New Netflix adaptation of iconic animated series has fans and critics split

Is it yip-yip or nope-nope?

Avatar: The Last Airbender
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netlix has gone big with its live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Fans and critics however are more divided about this new spin on the acclaimed story of Aang. 

For a generation of teenagers and young adults, the word Avatar didn't conjure up a world of giant blue aliens in James Cameron's mega-franchise. Instead, we thought of a young boy from humble beginnings, destined for greatness. We thought of Aang. 

The animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender is a touchstone for many under 30. It ran for four seasons, a movie and spin-off show (The Legend of Korra) which in itself had over 50 episodes. That's a pretty significant impact, so of course much like One Piece, it was a prime candidate for the Netflix live-action treatment. 

Given the original show's success and its 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating with critics (98% with audiences), there is understandable anxiety about the adaptation which launched last week. Now that the dust has settled we can see that (at the time of writing), with a 60% critics score and 75% audience score, it hasn't quite managed to capture the same magic as the original. Of course, both are streets ahead of the 2010 live-action movie (that we will never talk about again) which sets on just 5%. 

With such a large fanbase, it's no surprise that the 8-episode first season has shot up the Netflix charts, but what is it about, and does it pay respect to its roots?

In a world divided by four elements, air, fire, earth and water, select individuals have the power to 'bend' their specific element to their will. But only one of them. Except that is for Aang, the last Airbender alive, who is destined to become the avatar and control all four elements. He soon forms a crew with companions Sokka and Katara  (Toph hasn't been cast yet) to take on the vicious Fire Nation. 

So the basic premise is of course the same, but there are also plenty of nods to the original series. Several voice actors pop up in new roles (or for one famous vegetable seller, the same role) including George Takei himself!

Of course, seeing the world come to life in big-budget live-action is for many fans a dream come true, but it's hard to compress a 20-episode animated season into 8 Netflix episodes. If you've never watched the original Avatar, the accessibility of live-action might just convince you to give it a go. 

Andy Sansom
Staff Writer

Andy is T3's Tech Staff Writer, covering all things technology, including his biggest passions such as gaming, AI, phones, and basically anything cool and expensive he can get his hands on. If he had to save one possession from a fire it would be his PlayStation 5. He previously worked for Tom’s Guide - where he got paid to play with ChatGPT every day. When it comes to streaming, Andy will have his headphones glued in whilst watching something that will make him laugh. He studied Creative Writing at university, but also enjoys supporting his favourite football team (Liverpool), watching F1, teaching himself guitar, and spending time with his dog.