Friday, February 23, 2024

Avatar: The Last Airbender - Aang

There were several questions heading into Netflix's new adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The opening episode "Aang," covering roughly the first three episodes of the animated series along with a prolonged opening helping set up the world now ravaged by the Fire Nation, answers a couple of the biggest about the series are provided in terms of if it would stay true to the same timeline as the original (it won't) and if it could convey CGI bending more effectively than the disappointing 2010 movie (it certainly does).

One of the challenges with adapted the series is Aang (Gordon Cormier) himself, a force of nature and often incapable of taking a situation seriously. The new version dials back on Aang's zaniness considerably and also tightens up the story structure leaving out how stubbornly slow he dragged his feet in progressing his story and how easily distracted and unaware of situations he can be. Changing events slightly to have Aang discovering his role as Avatar on the night of his disappearance also simplifies why Aang was away from the temple on the night he became trapped in the ice.

One episode in, the new series scores high marks for the recreations of the world and its characters as well as the fluid nature of all bending disciples we see on display. While M. Night Shyamalan had trouble conveying bending in anything that looked remotely natural, the examples we see on-screen here all look impressive. The choice to tone down the humor and the wackier over-the-top nature of the characters and allow them to feel more real is also welcome. The characters can still be goofy, and no doubt will be, but they certainly feel more rounded than their animated counterparts so far. 

Ian Ousley is going to have some challenges ahead dealing with Sokka's male chauvinism in a more realistic rendering of the world, especially considering where the trio are headed, but I thought both he and Kiawentiio as Katara captured the essence of the other two main characters while, like Cormier, bringing a bit more realism to their roles. We also get Dallas Liu as Prince Zuko and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as his lovable Uncle Iroh in their first encounter with the last of the Air Benders. While I think a live-action Zuko could grow annoying, so far I'm quite enjoying the charm of his uncle. And of course there's our lovely CGI rending of Appa. Yip yip!

  • Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender - Aang
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