The Complex Dynamic of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and Its Live-Action Adaptation

Virginia Vance // The Watchdog

The live-action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has been renewed for seasons two and three by Netflix. Despite receiving mixed reviews, viewership has told a different story. However, there are questions posed by critics that are yet to be addressed. Was this remake necessary? When will Hollywood learn to leave well enough alone?

Live-action adaptations have skyrocketed in popularity, but are often viewed as cash-grabs by skeptics. Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” did its best to remain true to the original — at times, to its own detriment. Confined to a first season of eight episodes, the series attempted to convey the trials of a journey originally told through a twenty-episode season. It is unsurprising that a lot of details were lost to this structure — that storylines were changed or even combined. The unfortunate use of expository writing may also leave some feeling underestimated as viewers. However, this does not mean that the show isn’t a compelling watch in its own right, overall.

What was not lost in this remake is the magic of worldbuilding. Benders being brought to life in a realistic yet fantastical way was special to both newcomers and those devoted to the original. For some, what was imagined on screen was bound to fall short of their expectations. For others, this remake was an introduction to the magic and lessons of its animated counterpart — the staple of so many childhoods, past and present.

This remake was by no means better than the original; it may not even compare. But some fans were always going to be unhappy with the result of this adaptation, when there may be a completely different intended audience. There are many viewers who have yet to experience this story, and some who welcome seeing it through a new lens. The expectations behind such an iconic series will continue to be incredibly high — perhaps, impossible to live up to. Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” was not without its faults, but viewers may find themselves surprised to enjoy this series regardless.