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Feb 22, 2024

Review

'AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER' | REVIEW

After watching all eight episodes of ‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’, I can with confidence say it is one of Netflix’s best shows. It does nothing less than triumph in its story, acting and visual effects.

On the 22nd of February 2024 Netflix premieres its live-action adaptation of ‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’. While I, who write this review, have not seen the original series, I was as excited to start mastering the four elements as anyone can be. Nonetheless, I invite you to experience my thoughts on Netflix’s newest show.

As I said, watching Netflix’s latest original, (which is in partnership with Nickelodeon) was a awesome experience. While the show is not one hundred percent perfect, that is hard to achieve, it comes as close as you could probably get. Many aspects of this series are exceptional, and I will go through some of them, I will also mention the few flaws that I discovered during my watch through.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

To begin with, I would deem the complete story of the first season of the series to be a satisfying package. It has a little bit of everything. ‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’ do a strong job incorporating themes of love, self-reliance, and responsibility. These are themes that get to be uncovered with the help of the ‘almost’ perfectly casted characters in the show. 

We for example have ‘KATARA’ (played by Kiawentiio), who do an exceptional job in almost every scene she is featured in. She channels the spirit of her extremely well and I deem she uses expressive acting (as I like to call it) to a great extent. Then we have ‘SOKKA’ (played by Ian Ousley), who is incredibly funny in so many instances. But also complete the sibling circle together with ‘KATARA’, which at times make some scenes heart-warming.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

The only performance in the show I have some critique for is ‘AANG’ (played by Gordon Cormier). While his performance is by no means bad, it did feel a little unstable toward the first episodes. I think I got more used to the personality of ‘AANG’ in the latter half of the show. But in the first episodes Gordon Cormier’s performance felt a bit, like it lacked direction. This may be how he channels the characters emotions in the first episodes, since his characters goes through, what someone might call an identity crisis. Nonetheless, there was just something off about ‘AANG’ in the beginning. I think it was mostly fixed towards the second half of the season so I cannot really deem it to be an overall negative for the show 

When we are talking about performances I also need to mention, ‘PRINCE ZUKO’ (played by Dallas Liu). He seems to be a perfect casting for the character, and while, as I said, I have not watched the original series or read the books. I think he felt quite right as the exiled fire prince. He channeled his inner emotions and anger in an expressive way. ‘UNCLE IROH’ (played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), also portrayed his character in an authentic way. He was probably the character that you would best describe as a ‘warm hug’.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

While the performances were mostly splendid, we also need to talk about ‘the bending’, because it is such an integral part of the show. The water, earth, fire, and air bending all looked fantastic. You could clearly see that each bending style is an art style of its own. Sometimes the ‘air bending’ looked a bit funky… Especially when there was flying involved, but it was only on a few occasions and barley something you would notice. If you are not looking to hard of course...

The VFX in general look great, everything from the (incredibly cute) CGI fantasy creatures to ‘the bending’ looks perfect as I deem it. Only small flaws that you barely notice, as I mentioned with the air bending. If I were to choose one bending style that looked the best it would probably be a tie between the ‘water bending’ and ‘fire bending’. Kiawentiio makes ‘KATARA’ seem so elegant in the way she ‘bends’ the water. While on the other hand ‘PRINCE ZUKKO’ is sharper and more aggressive with his fire bending. Each bender and bending style are different, which is another thing that makes this show so much more interesting.   

Image courtesy of Netflix.

If we are talking about interesting, we can not forget to mention all the awesome places they visit. The whole world where ‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’ takes place seems to never end with surprises. There were some episodes that took a different direction than I expected them too. Now if you have seen the original, this may not come as a surprise for you. But for me, as a new ‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’ fan, I can affirm that the show has a few surprises along its path. Even some scary surprises, that I was shocked were even in the show.

It was shocking, however, not as shocking as realizing how well balanced the show is in terms of serious moments vs. funny moments. There were many chill inducing line drops and action’s which almost made the hair stand up on one’s arms. The show is epic at times, to put it lightly. But it is also incredibly funny, almost to fun at times. The balance between the two is even, most of the time. But there were times when I thought that a joke felt un-necessary to be said out loud. As it sometimes was too childish. That would probably be my only second real negative to ‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’. Most things are balanced well, but maybe one joke to many at times.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

If we are to go back to the characters of the series as discussed earlier. I also want to add that the character development is superb. You clearly get to go on a journey with these characters, and you get to observe them grow and overcome obstacles. You will be invested in each and every character after the first couple of episodes. Also, did I forget to mention the costume design? The costumes look great in live action. I do not have much to compare with in terms of the original series, but for the little I have seen of it, it looks great converted into live action, so much detail.

The journey that we get to go through is otherwise well written. Dialogue is clear yet concise, no unnecessary long speeches. You get all the detail you need, delivered in an authentic way by well casted actors and actresses. Perhaps, we noticed that ‘AANG’ delivered some lines at the start which felt somewhat false, but after watching all eight episodes we can hardly remember the moment now. One other aspect, the editing, did also feel somewhat choppy at times. It was, however, only a couple cuts out of the thousands included in an 8-hour show like this. So, it will most likely go unnoticed. Most of the choppy cuts took place in the finale to be precise.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

A finale which otherwise were exciting. Was it a pitch perfect final episode? No, not really, but was it a satisfying end to season 1 of ‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’? We can agree on that. While some story decisions did not really fall in my taste, it was nonetheless a great finale with some powerful writing. They do also set up a possible season 2 in a good-enough way. We do not get any Marvel-style after credits scene which sets up a whole new team of heroes, but there are some scenes at the end which gives us clues in where the story could go next.

Now, we are going to be honest. We can of course find minor inconveniences in the eight-hour show. But if you look at the complete runtime and compare it to the combined time for all the flaws we could find, the difference will be substantial. There is more of an amazing show rather than flaws present.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’ is not made up of flaws, it is one of the better shows Netflix has produced. Sure, you could always find minor errors in for example the editing, but that is not what is important. Important is having characters you care for, a story that excite & moves you as well as a visual layout that draws your attention. I think that is what is important to look for, and ‘AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER’ is filled with true gems, glimmering in the projector light.

Reviewed by Eddie Gustafsson. 

RATING: 4,5/5

By

Eddie G

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