April 19, 2024

Hollywood loves nothing greater than gnawing on the bones of preexisting IPs. Whether or not a reboot is sweet or not, it can virtually definitely be profitable. In terms of Avatar: The Final Airbender, the business powers that be ought to’ve discovered their lesson the primary time. In 2010, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko’s Nickelodeon present, extensively thought of one of many biggest animated collection of the twenty first century, was tailored by M. Evening Shyamalan in The Final Airbender. That movie is extensively thought of one of many worst films of the twenty first century. (We’re speaking a 5 p.c Rotten Tomatoes score). Sadly, it didn’t cease Netflix from making its flesh-and-blood-and CGI adaptation. One of the best factor to say about it’s no less than they did a greater job than Shyamalan.

Like the unique, Albert Kim’s model of Avatar: The Final Airbender is a fantastical journey story set in a world divided into 4 elemental cultures: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Hearth Nation, and the Air Nomads. Inside every, sure individuals referred to as “benders” are gifted with the flexibility to control their native aspect, whether or not they use it to combat, heal, construct, or fly. Then there’s the Avatar, an eternally reincarnated chosen one who can bend all 4, tasked with sustaining stability amongst people and spirits alike.

When Avatar begins, Hearth Lord Sozin (Hiro Kanagawa) has declared warfare on the world. He units out to beat his adversaries one after the other, starting by wiping out the Air Nomads in an try to finish the Avatar cycle eternally. 100 years later, the world remains to be with out a defender, and the Hearth Nation is steadily gaining floor. Seems our MIA hero, a 12-year-old Airbender named Aang (Gordon Cormier), has been frozen in an iceberg for the previous century. That’s, till Katara (Kiawentiio) and Sokka (Ian Ousley), a teenage brother and sister from the Southern Water Tribe, unwittingly thaw him out.

After an icy begin, the three hop aboard Aang’s flying bison and head north so the inexperienced younger Avatar can be taught to bend the opposite three parts and presumably save the Northern Water Tribe from a dire destiny. En route, Katara works on her water bending, Sokka makes out with a couple of girls, and Aang involves assistance from numerous of us they meet alongside the best way. Nevertheless it’s not all easy bison-riding for our trio. They’re being pursued by Zuko (Dallas Liu), the exiled prince of the Hearth Nation, who can solely return residence as soon as he’s captured the Avatar. Zuko and his Uncle Iroh (Paul Solar-Hyung Lee) are themselves dogged by Commander Zhao (Ken Leung), a Hearth Nation soldier decided to grab Aang himself—and take down the Northern Water Tribe, as a deal with. In the meantime, Zuko’s dad and sister hatch their very own plots from the palace.

Sequence creator Kim (Nikita, Sleepy Hole) and his workforce are aiming to keep away from the gravest sins dedicated by the 2010 film. Initially, the characters within the East Asian and Inuit-inspired animated collection had been performed virtually fully by white or Indian actors. Netflix’s Avatar, however, encompasses a solid reflecting the cartoon’s world. It’s a welcome and important change. The present additionally tries to hew nearer to the vibe of the unique with its colourful costumes and manufacturing design, gravity-defying motion sequences, and humorousness and marvel. The operative phrase right here is tries as a result of, sadly, the trouble exhibits. DiMartino and Konietzko had been initially connected to the difference, however they pulled out in 2020 citing artistic variations. And after eight awkward, uneven hourlong episodes, it’s simple to guess what their objections had been.

Like Aang’s air bending, the unique 22-minute collection felt easy in its top-notch character arcs, worldbuilding, combat choreography, and wit. It managed to stability lighthearted road-trip capers, edge-of-your-seat thrills, and heavy topics like familial trauma and the ethical price of warfare. This model, however, is weighed down by stiff performing, gradual pacing, robotic dialogue, touch-and-go CGI, and extra exposition than a military of earthbenders can deal with.

Avatar: The Final Airbender | Remaining Trailer | Netflix

The primary episode, specifically, is so lore-heavy and repetitive that newcomers to the world of Avatar will doubtless discover themselves midway between befuddled and bored. (In a single significantly awkward scene, Sokka and Katara’s grandmother recites the explanatory dialogue from the cartoon’s opening credit word-for-word). In an obvious nod to followers, the present makes an attempt to recreate a couple of of the cartoon’s most iconic scenes shot-for-shot: A raging Aang leveling the Southern Air Temple together with his bending, Zuko capturing vivid gouts of fireplace from his wrists in an in any other case colorless world. However these sequences solely spotlight what’s been misplaced in translation. There are issues an animator’s pen can try this digital results merely can’t.

Whereas there are a couple of genuinely spectacular set items, equivalent to an acrobatic jail break and a terrifying encounter within the Spirit World, most easily really feel inert. A climactic water bender-on-water bender showdown on the North Pole is about as thrilling as watching two children having a splash combat within the shallow finish. Additionally, watching adults bully and assault a cartoon little one is one factor, however witnessing, say, an aged King Bumi (Utkarsh Ambudkar, slathered in an unnerving quantity of old-age make-up) hurl boulders at a real-life little one is difficult to abdomen. These shortcomings may very well be forgiven if the fundamentals had been in place. However there isn’t a lot to work with within the horrible writing and performing that seldom rises above the extent of small-town group theater.

Just a few performances rise above the muck. As a sympathetic antihero with an epic character arc, Zuko is the unique collection’ most iconic character. Although he’s hamstrung by the script, PEN15‘s Liu does an honest job of conveying the Hearth Prince’s internal battle, significantly in flashback scenes reverse a sinister Daniel Dae Kim as his calculating, abusive father, King Ozai. As soon as he settles into his position, Ousley gives some much-needed comedian aid because the wisecracking Sokka. A lot of the different actors flounder. Lots of the youthful performers appear misplaced, whereas the adults merely look bored.

In the long run, it’s onerous to say who this model of Avatar is for, precisely. Followers of the unique shall be upset with the present’s charmless, uncanny-valley riff on the world they know and love. Newcomers could also be delay typically. There’s an argument to be made for live-action variations of beloved animated collection; Netflix’s personal One Piece, for instance, is a rollicking remix of the traditional anime that gleefully embraces its cartoonishness. Avatar: The Final Airbender tries so onerous to heft the load of its legacy that it finally ends up sweating bullets.

Avatar: The Final Airbender premieres on Netflix on February 22

Correction: An earlier model of this evaluate mistakenly said there are 10 episodes. There are eight.


This story initially appeared on The A.V. Membership.

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