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The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

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Unlike film flop, live-action adaptation of beloved show pays homage in a modern way

Ell Ruggles
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the protagonist is a young boy named Aang who must embrace his role as the Avatar to save the world from destruction. In the live-action series, he is portrayed by Gordon Cormier.

Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony.

Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

This introduction might sound familiar. Avatar: The Last Airbender, affectionately known as ATLA, is a show that many people know and love. The characters are relatable. The humor is sweet. The storytelling is beautifully crafted and the progression is natural. The show’s deep themes transcend age, race and nationality, resulting in a devoted global fan following.

Thus, when the development of a live-action series was announced in 2018, fans were skeptical, especially after the notable failure of the 2010 film The Last Airbender.

There were so many things wrong with that movie.

The tribes in the original ATLA were modeled after different groups of people. According to Baron News, waterbenders were inspired by the Inuit, earthbenders were inspired by the Chinese, firebenders were inspired by the Japanese and airbenders were inspired by Tibetan monks.

The film ignored this all and cast mainly Caucasian actors in those roles. Actors well over 20 were cast in the roles of pre-teens. The performances were less-than-stellar, the cast had zero charisma and the special effects seemed like an afterthought. Let’s be real: does it really take six earthbenders to move one small rock?

To the delight of fans, the live-action series solved all these problems.

The cast is wonderfully diverse, and they are actually near the age of the characters they are playing. 14-year old Gordon Cormier (Aang) is of Filipino descent, 17-year old Kiawentiio Tarbell (Katara) is from the Mohawk Nation, 22-year old Ian Ousley (Sokka) is Cherokee and 22-year old Dallas Liu (Zuko) is of Chinese-Indonesian descent. Each of these young stars truly embodies the characters they play. Off-screen, especially during interviews, they’re a tight-knit family with inside jokes and even some “sibling rivalry,” which adds to the chemistry of the whole series on-screen.

The storyline is slightly different from that of the animated series; after all, the original series had 61 episodes, so many events had to be condensed to fit the live-action requirements. For example, the events of the Cave of Two Lovers, Omashu and Ba Sing Se all happen in one 50-minute episode. However, this doesn’t detract from the story; the combination is actually done really well, allowing for the storyline to flow without it feeling too rushed.

Currently, only the first season has been released, though it won’t be like this for long. According to TeenVogue, Netflix has already renewed the series for seasons two and three on March 6, 2024, just two weeks after the premiere. This shows the popularity of the beloved series and attests to people’s approval of the live-action version. I count myself among this group; I went in expecting another terrible attempt at a live-action adaptation but was positively stunned by the amazing series.

However, some critics blatantly ignore the obvious charm of the live-action series and its actors and proclaim that the original was much better.

They’re right and wrong.

The original series is a legendary work of art, a pure masterpiece — nothing can top that, but things can come close. Stop comparing the live-action to the animated. Instead, look at the live-action series by itself in all its glory and appreciate the advanced special effects, wonderful storytelling and cultural representation.

Watch it on Netflix, and get ready to be blown away.

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About the Contributors
Mihika Sakharpe
Mihika Sakharpe, Design Editor
Mihika Sakharpe, a freshman in the Math and Science Academy, is a design editor and first-year journalist for The Current. She loves STEM, debate, and languages (seven so far). She is a cricket fanatic and would eat sushi everyday if she could. Outside of school, she is a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. Her dream is to pursue rocketry and make humans an interplanetary species. Her goal is to write a diverse array of award-winning articles.
Ell Ruggles
Ell Ruggles, Staff Writer
Ell Ruggles is a sophomore and first year journalist for The Current. Outside of school, she enjoys cooking, drawing, creative writing, playing with her pets, reading, listening to music and shopping for new books and records. She is on the Teen Advisory Board at the Oceanfront Library, in book club and the publicity chair for Dolphin Dash. In the future, she would like to explore creative arts and hopefully become an artist or fantasy author.

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