Critics and fans agree: Avatar: The Last Airbender is fine, watchable

Netflix's live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender is miles better than the 2010 movie version, but doesn't recapture the magic of the animated original.
Avatar: The Last Airbender. (L to R) Gordon Cormier as Ang, Kiawentiio as Katara, Ian Ousley as Sokka in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Cr. Netflix © 2024
Avatar: The Last Airbender. (L to R) Gordon Cormier as Ang, Kiawentiio as Katara, Ian Ousley as Sokka in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Cr. Netflix © 2024 /

Today, Netflix dropped the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its remake of the beloved animated Nickelodeon show of the same name. The show follows the adventures of Aang, a 12-year-old child who just happens to be the Avatar, the only person in this world who can control all four elements: air, earth, water and fire. It's the Avatar's responsibility to bring balance to the world, and with the tyrannical Fire Nation waging war on the rest of the planet, his services are urgently needed.

The original show has stood the test of time, and fans are scrutinizing this new series to see if it lives up to its source material. M. Night Shyamalan made a live-action movie version of The Last Airbender in 2010, and it was so bad it's still held up as an example of how not to adapt a cartoon. Would the Netflix show get it right?

Now that the reviews are out, the answer seems to be: somewhat. By and large, critics and fans agree that the show is pretty good, perhaps among Netflix's better attempts to remake animated series in live-action form, but not the best, and still short of the original show.

Before we look at the reviews, there are outliers on both sides. "Avatar The Last Airbender is almost perfect," raves Zach Pope. "Very quickly dismissed many of my worries...The bending looks phenomenal! The main trio is also GREAT." Meanwhile, USA Today was far less impressed. "Both too slavish to the original and too far removed from it, the new Avatar fails in every way," writes Kelly Lawler. "And it’s infuriating."

But generally, critics seem to fall into the realm of, "It's alright." A sampling:

  • Mashable: "The new show is nowhere near the failure of the film, nor as spectacular as the series — but it's not of uniform quality, either."
  • IGN Movies: "The live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series enriches the original story with meaningful new material, but its breakneck pacing, exposition-heavy dialogue, and hit-or-miss effects aren’t precisely in balance."
  • Collider: "Its eight episodes hit the big highlights of the original show, but miss all the small detail that makes those scenes soar. While the new series starts strong, the cracks begin to show once it starts trying to braid together different storylines."

Some critics go a bit more negative:

  • TV Guide: "Its thin writing and lack of emotional resonance provide a poor distraction from its technical flaws, reiterating that there's no good reason for this remake to exist in the first place."
  • Empire Magazine: "Some canny casting choices can’t rescue the show from uninspiring craft and tonal confusion."

People seem to agree that the show is well cast and looks good. For some, that could be enough to get them in the door. Others lament that the show doesn't quite cohere as a compelling epic. But this show is watchable, which is an improvement on the last attempt. If folks check this out, many will probably enjoy it.

  • Paste Magazine: "Despite its imperfections, it still manages to make good on the sturdy bones of this tale, expressing the personal journeys wrapped up in this grandiose, world-threatening quest."
  • Daily Telegraph: "It’s solid entertainment: fast-moving, action-packed, with decent fight scenes and some appealing performances, all done on a generous Netflix budget."
  • RIOTUS: "It's a meet-cute for new fans, a love letter to the fandom, and a fun saga that finds far more ways to enchant and entertain than to disappoint. It isn’t flawless, but it doesn't need to be."

What do fans think of Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender remake?

Right now, Avatar: The Last Airbender has a 62% fresh rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a 78% fresh rating among audiences. So fans are being kinder, although the same themes pop up in their reviews:

  • Evan A: "It’s absolutely watchable. Visually pretty good though the bending suffers sometimes. I honestly think it was a bit of an accident that it’s as good as it is, though. It’s almost jarring how much the showrunners just didn’t get the original. Aang’s journey in this show is not about coming to terms with the fact that he needs to be the Avatar. That seems to be mentioned by other characters every once in a while, but he immediately dismisses the idea that he’s hesitant about his responsibilities. That being said; all the same beats get hit, and everything that happens in the original happens here. Just be advised that just about every single thing that happens does so for different reasons. Everybody’s motivations are radically different, the tone of the show is not what I’d call “light hearted” (they try sometimes, but it’s cringe when they do), and they definitely add some things as elaboration that I definitely never asked for and didn’t necessarily need. Their attempts to remain faithful actually seem to hinder this show more than help. It’s fine as a show, just don’t expect the nostalgia to hit right."
  • Naca K: "would have loved it if more focus wouldve been given to see the characters relationships develop instead like the original instead of an instant connection. loved that it didnt entirely stick to the original and gave us other stories like the air nomad genocide. excited for season 2!!!"
  • King C: "Not perfect (a little too serious for my liking and the acting is a little wonky at times) but it's far from terrible and I believe they're doing the best with what they've been given, even if it could've been a little better. On the bright side, if it gets another season it has the chance to go up from here"

Good, bad, or mid, Netflix will be paying close attention to see if Avatar: The Last Airbender becomes a big hit. Only then will it be guaranteed a second season. Will you be watching?

dark. Next. atla. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Every confirmed change to Netflix's remake

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