Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Screen Avatar: The Last Airbender (2024)

Avatar: The Last Airbender (2024)

Isabel Bratt discusses the latest Netflix adaptation of 'Avatar: The Last Airbender.'
3 mins read
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Avatar: The Last Airbender | Official Trailer | Netflix

In late February, Netflix released their live-action adaptation of the dearly beloved kids’ cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show has gained mixed reviews, from fans of the original, to first-time consumers. The 8-episode series had been in production for 6 long years, following the failure of the 2010 film adaptation. 

The story surrounds a fantasy world, in which nations are split via the elements of fire, water, air and earth. Aang, a powerful figure named the Avatar, can wield all elements, and together with his friends, journeys to defeat the evil Fire Nation.

Fans disagreed greatly as to whether Ousley’s appearance fit the role, with many distrustful of the actor’s native heritage.

Unfortunately, Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, dubbed ‘NATLA’ by fans, has been long awaited, and like most live-action adaptations, was surrounded by controversy. One such controversy surrounds the casting of the beloved characters, with many fans disagreeing on the choices made by the directors. Major controversy surrounded Ian Ousley, the actor for Sokka. Fans disagreed greatly as to whether Ousley’s appearance fit the role, with many distrustful of the actor’s native heritage. Avatar: The Last Airbender centres around a world inspired greatly by Eastern cultures, with different regions of the fantasy world representing the historical customs of Asian countries. Thus, the new show has given great opportunities to many talented Asian actors, and hopefully inspires many with its wide range of representation. I believe the casting choices to be perfect, with each actor capturing their characters’ personalities with immaculate accuracy.

In particular, the casting of Korean–Canadian actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, as the character of Iroh, struck me as perfect. Iroh is arguably the original cartoon’s most beloved character, due to his wise but bumbling personality, and the touching story behind the original voice actor. Sun-Hyung Lee portrayed this with grace, and with a touching humanity that, I must admit, made me cry multiple times. The development of Iroh’s relationship with his nephew, Zuko, was a beautiful addition to the story.

Sun-Hyung Lee portrayed this with grace, and with a touching humanity that, I must admit, made me cry multiple times.

Despite the negative reviews the show has received, I found few major issues with the adaptation, finding it to be a joyful and moving watch. The show differs occasionally from the original story, adapting plotlines to fit into hour-long episodes, instead of the usual 20 minutes, but every change is coherent and well-thought-out.

The only difference that I felt dampened my experience, was the development, or lack thereof, in Aang’s character. The original series was structured so that in every season, Aang would learn to master one of the 4 elements, the first of which being the element of water. In the Netflix adaptation, however, Aang does not learn anything new throughout the first season, providing a lack of growth. I’m interested to see how Netflix will deal with this difference next season.

The cinematography and soundtrack were equally beautiful and well-curated, and I have high hopes for the show’s continuation.

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