Another live-action flop

The Jambar

In the past decade, there has been a rise of live-action recreations of animated TV shows and movies.

While some, such as Disney’s 2023 recreation of “The Little Mermaid,” were fun to watch. Most, such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King,” are subpar and have too much awkward CGI.

Netflix has made multiple live-action remakes of animated shows. Recently, though, it crossed the line with its remake of the 2005 animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” a beloved show among many people born in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

“Avatar” follows the story of a young boy named Aang who has to master bending of the four elements — earth, fire, air and water — to save the world from the evil Fire Lord Ozai. His friends, Sokka and Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, guide him along the way.

The animated series’ target audience is children, but anyone can enjoy it. The show has a profound ability to discuss sometimes emotionally-heavy topics with children in a relatable and sensitive way that even adults can find comfort in.

Its animation, though simple and 2D, beautifully captures the essence of eastern cultures with a playful style.

Netflix’s recreation, which goes by the same name, had a budget of over $90 million dollars and amazing source material. Nevertheless, the recreation was simply put, a flop.

The show mostly uses the animation’s storyline with some dialogue being directly pulled from the original. Its costumes and set designs are near one-to-one recreations. However, it may look like the original “Avatar,” but it lacks its heart and carefree spirit.

The show does not have to be an exact replica to its source material to be good, but Netflix has created a confusing product.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee who plays Iroh in the live-action “Avatar,” said Netflix wanted to make the show for a more mature audience. While there were several changes made to accomplish this, they didn’t pay off.

Netflix made the show much more violent. Yet, the writers frequently broke the “show, don’t tell” rule with tons of unnecessary exposition as if viewers aren’t mature enough to draw their own conclusions.

This also came at the cost of character development and relationship building. The show’s main characters, Aang, Sokka and Katara, hardly felt like friends.

Unfortunately, the actors who played these characters — Gordon Cormier as Aang, Ian Ousley as Sokka and Kiawentiio as Katara — are all fresh faces in the industry, and they were given a script that limited their abilities to show their talent.

The show did have some good qualities. The adult characters were fairly written well. Of the younger characters, Fire Nation Prince Zuko, had a well-developed arc. The actor who played him, Dallas Liu, was excellent in bringing Zuko’s story to life.

The special effects and set design mostly looked great, but the best part was the action. Many of the cast members are trained in martial arts, and it was amazing to witness their cultures’ talents on screen.

Regardless, its few good qualities could not make up for the lack of an interesting, relatable and impactful journey.

Overall, Netflix’s “Avatar” was another disappointing testament to the age-old truth that animated projects do not need to be acted out by people. Even with potential to make something amazing, Netflix prioritized spectacle over story.

Hopefully, the adaptation at leasts motivates viewers who have never watched the animated series to check it out.


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