New live-action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ sparks comparisons

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The main protagonist, Aang, embarks on a journey to master all four elements and confront the Fire Nation. Fans of the animated series have mixed reactions to the Netflix live-action series released this year. (Vecteezy.com)

Fans of the original cartoon series said seeing Netflix’s live-action “Avatar: The Last Airbender” wasn’t unbearably painful, but it wasn’t without flaws, either.

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is an animated television series that aired on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. It consists of a world where some individuals can manipulate, or “bend,” the four classical elements: air, water, earth and fire.

On February 22, Netflix premiered its first season of a live-action adaptation of the show, bringing the beloved animated series to life once again.

Despite initial optimism, some BYU fans of the original series voiced concerns about character portrayal and plot-line differences.

“I watched one full episode and I just wasn’t hooked,” BYU senior Josh Veach said. “It was better than the movie that they made but it also just didn’t have the same feel as the O.G. one.”

Lore holds laptop with Avatar stickers. His depth of knowledge about the show is evident from his complete DVD collection. (Elsa Bray)

While hopes were high for redemption from M. Night Shyamalan’s 2010 film adaptation, which fell short of capturing the series’ essence, Netflix’s take still left much to be desired.

Veach grew up watching the original series in elementary school and has watched it multiple times since then. He refers to the show as his “O.G.”

It was the first show he watched after he came back from serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The older I get, the more I come to appreciate the characters and the systems of magic,” he said.

Veach said the adaptation also faces scrutiny for its handling of the storyline. The animated series has 20 episodes in a season, while the live-action one only has eight in the first season. This has condensed things a lot for certain characters and plots.

Other BYU students who also grew up watching the show expressed similar concerns as Veach.

“They’re combining plot lines and condensing the story, which changes the dynamic,” BYU sophomore Brian Lore said. “It’s a different experience altogether.”

The students also observed instances where the casting choices for the show fell short of expectations.

“I hate to hate on actors, especially child actors but some of the acting, man,” Veach said.

Lore also noted some characters were better than others.

“Some of the choices and characters and casting that they did were really poor. And they also did better with other characters,” Lore said.

Although less harsh in her critique, BYU junior Kenna Shumway said the new live-action show was just not the same.

“Obviously, it’s not going to be as good as the original, especially since we grew up on it, but it has a lot of great parts to it. I think it’s cool to see how bending would work in more of a physical world rather than animation, so that’s cool to see,” she said.

Overall, Shumway said she wouldn’t rewatch the season anytime soon, but that it wasn’t hugely offensive to her.

Netflix subscribers can find both the animated series and the first live-action season of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” on Netflix.

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