★★★☆☆ (It’s really more of a 2.5)

Average, if I could describe Netflix’s Avatar:The Last Airbender (ATLA) live action in one word it would be average.

After six years of waiting ATLA’s live action has finally come out and all I can say is that it’s… average. As a general rule of thumb I am incredibly sceptical of live action remakes, especially those with fantastical elements to it (such as magic). So, when I heard about a live action ATLA I wasn’t exactly ecstatic, especially after the debacle that was the Fate: The Winx Saga series. Furthermore, when I learnt that the two directors of the original animated show, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, had left the production of the show due to creative differences with the studio, any lingering hope died and disappeared.

There were a lot of things that were changed from the original source material but, unlike many other fan’s of the original show, that isn’t where most of my grievances with the live action lay. As it is to be expected that whilst trying to condense 20 episodes into 8 certain plot points would be cut out. The show itself was quite boring, whilst I enjoyed some aspects of it, such as the closing monologues from episodes 5 and 6, there wasn’t much that drew me to it and kept me wanting to watch. It took me 6 days to watch it, which for me is horrendous as I am a serial binge watcher, I found myself constantly having to fight myself to click the next episode. I was able to point out a lot more things that were bad than things that were good or that I enjoyed.

From episode one you’re thrown straight into the drama, as I would later come to find out most episodes start this way. There’s a member of the earth nation running with a scroll being chased by fire nation soldiers, who are throwing fire at him. This is where viewers first get to see the use of powers in the show, and I’ll admit the CGI wasn’t awful, although it should be noted that whenever there is earthbending there are weird camera angles in use. However, this level of CGI didn’t last for long as only a couple minutes later there is a scene where that Earth Nation member is being burnt alive and the CGI is akin to the effects that you would use on photobooth as a child all those years ago. Furthermore, at certain points the CGI makes the show look animated in a way or really badly edited. For example, the burnt woods, the bear shrines and when they visit Avatar Roku.

There is also an issue with pacing. At the beginning I liked how they showed how Katara was struggling with learning how to waterbend and her evolution, that is up until episode four. From episode five onwards the evolution of Katara’s powers was incredibly rushed. At the beginning of episode five Katara is able to defeat fire nation soldiers with some previously never before seen ice disks. She goes from barely being able to do a water whip in episode three to creating an entirely new move in episode five and then suddenly becoming a master in episode eight. Whilst I understand that it is hard to properly show the evolution of a person’s skill in eight episodes I’m certain that Netflix could have dedicated more time to this. There is also an issue with time sensitivity. There are two consecutive episodes where Aang is scared that his friends and the townspeople are going to be eaten by Ko. So he ends up flying to another island to consult Avatar Roku and is subsequently kidnapped before he’s eventually able to rescue his friends and the townspeople. 

Another thing I don’t like in the live action are the fight scenes. I love fight scenes, I’m obsessed with them, so I feel qualified enough to pass proper judgement on them. A lot of the fight scenes in this show were rubbish, some were limited due to CGI. But others were rubbish because they followed the formula of exceptionally weak goons. In almost every episode that Aang and his friends fight fire nation soldiers they are defeated comically easily. For example, there are scenes where they are defeated by being splashed by water (eyeroll). I will admit though there are some fights that are above sub-par, for example whenever Zuko fights. One would think repeatedly rolling in the air during fight scenes would look odd but it is done very well and I genuinely enjoy watching him fight. Furthermore, the fight scene between Zuko and Aang in the fabrics store is amazing. But, that kind of fighting quality is so far and in between that it is very likely to be drowned out by all the bad.

I also have an issue with how some of the characters’ personalities and motivations were changed and portrayed. Firstly, Azula’s personality change. When I watched the original I marvelled at how she seemed so cold and uncaring and seemed to just want the worst for Zuko. However, in the remake they got rid of some of her more psychopathicic/sociopathic tendencies and made her more desperate for her dads approval as opposed to already having it. Furthermore, the actress always seemed to have one unshed tear in her eye which I found frustrating as it made her seem more upset as opposed to cold, angry and calculating. 

Lastly, another thing that stood out to me was the actor who plays Aang, whilst I acknowledge that he is a child, he has problems with portraying facial expressions that aren’t extreme happiness and glee. In episode one there is a scene where he cries in Katara’s arms and I can promise you that I see not one single tear slip out of his eyes. In another scene where he actually does cry, the camera cuts to him already crying as opposed to us witnessing him start to cry further substantiating my argument. Furthermore, for some reason I just can’t get past his eyebrows. However, I will say that he does portray Aang’s sense of morals and indignation quite well.

However, for all its faults there were some good things about the show, namely some of its casting choices. The casting of Zuko (Dallas James Liu) was quite simply immaculate. Dallas perfectly portrayed the desperation, obsession for the Avatar and constant need for fatherly approval that makes up Zuko’s character. Although this might be a controversial opinion as many fans want the actor who played Jet (Sebastian Amoruso) to play Zuko just based on his looks. However, I’m personally of the opinion that both actors were perfectly cast for their roles as the actor for Jet perfectly portrayed the bullheadedness of his character. Another character who, in my opinion, was perfectly cast was Sokka (Ian Ousley). Ian flawlessly portrayed Sokka’s cockiness, insecurities and love for girls. More than that he perfectly mirrored the cadence and demeanour of his animated counterpart. Lastly, the casting of Uncle Iroh (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) was very good. He characterised his animated version very well but, I will say his accent in the show is very weird and was annoying to hear. It sounded like one of those old Malaysian movies. 

As harsh as it sounds I recommend this show to those who want to go to sleep, have some background noise whilst they do their homework and to those who are incredibly bored.

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