The core problem with Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

Disclaimer: I am not a professional movie reviewer/critic. So, I might not be the most suitable person to write about acting, etc. But, to be honest, who actually cares? I am a huge fan of the animated series, and I can freely write my personal opinion for the live-action adaptation. And who am I to judge? I mean, just take a look to my avatar.

I have been waiting for almost six years. Six long years. The four elements inside me were waiting to be bent. Water, Earth, Fire, Air… Long ago… In 2018, Netflix announced a live-action adaptation of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. I can’t even describe how excited I was. For those who don’t know, Avatar: The last Airbender was a highly successful and multi-awarded  Nickelodeon’s 2005-2008 animated series. So, a live-action of the Legend of Aang? That was like a dream come true. And it was way more than promising. A lot was said, back then. It will be almost identical and loyal to the animated series spirit (and spirits are crucial in Avatar’s fictional world), the original creators would be in charge, etc. These were like music to my ears. But…

Then, everything changed when the production “attacked”. Michael Dante Di Martino and Bryan Konietzko left the show over “creative differences,” whatever that meant. The core duo’s misbelief in their creation can’t be a good sign. Could it be? Then, as time passed and news and concepts were revealed, something didn’t feel right.

Moreover, the 2010 M. Night Shyamalan’s movie based on Aang’s legend didn’t help. As we all know, it is considered one of the worst movies ever. Poor visual effects, inadequate production, and, in general, everything showed that none of the movie’s key people had any touch with the original show. But enough with this atrocity that any Avatar fan should forget. It never happened.

Back to the Netflix’s adaptation. While the sceneries, characters, etc, were promising, there was something. Something that felt unfullfilling. And nothing related to the adaptation, from news to interviews, was comfy. Something was spirited away. Unfortunately, that was the case when the show was released. After watching the first episode of the series, I had mixed feelings. I was ready to abandon watching the rest of the show. I wouldn’t say I liked to watch all my high hopes fading to nothingness. But I couldn’t. I was waiting for too long to abandon the fight.

Although the rest of the episodes were better than I expected (because of the first episode), I was still not satisfied. The sceneries were fantastic, the effects were satisfying, the choreographies were on the spot, etc. But the actors felt like they didn’t know how to handle it. They weren’t bad but weren’t in touch with the animation’s original core. Of course, a live adaptation is a daunting task. Many adaptations don’t even fulfill what they should. I can’t say that Netflix ATLA was one of these. It wasn’t bad, after all. But it wasn’t what was expected.

I must mention that I didn’t like the second installment of the animated series, “Avatar: The Legend of Korra.” Although there were some good episodes, the general concept left me with a bitter taste. And no, the final “controversial” (for some people) episode wasn’t the case. The problem was the same as it is with the Netflix’s adaptation. It didn’t have the “spirit”. I understand that the showrunners wanted to make it more appealing to a broader audience. But they forget what matters the most. The loyal fans database is the most crucial part. These are the ones that you should consider the most. These are the ones that expect more.

Your mission wasn’t accomplished. Aang’s fans liked the animated show for what it was. It was a refreshing and humorous show balancing with core human values. And we all know that Avatar and balance are synonyms in Aang’s world. The original series managed what many others didn’t. It could deal with sensitive matters like genocide successfully. The audience could relate to the series’ characters and what they represent. All in a stylized, polished, humorous and satisfying way. And that’s precisely what the Legend of Korra and Netflix didn’t (Shyamalan’s movie isn’t worth mentioning). They sacrificed what matters to the original show. Something that the comic series was able to deliver. The spirit.

To make it clear, Netflix’s ATLA is closer to the Legend of Korra than the Legend of Aang. If it was a Korra’s adaptation, it could be considered a successful story. But compared to Nickelodeon’s show, it just can’t keep up with the task. The result just wasn’t what it should have been. It felt more like a decent, stylized money grab than a tribute to the original animated series.

So, can we say that Netflix Avatar is terrible? Well, to be completely honest, no. Not at all. It was still joyful. It is a satisfying show, if you watch it, not as a fan or comparing it to the animation. But it couldn’t be compared to the original one. As I already mentioned, if Netflix’s philosophy and approach to the series were the Legend of Korra, the task would have been more than successful. Regarding the Legend of Aang, it wasn’t what it promised to be.

In plain words, you won’t be disappointed if you watch the show as a standalone one. You will be left with a bitter taste if you watch it as Nick’s fan. I am not entirely disappointed, but still, something is missing. It should also be noted that Netflix renewed the series for two more seasons. Although I am more landed now by what to expect, I won’t miss the opportunity to watch them when they are available. I only know now that I must watch it as a standalone show. Let’s hope I can master the four elements (of the live-action), the (animated) Avatar Aang’s way.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *