Television Review: The Last Airbender Season One

My family just finished the first season of the new live action The Last Airbender on Netflix, and I was super impressed. For context, I’ve watched some of the animated show, but I didn’t finish it. (I can’t remember why. I think I struggle to finish entire animated seasons. I haven’t thought too much about the reasons behind that.) Also, what I did watch of the anime was years ago, so I had almost no recollection of what was in it other than the basic elemental bending and flying bison.

The live-action show was fantastic. The storyline was gripping, the plot moved along at a good rate and came to what felt like a conclusion, even though there’s more of the story to tell, of course. The action sequences were top notch, and the effects were also right up there. Really, if there’s anything I’d quibble about, it would be some of the acting left some to be desired. (Though some of that was child acting, and it’s really hard to get a great performance sometimes out of an ensemble of child actors.)

I gave the show a 9/10 and heartily recommend it to anyone, but particularly for people who are looking for a good show to watch with their family. MC (10yo) watched it and loved it, and she’s usually skittish about anything that’s too tense.

As I was watching it, however, I couldn’t help ask myself why I was enjoying this adaptation so much while the Disney live action movies have just left me with no motivation to watch. I’ve watched The Jungle Book and that’s about it. (Maybe Beauty and the Beast?) How is The Last Airbender any different?

After talking it over with the family some, I think the main reason is that the Disney movies feel like nothing more than a money grab. There’s no real motivation behind making the films other than to . . . recreate the films with people and not animation. Any time that’s the sole purpose behind a creative project, the result isn’t likely to turn out all that well.

Also, some things just don’t work as well with live action. Will Smith is not the Genie. End of story. A live-action, singing crab is a thing from nightmares, not a fun loving sidekick.

I don’t know. The Disney versions feel a lot like most of the Harry Potter movies. Taking something that was beloved in one medium and trying to do exactly that in a new medium, and they just don’t click for me. With The Last Airbender, the story all just worked. Daniela said they changed some things significantly, though I have no idea what. And as I think about it, One Piece (also on Netflix) also did a great job adapting an anime. Perhaps it has to do with the creative talent. Perhaps it’s on me for not watching the other Disney movies. But in the end, there just didn’t seem to be a reason to. I heard great things about The Last Airbender to the point that I wanted to check it out. There was none of that for the Disney stuff, so perhaps it’s just a case of “good adaptation” vs. “bad adaptation.”

(And for the record, for me, a “good adaptation” is an adaptation that works as a movie while capturing the spirit of the book. No need for a scene by scene retread. Many changes can and likely should be made. At the end of the day, was it a movie that can stand well on its own?)

But all of that is beside the point, I guess. The bottom line is that I think you should check this TV show out, regardless of your age. Happy watching!

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