The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

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Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” Struggles to Capture the Magic of the Original

Photo Courtesy of WikiCommons

Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a mediocre live-action retelling of season one of Nickelodeon’s 2005 animated hit series by the same name. 

The story is centered around a world where people can control one out of four elements: water, air, earth, and fire. The main character, Aang (Gordon Cormier), has the title of the Avatar, one person who can control all four elements, but Aang is also still just a kid.

Aang was frozen for over 100 years as a war raged between the Fire Nation and the rest of the world. During those 100 years, his people, the Airbenders, were slaughtered, making him the last Airbender. 

Two siblings from the South Water Tribe, Katara (Kiawentiio Tarbell) and Sokka (Ian Ousley), found Aang, and the three of them went on a quest to try to save the world from the Fire Nation’s reign of terror.

Meanwhile, Prince Zuko (Dallas Liu), the son of  Fire Nation leader Firelord Ozai (Daniel Dae Kim), was indefinitely banished from the Fire Nation until he could find and capture the Avatar. Prince Zuko and his Uncle Iroh (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) try to catch Aang any chance they get. 

Aang, Katara, and Sokka’s relationship is the most tedious part of the show. They don’t act like they are friends or show that they care about each other. There aren’t any real bonding moments between the three of them. 

Showrunner Albert Kim (“Sleepy Hollow”) said in an interview with IGN that he wanted to appeal to the “Game of Thrones” audience. Kim’s trying to appeal to the “Game of Thrones” makes the show feel overly serious as opposed to the fun and adventurous nature of the original.

Aang is 112, but he is still supposed to have the mind of a 12-year-old, and this adaptation almost completely removes that aspect. Aang said he likes to “goof off” with his friend, but the audience does not see Aang act like a kid except for one scene in episode two. 

The acting can be choppy at times, especially in the first episode. However, the performances get better as the show continues, particularly Cormier and Kiawentiio’s line deliveries. Ousley did well with what he was given, but it would have been better if Sokka wasn’t stripped of the comic relief aspect of the character because he has become just an overprotective brother without it. 

For a show that’s supposed to be for a more mature audience than the original, it completely misses the mature storytelling of the original. A significant portion of the dialogue is exposition, and even when the audience sees what is happening, the dialogue holds the hand of the audience. The characters say exactly what they feel instead of showing the audience. 

Daniel Dae Kim was the perfect casting for Firelord Ozai. His sternness and delivery add a menace to the character, making the scene where Ozai burns a man alive feel even more eerie than it already is.

Prince Zuko is by far the most fleshed-out character in the show. Zuko yearns for his father’s approval by trying to capture Aang even if it means fighting the people who should be on his side, and his humanity is explored, showing how much more he cares about people and his future than a century-long war.

Overall, Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is an unremarkable remake of a classic that fails its dialogue, leaving static main characters that not even the exciting antagonists could save.