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The Student News Site Of Central Kitsap High School

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The Student News Site Of Central Kitsap High School

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Review: Netflix’s Live Action “Avatar the Last Airbender”

A prime example of the unfortunate reality of modern showtelling.
The+official+poster+for+the+Avatar+Live+Action+Series.
Netflix
The official poster for the Avatar Live Action Series.

This article contains spoilers for both the 2005 Avatar the Last Airbender and the 2024 Live Action version. Reader discretion is advised.

“Avatar the Last Airbender” was one of the biggest and most influential hits of the 2000s. With amazing animation, incredible worldbuilding, storytelling, cast, and an indisputable charm, this movie touched the hearts of many.

Although the original show was released almost two decades ago, “Avatar” fans have returned with simultaneously lots of excitement and disappointment. On February 22nd of 2024, Netflix released a new live action version of the show. I was completely blown away with the incredible visual effects. Unfortunately, they poorly executed the most important part: the story.

The live action starts by showing us the death of the airbenders. Right off the bat they give us an intense fight scene, which, don’t get me wrong, has incredible theatrics. I was intrigued by this decision, wondering what kind of storytelling tactic they were using. But further into the first episode they have gran-gran explain the entire war to us for several minutes. I noticed that they preferred to tell the viewer what is happening, rather than show them like the original did.

They continued to scramble to get as many minutes of fight scenes they could get, presumably to catch the attention of the audience where they believed interest was lacking. I got the impression that Netflix assumed viewers would be too stupid to see subtleties, read between the lines, and understand the story simply by watching rather than listening to someone explain it; it felt really condescending.

The original creators of the 2005 Avatar, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, had the opportunity to work on the live action show with Netflix, but in 2020, they posted lengthy social media statements about how they decided to leave the project. Konietzko stated that the project created a negative environment and nobody producing the live action show paid any attention to his advice.

Everyone can agree that character growth is an essential part of a good story. Watching someone with flaws learning to overcome them is super interesting and inspiring. It’s one of the many things the 2005 Avatar got right. But I noticed that the live action eliminated the flaws of all the main characters.

For example, it felt like “Avatar” protagonist Aang had already grown up, having the weight of the world on his shoulders, instead of avoiding responsibility like he did in the original version. Learning to deal with his responsibility and putting his silly and childish nature aside was meant to be a part of his journey. Unfortunately, he isn’t the only character that was drastically changed by the removal of their flaws.

Another very disappointing change was the removal of the character Sokka’s sexism. I know it sounds absurd, but his assumed superiority over women was a flaw he learned to overcome when he had his butt kicked by the Kyoshi Warriors. Because he admitted he was wrong, he was able to get closer to Kyoshi Warrior Suki. The live action took this whole situation and rewrote it in a way that made it actually sexist. They decided to make Suki fall in love with him at first sight, and borderline stalk him. The trope of the “obsessed girl” felt absolutely dehumanizing to me.

Granted, the show didn’t screw up everything. Though they ruined a few of Zuko’s plot points, they added new scenes to his arc that actually made it more interesting. I found myself wishing that those scenes were in the original, too. For example, there is a scene where Zuko approaches and comforts Iroh during Iroh’s son’s funeral, which gives some background as to why he loves Zuko so much.

Despite blowing everyone away with its incredible animation and CGI, Netflix took a very nostalgic story for many people and modernized it in a terrible way. Many newer shows prefer to tell rather than show, throwing flashy fight scenes in front of us to keep our allegedly short attention span. In reality, it makes shows like the Live Action “Avatar” feel really dry and low-effort, with no deep and interesting meaning that makes you think.

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About the Contributor
Vassilisa Joslyn
Vassilisa Joslyn, Reporter
A high school senior, Vassilisa Joslyn, or Vas for short, loves to talk: her primary reason for taking Journalism. As this class involves interviews, questions, and writing stories covering topics one can choose, it seemed like the obvious choice for her. Outside of school, she enjoys playing piano or violin, sewing, or most other creative hobbies. She is very proud and hard-working, and will always do her best.
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