The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

Netflix releases live action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

Lara Sankari
Portrait of Aang, Katara, Appa and Momo hanging on a wall.

On Feb. 22, Netflix released its live action version of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Since its release in 2005, Nickelodeon’s original show “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has had lasting effects on pop culture. The cartoon has and continues to captivate audiences because of its appeal to both children and adults, which is primarily due to its ability to combine real world issues and moral dilemmas with wholesome comedy and fun adventures.

The show follows a world in which four nations are bound to an element, with each nation having “benders” who can manipulate their respected element. The four nations are the Fire Nation, the Air Nomads, the Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom. To keep balance between the nations, a being known as “the avatar” who is able to bend all four elements is continuously reincarnated.

The world is left in danger as the Fire Nation, which is very reminiscent of imperialist Japan, declares war with the end goal of ruling the rest of the world. When a 12-year-old air nomad named Aang finds out he is the next avatar, he’s overwhelmed by the pressure to save the world and runs away. Unfortunately, he ends up trapped in ice for 100 years, and everyone believes him to be dead. The show follows Aang after he is found as he travels the world with his companions to prepare to defeat the Firelord.

Story continues below advertisement

“I discovered the cartoon during quarantine, and I really liked it,” said Alice Quaranta, junior. “I’m looking forward to seeing if I like the live action version as much.”

As you can imagine, trying to create a live action adaptation about people who can shoot water, fire, rocks, or air out of their hands would be very hard without it looking ridiculously stupid. Trust me, Paramount already tried with the horrifically low budget 2010 live action movie adaptation “The Last Airbender.”

“[The 2010 version] was so disappointing, I don’t think I even got through it,” said Brigid Noonan, junior.

When Netflix announced they would be adapting the cartoon into a live action show, fans were understandably suspicious. As someone who has been a huge fan of this show since I was five and has a poster of it hanging in my room as we speak, I feel qualified to talk about the first episode. 

Episode one of Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” playing on TV. (Lara Sankari)

Let’s begin with the positives: I’m someone who doesn’t like when adaptations stray away from the original storyline, so I really appreciate that they stayed true to the story for the most part. It’s a more mature version, so they do depict more violence and combat, but I generally love that addition.

I was worried about how the bending would look, but it actually looks amazing. The combat is perfect, and the injuries caused by it are very realistic which makes the show more impactful.

Continuing with the theme of being more mature, the show also depicts a lot of details and plot points that are only briefly mentioned in the show such as the ethnic cleansing of the Air Nomads. Being able to see them get wiped out makes you connect with them more and makes their extinction more upsetting.

It’s important to mention that the world of Avatar is very East Asian inspired, and the uniforms and clothing of each nation are extremely well done. They are still recognizable as the same ones from the cartoon, but the details added are extremely beautiful and play into the East Asian cultural aspects.

I’m very picky with CGI, half the time I feel it adds a low budget or unrealistic effect, but the CGI is mostly pretty well done.

“The concept of this show is really cool, but I feel like it would be hard to make live action,” said Molly Yopp, junior.

Thankfully, the nations were in fact perfectly brought to life just how I imagined them. The colors were vibrant and the bending was smooth. A huge fear I had for the CGI would be how Appa and Momo would look, but they look fairly decent. I know you can’t really make them look both “normal” and realistic, so I’m content with how they look.

Let’s move on to the negatives, which, surprisingly, I don’t have as many of as I would’ve thought. My biggest critique was that they took away the iconic intro monologue. Given that half a generation has it permanently ingrained in their brain, I would’ve appreciated it if they included it.

Other than that, my only problem was that they slightly tweaked Sokka’s character. In the cartoon, he’s a hilarious character with most of his character development revolving around him going from a sexist, arrogant boy to a strong leader. The live action got rid of that. From the start he’s only very level-headed and serious, but he still feels like Sokka. I’m not sure how they took such a huge part of his identity out and still were able to make it feel like him, but I applaud them for it. 

Overall, I’m very impressed with how the first episode went, and I’m very excited to see how producers will continue to bring it alive. This show has so many important messages and lessons that even adults should be able to experience, so I’m glad it’s being shared with a broader audience.

For the old fans, as long as you’re open to slight alterations, I think you will love it. For the new fans, I think it’s a great way to experience the story.

You can watch “Avatar: The Last Airbender” on Netflix.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Lara Sankari
Lara Sankari, Writer
Lara Sankari, junior, is so happy to be a new member of the Devils' Advocate online magazine staff! Lara has had a passion for writing and literature for years and looks forward to putting that passion to use this year. In her free time, Lara loves to spend time with friends, volunteer at the local humane society, read and listening to all types of music! You can contact Lara at [email protected].org.

Comments (1)

All Devils' Advocate Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • nicky HaleMar 6, 2024 at 5:47 pm

    Lara Sankari is surely right about netflix making a good live action adaptation because of how the reviews have shown positive from all time fans.