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My Thoughts on Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender Live-Action Series:”

My Thoughts on Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender Live-Action Series:”

What would it be like to be able to control the power of one of the four elements (water, fire, earth, and air) or be a part of a world where there are unique animals, like turtle ducks?! The Nickelodeon universe, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” is just that…and a brutal 100-year war.  Oh.  I guess not everything can be perfect.   This cartoon is one of the greatest masterpieces and is still cherished today.  Likable, fleshed-out, evolving, and entertaining characters that deals with serious issues (homicide, murder, abuse, the effects of war, loss, brainwashing, and more,) powerful young women, popping colors, memorable lines, wise words, on-point comedy, engaging stories, wistful world building, and fantastic incorporation of material arts.  And this is technically a kids’ show!

A beloved, well-written show for all ages.  You think it being transformed into a live-action format would work, right?

Well…in theory…it should have.

Then the 2010 movie came out… FYI: Why did two of my favorite franchises (this one and “Percy Jackson” finally get movies in 2010 and they were both garbage? -_-;;)

Yeah…I have wiped this abomination from my memory.

Was I nervous about Netflix declaring a live-action T.V. streaming series?  Yes, reasonably so.  Was I concerned when the show’s original creators left the project due to creative differences?  Yeah.  Did I listen to Internet speculation?  Nah.  Everyone has the right to their two cents and I want to have a chance to express my own, have my own experience, my mind not influenced.

So, what are my thoughts overall on the series with LIMITED SPOILERS?  Well, let us bend right in!

One of the hurdles is condensing 20 22-minute episodes into a 7-hour live-action series. When I calculated this, season one was about 7 hours and 20 minutes. So in total, it’s about only one episode less in length. This gave me hope they could include much of the material.

Overall, most episodes were covered in some way, all, but the following (which will not spoil anything:)

  • Haru and his father from episode 6th: “Invasion:” (although they were in the live-action movie,)
  • “The Great Divide,” episode 11,
  • “The Fortuneteller,” episode 14 (both of these episodes are funny and I love them,)
  • “The Desserter,” episode 16.

Others are subtly referenced, like the pirates with the water scroll or the guide through the canyon.

Everything else is included well. True, since there are only eight episodes, even if they are longer, certain characters and plots had to be combined in different ways, such as the King Bumi, The Secret Tunnel, Jet and The Freedom Fighters, and Northern Air Temple storylines are all set now in one area and the city Omashu in episode 4. This worked in most instances.

Now, the opposite: Additions or big changes (again, I’ll not do anything that’s huge to the plot,)

Azula, Zuko’s hot-headed prodigy little sister, and her two companions Mai and Tye Li, in the original show do not appear until season 2 but are important secondary characters here.  They don’t mess up the arcs as a whole and it adds some good tension early. I felt it also gave a little background as to what she was doing while Zuko hunted down the Avatar since we did not know this during the original run.

Aang’s air bending mentor and friend, Gyatso, had another great component to the live-action that made your heart ache.

A new ability Aang has now is he can communicate with the past Avatars at a place sacred to them, such as Kyoshi on her island.  He was able to do this somewhat with meditation in the later seasons, but the effects of this power were a bit extra and made my eye roll the first time.  Luckily it was done more than once and I believe allows opportunities to meet more of the past Avatars.

My BIGGEST gripe is how they handled Aang trying to ‘learn’ water bending…AHHH! I won’t spoil it, but man… Not done well… -_-;;

The two-part episode season finale had several tweaks, but I feel to make it gripping on an epic scale so I understood.  I did like how they gave Yue more powers, the healing class, Momo’s new scene, and Han’s changed personality (tugged at my heart!)  Not everything was grand, such as Aang’s role and lack of training.  But it was overall a fantastic spectacle!

Now, by far, my LEAST favorite episode was episode 5.  *Sighs*  The changes were infuriating, the pace slow and boring and all over the place.  The stories they combined did not go well together and Sokka and Katara’s roles… lore-wise, it did not make sense.  The parts with Zuko and Iroh were good though. But this episode numbed me in annoyance to no end that when I rewatch this series, I will most likely skip this episode.

