see the bond between Team Avatar. 

Also, they showed that Aang was working to perfect his skills and master the elements. Compared to the live-action, we only see the Avatar water bend once in the first episode for a brief second, while this season’s main focus is supposed to be Aang mastering water bending so he has time to practice earth and fire bending. 

What I loved most about the series was the performances of certain characters such as Prince Zuko, Aang, Katara and Iroh. These specific cast members did such a phenomenal job at capturing the essence of their characters and really sold me on the idea that they were straight out of the original show. 

Dallas Liu really embodies himself as Zuko and brings the sassy and defeated nature of the Fire Nation prince, while Gordon Cormier as Aang truly shines in the titular role and shows the child-like wonder the character has at the very beginning, but the wisdom of his Avatar ancestors inside. Kiawentiio Tarbell as Katara also shines in her role, bringing hope and compassion to the team while maintaining the fiery edge that allows her to become a water-bending master and control her own destiny. 

While there has not been a formal announcement of the show’s renewal, fans are enjoying the content given to them and have even created some of their own works of art, like Liu in the form of Zuko in the style of a Renaissance painting.

The show had some great qualities that I’d love to see continued in the second season, especially when we get to the introduction of Earth-bender Toph. Still, there would need to be some serious pacing and overall plot changes that will continue with the storyline but also have room to expand on what they didn’t cover in this first season.


3/5 stars


Featured photo courtesy of @avatarnetflix, Instagram