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“Avatar: The Last Airbender”: Netflix live-action fails with critics

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“Avatar: The Last Airbender”: Netflix live-action fails with critics

Water. Land. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations of the world lived in harmony, since the Avatar – master of the four elements – maintained peace between them. But everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked and decimated the Air Nomads. (Netflix)

The live-action series Avatar: The Last Airbender (Avatar: The Last Airbender) landed on Netflix with high expectations, because its proposal is a new interpretation of the acclaimed Nickelodeon animated program. It is the second time that an adaptation of the animated hit has been undertaken: in 2010, director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) had already attempted it with a disastrous film that is remembered as one of the worst of his filmography (in Rotten Tomatoes registers a scant 5% of specialized critics). Now, the red “N” is betting on this universe again, but it does not overcome the disappointment and highlights, once again, that not everything should be brought to real action.

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The fiction follows the epic of Aang (Gordon Cormier), a young Avatar who, together with his friends Sokka (Ian Ousley) and Katara (Kiawentiio), undertakes a mission to master the four elements and restore balance in a world devastated by the Fire Nation. Daniel Dae Kim plays Fire Lord Ozai, the main antagonist who, along with his son, Prince Zuko (Dallas Liu), presents a formidable challenge to the group of heroes. The production also stars Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Uncle Iroh, Elizabeth Yu as Azula, and Ken Leung as Commander Zhao, expanding the rich tapestry of characters that inhabit this universe.

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” revives in live action, ushering in a new era for fans and neophytes alike. (Credits: Netflix)

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The vision of Albert Kim, who serves as showrunner and writer, is to recreate the magic and spirit of the original series while going in new directions. Along with him, Jabbar Raisani, Michael Goi, and Roseanne Liang bring his directing expertise, promising a visually stunning experience faithful to the source material. “I think Avatar: The Last Airbender in live action is going to bring to life everything you know and love about the original series,” Gordon Cormier had anticipated during the Tudum global event in Brazil in 2023.

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He added: “And I hope it brings a lot of new fans into this universe who have never heard of the series before, and that’s very exciting to me. “Personally, I am a fan of the series and I am as excited as you are.” However, despite the optimism and passion poured into this project, early reviews have been mixed.

The audacious task of transforming “Avatar: The Last Airbender” into a live-action experience fails to come to fruition. (Credits: Netflix)

Criticisms of Avatar: The Last Airbender point to an irregular pacing and an execution that, while trying to be faithful to the original, does not seem to achieve the necessary balance to fully connect with both fans and newcomers to this story. The action and fight sequences, while spectacular, fail to fully compensate for these narrative lapses. The comparison with the failed adaptation of Cowboy Bebop emerges as a shadow that reminds us of the challenges of correctly translating animated works into a live-action version.

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Maya Phillips of the New York Times: “Plus, Avatar tries so desperately to remake its stories that the pacing often suffers; The adventures become too convoluted, and there is so much action crammed together that it is easy to lose track of the stakes and sense of urgency in any story line.”

The universe of “Avatar” expands: new and old characters take the screen in a renewed story. (Credits: Netflix)

Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter: “Rather than breathing new life into a familiar world, this Avatar only serves as a reminder that some beloved properties are best left frozen.”

Empire Magazine’s Kambole Campbell: “A few smart casting choices can’t rescue the series from uninspiring craft and tonal confusion.”

Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall: “This new installment of The Last Airbender is entertaining enough for newcomers to the world to enjoy, and respectful enough to remind cartoon fans why they loved the world. first of all”.

Under the vision of Albert Kim, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” explores new narrative horizons. (Credits: Netflix)

Charles Pulliam-Moore of The Verge: “The pacing of the new Avatar is what makes it feel out of place. With a little more room to breathe, the series’ subplots could have felt richer and its central heroes more compelling – and help Netflix have another One Piece instead of a Cowboy Bebop.”

The Guardian’s Jack Seale: “The Airbender franchise has been confidently resurrected; “This won’t be the last we see of her.”

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At the time of writing, Avatar: The Last Airbender has a 59% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. All episodes can be seen starting this February 22, 2024 on Netflix.

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