Netflix’s ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Once Again Fumbles the Source Material | Exclaim!

Avatar: The Last Airbender

As with any adaptation, Avatar walks a tricky line, seeking to please fans of the original material and appeal to new fans. Showrunner Albert Kim has publicly said that one of his goals was to broaden the appeal to an adult audience, citing Game of Thrones as an example of the tone he’d like to set — a tone he strikes within the show’s first few minutes when a character is immolated on screen by the series villains, the Fire Nation. An incongruity is apparent just as quickly, though, as the series looks and feels like a live-action adaptation of the made-for-children source material. Costumes are pristine and colourful, and the makeup effects are over the top — a cartoonish quality that doesn’t quite fit with the adult violence on screen.

This dichotomy is the underlying theme of the show; there’s a push-and-pull relationship between these two goals in the adaptation, and because it doesn’t commit to either of them, neither of them quite works. It’s frustrating throughout, and many of the choices made for this adaptation — even the ones that are good on paper — feel off.