I know many fans on the internet were upset that Sokka’s growth from being a semi-sexist character to respecting the power women have, that everyone can be a warrior and help change the world.  It showed his development as a character and made his rapport with Suki (who I loved in the live-action too) so rewarding to watch.  Taking that part of his persona out was odd, but I got that since this is a show made for families (granted, it IS darker than the cartoon,) a more modern outlook to inspire how people should treat others as equals was instilled at the start.  In the long run, Sokka was still himself at his core and the show and actor encompassed that well.

If you want the major changes in the live-action, you can check out an article HERE!

The casting was awesome as a whole! I was most impressed with Sokka and Zuko; they SOUNDED even like their characters! Zuko has innocence corrupted with an edgy aura down.  The reveal of who his ship’s crew really are…AH! Genius! The fact he liked to draw was cute.  And Sokka had the best timing and his beloved bad jokes.  Epic! Aang had that youthful energy (but toned from the cartoon for sure, lol) especially when he was with Katara (who was adorable and I think was fantastic at her famous hope speeches.)  So our main four are properly brought to life in front of us.

I do, overall, miss the energetic comedy.  This isn’t the cartoon and I like they were trying to make it darker in tone, but the aestic crisp.  But some things my little fan girl heart is hurt were kicked out when it would take a few seconds to incorporate, but would make millions happy:  Aang’s marble trick, penguin sledding, some silly fortune telling, and more White Lotus scene (although the tile was Easter egged.)

I will admit; Uncle Iroh was not all I dreamt of for the first few episodes, but I set the bar astronomically high!  When you work with the voice actor for Uncle Iroh HIMSELF for three days as his convention assistant and he is better than you could imagine, an actor has big shoes to fill.  But by episode three, I was convinced he has Iroh’s guiding nature, but still made it his own.  And his relationship with Zuko was precious. The flashback scene between him and Zuko…OH! My heart! *CRIES* What a beautiful tribute to ‘Leaves on the Vine.’

Fire Lord Ouzi was spot on casting and a veteran of the series, having roles in both the main show and the sister one, “Korra.”  I was not sold on Azula at first, her being a little, cute thing, but her actress held her own and I see her potential.  Gyatso made me smile and my eyes stung with tears each time I saw him.  King Bumi leaped off the drawing board to the screen with their choice! HA! The other secondary characters looked and acted well.  But our star, is of course, our fan-favorite cabbage vendor who IS the guy who did his voice almost 20 years ago!  Say it with me, friends… “MY CABBAGES!” =D

The animals were done well too, especially our key players MOMO and APPA.  I do wish there were more of them (I will not forget about the penguins being left out! GRRR!) but I am sure the CGI (to make it look good) was costly.

Visually? This show is gorgeous! The stages, the locales, the graphics, the attention to detail, the architecture, the hues…all of it was breathtaking, which is refreshing since one of my biggest issues with live-action shows the last decade is the boring presentations and colors.  Everything here was enchanting and kept the fantasy alive.  It was a feast for the eyes.

The costumes were so colorful and bright like they came out of the show.  Some commented on how it was too much of a contrast to the setting, but I thought it was wonderful and it allowed me to stay in the story, and fuse the original with the new.  The characters were made to look like their counterparts as well too on a fantastic scale!

Graphically with the blend of material arts and elemental bending, it was done masterfully, the moves fitting with the show. One of the many reasons I loved the original was how they combined traditional material arts from four different regions and disciplines to craft their world of bending.  Seeing the actors do these principles was awe-inspiring and blew my mind with the combat, training, and growth for their journey went on! Mind-blowing!

Was this show perfect?  No.

Was it a treat to watch?  Flamo it was!

Am I ready for season 2?  More than cactus juice!

New to the show or avid fans, as long as you can see most of the changes as a whole are the future of storytelling, this is a treat and definitely worth a watch. Netflix gave us hope and I am glad it paid off.


Find your harmony and use your peace to help others! Stay geeky! 🙂


Educator of young minds by day, super nerdy savior of justice, and cute things by night, Morgan Straughan Comnick has a love for turning the normal into something special without losing its essence. Morgan draws from real-life experiences and her ongoing imagination to spark her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys doing goofy voices, traveling to new worlds by turning pages, humming child-like songs, and forcing people to smile with her “bubbliness.” It is Morgan’s mission in life to spread the amazement of otaku/Japanese culture to the world and to stop bullying; she knows everyone shines brightly.

For more information about Morgan and her works, check out her website, which also has links to all her social medias: http://morganscomnick.com

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