First Reviews for Netflix’s Avatar: Last Airbender: Critics Share Mixed Reactions to Live-Action Show

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Netflix, Avatar, The Last Airbender Aang

With the February 22 release date of Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender right around the corner, reactions and reviews from critics are starting to arrive.

[ Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender Cast & Characters In Live-Action Show (Photos) ]

First Critic Reactions to Netflix's Avatar

Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action show

Netflix recently held the official red carpet premiere for Avatar: The Last Airbender in Los Angeles, and afterward, critics shared their first thoughts and reviews on X (formerly Twitter) about what they've seen so far.

Collider's Mike Thomas proclaimed that it "is fantastic," also noting how the actors "FEEL like Team Avatar:

"The first episode of Netflix's 'Avatar The Last Airbender' is fantastic! From the opening scene, you realize that this is far better than the 2010 film. The fights are great, but the standouts are the actors. These kids FEEL like Team Avatar. A fun new take on a timeless classic."

Joshua Yehl from IGN echoed that same sentiment while also sharing that this take is "more dramatic, mature, and violent than the original:"

"The first episode of Netflix’s 'Avatar The Last Airbender' is pretty incredible. It’s more dramatic, mature, and violent than the original. The best part is what they add to flesh out and enrich the story we already know, like showing the Order 66 of the airbenders. A great start!"

Anthony from The Movie Podcast praised its "faithful visual adaptation" but admitted that it "stumbles in cast performances, narrative, & philosophical depth:"

"'Avatar The Last Airbender' Ep 1 Dazzles with its GRAND SCALE & VIBRANT environments. Fans can rejoice in its faithful visual adaptation and stylistic action sequences. Yet, it slightly stumbles in cast performances, narrative, & philosophical depth. Excited for how S1 ends!"

Critic David Opie shared that "eps 1 + 2 are pretty decent," but "there are definitely issues:"

"'Avatar The Last Airbender' eps 1 + 2 are pretty decent so far and I say that as an obsessive fan. There are definitely issues, but it’s better than the controversies would have you think. If you’re open to it, you’ll have fun, but if you’ve already made up your mind, you’ll hate it."

Rama's Screen claimed the first episode "was spectacular," praising both the cast and visuals:

"Netflix AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER ep.1 was spectacular! This Live-Action version has done the old animated show -- of which I was a fan -- incredible justice. The cast were terrific, the visuals were remarkable and Gordon Cormier (Aang) is a revelation."

@RenGeekness showered praise onto the project, exclaiming how "the cast brings to life the characters & dynamics in all new ways:"

"I can confidently say I fell in love with the world of 'Avatar The Last Airbender' all over again! The cast brings to life the characters & dynamics in all new ways forging its own path in this fantastic story with compelling characterizations, breathtaking world-building & action."

IGN writer Rafael Motamayor wasn't nearly as positive, blatantly saying that the first episode "is a huge letdown" consisting of "too much exposition, poor writing & horrible pacing:"

"I am finally allowed to say that the first episode of 'Avatar The Last Airbender' is a huge letdown. Sure, the bending looks great and generally the visuals are solid, but this is a mixed bag of an adaptation. Too much exposition, poor writing & horrible pacing. Dallas Liu rules, tho."

Film critic Sean Boelman also noted the abundance of exposition while reinforcing how this show is still "much better than the last live-action version of this property:"

"As someone who grew up watching the animated show, I thought episode 1 of 'Avatar The Last Airbender' was a solid start. It's a lot of exposition, but Gordon Komier is great, and the visuals are quite good. *Certainly* much better than the last live-action version of this property."

Journalist Kristen Maldonado stated that while it "isn't perfect," there's "a spark of something special here:"

"'Avatar The Last Airbender' isn’t perfect, but there’s a spark of something special here filled with humor & heart. It’s amazing to see so many Indigenous & Asian faces on our screens. Dallas Liu is a star, Ian Ousley has the best lines & this is my fav Amber Midthunder performance."

The Streamr writer Caiden Reed shared that "[they] definitely can see how some may not like it as much:"

"I really enjoyed the first episode of 'Avatar The Last Airbender'. I'm getting a better understanding of why they made certain changes. I definitely can see how some may not like it as much. Some of the bending's visuals are slightly off. I hope to enjoy the rest of [the show."

@TwoLetterMo was notably rough on the project, explaining that the show feels "in a rush to get somewhere and feels completely isolating for new viewers:"

"I can only give thoughts on Ep 1 of Netflix’s 'Avatar The Last Airbender' but… Yikes! The show is in a rush to get somewhere and feels completely isolating for new viewers, paying lip-service to beats from the animated show with very little care. You'll know if this is for you and this is not for me."

@LuminousDagger echoed a similarly negative stance, claiming that the show is "off to a bad start," and that "mischaracterization is present and VFX looks unfinished:"

"I've watched the first episode of 'Avatar: The Last Airbender', and it's off to a bad start. The life and colour that was once there is now non-existent in this live-action adaptation. Mischaracterization is present and VFX looks unfinished when not focused on the bending."

Could Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender Be a Disappointment?

For many fans, seeing negative thoughts on this new adaptation is undoubtedly disappointing, especially since everything up until this point seemed faithful and high quality.

Hopefully, audiences can take solace because no one seems to think it is worse than M. Night Shyamalan's critically panned 2010 film.

A lot is riding on the success of this project for Netflix. With Stranger Things coming to a close, the studio is undoubtedly looking for the next big thing—and Avatar could easily fit the bill.

Not only are there more seasons built into the story, but there's plenty of potential for spin-offs, such as an adaptation of The Legend of Korra or even another original idea set in the same world.

[ Avatar: The Last Airbender Movie: Fire Look at Adult Aang, Zuko & More ]

Avatar: The Last Airbender debuts on Netflix on Thursday, February 22.

- In This Article: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Release Date
February 22, 2024
Dallas Liu
Gordon Cormier
Ian Ousley
- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.