Avatar: The Last Airbender Episode 1 is a mixed bag with rushed pacing and decent action

Avatar: the Last AIrbender is here! And it's... okay.

This is it! The moment we've all been waiting for: a high-budget live action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender. But is it actually good? Kind of...

I have to admit, the first 20 minutes of the series premiere were pretty captivating as a life-long Avatar fan. I respect the chronological story-telling where we begin in Fire Lord Sozin's time. Although we'll learn more about Sozin's motivations later, I think we get enough of why he decides to attack the Airbenders: because he wants eliminate the next Avatar. He knows the Avatar will be an airbender and that they will be the only person who can stop his war machine from taking over the world.

This means we get to see Avatar Aang, our lead character, hanging out at the Southern Air Temple with Monk Gyatso early on. We get a good idea of his culture; the airbenders are a little laid back in their lifestyle, but their high council is eager for Aang to begin his training. Apparently they got the memo that the Fire Nation was coming but they still decided to gather every Airbender in one place so they can celebrate the coming of the comet which will lead to their destruction, so maybe that was a bad idea.

Short-sighted stargazing party aside, I'm glad we got to see Sozin's invasion of the air temple because it lays out the stakes of the story pretty clearly. The Fire Nation is willing to eliminate an entire culture to take over the world; seeing Sozin personally lead his firebenders into the temple gave me Order 66 vibes. Gyatso gets a noble last stand before getting fried by the Fire Lord and we get a nice sequence of airbenders showing off their bending but ultimately unable to withstand the comet-buffed firebenders.

Meanwhile, in the future

After the genocide, the show jumps to the present, where Katara and Sokka find Aang frozen in the iceberg and the show moves at a rapid pace. Rapid to a fault in my opinion. Within the span of 40 minutes, Sokka and Katara find Aang, Gran Gran deduces that Aang is the last airbender through what felt like a forced exposition dump, Zuko captures Aang, and he escapes and sets out to master the four elements. It's easy to keep up if you're familiar with the world and characters, but I can see new fans getting frustrated with rules and scope of the story.

There's also a few points where the writing is laughably bad. When Aang is thrown in a cell in Zuko's ship, he airbends the keys in the most obvious and loud way right in front of the guards, who brush it off like it's nothing and Aang escapes within seconds. I know Aang can't spend a ton of time captured at this point, but that doesn't change the fact that this sequence felt really cheap and lazy.

Writing screw-ups aside, I think the basics of this show are mostly good. The costume design is on point, the bending looked leaps and bounds better than the previous Avatar live-action attempt and the cast is fairly on the money. The only one who fails to get me excited is sadly Gordon Cormier in the role of Aang. A cartoon 12-year-old has a different vibe from a a live-action version and I find a lot of his line delivery pretty cringe. I hope he'll grow on me as the season goes on but I would have preferred a slightly aged-up Aang for a show like this.

All in all, the first episode kept me engaged. I mostly liked what I saw and I got the vibe that the showrunners respect the source material and made changes where they thought necessary.

Episode Grade: B-

Next. atla 2. Avatar: The Last Airbender Episode 2 makes come big changes, some good and some bad. dark

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