Netflix Avatar Star Gets Candid on the Show’s Critical Reviews (Exclusive)

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Iroh in Netflix Avatar Last Airbender

One of the stars behind Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender got honest about some of the reviews critics gave the show.

Fans were extremely excited ahead of the live-action series' release, especially since everything about the project looked so accurate to the original series.

Sadly, when Avatar finally aired, the reception to it was lukewarm. Critics were vocally disappointed by many aspects of it—though parts of it got constant praise, such as the performances from Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Dallas Liu as Uncle Iroh and Zuko.

The show currently sits at a 60% critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 73% audience score.

[ Avatar Netflix Season 2: Dallas Liu Reveals His Big Hopes for Upcoming Episodes (Exclusive) ]

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee Gets Honest About Critical Reception

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee shared his honest thoughts with The Direct at Paleyfest 2024 about the reviews the Netflix series received when it was released.

Lee admitted he "was actually really surprised at how critical some of the outlets were towards it:"

"That's a really good question. There was the gamut of responses that I was expecting, like, I was hoping that fans would really dig it. I was actually surprised at how critical some of the outlets were towards it. It was almost like--and I'm biased, I'm biased, because you know, I'm part of it."

"It looked like some of those reviewers just had already made up their minds beforehand," the actor continued:

"But from my point of view, it looked like some of these reviewers just had already made up their minds beforehand, based on everything that they heard instead of the actual, like actually watching the show. And they were ready to just pick it apart. Whereas the fans really sort of embraced it. And were like, I don't know about this, I'm cautiously optimistic. But the majority of them really enjoyed it."

Lee explained how people should "approach different things with different sets of expectations," a mentality "that’s good for anything in real life:"

"And I think that's what we need to do is just sort of approach different things with different sets of expectations, in a sense, and not to prejudge and make up our minds before you have a chance to view anything. And I think that's good for anything in real life, is to really have an open mind, go in, experience it, instead of going, 'I'm going to judge this,' instead of, 'I'm going to watch this, and I'll see.' And then I will be critical or I will, you know, be judgmental, or whatever. But that's all you ask for in life. It's like not to be judged before the work is shown."

"It’s one of those things that have to grow," Lee noted, adding that it’s "very rare that something is pitch-perfect right out of the gates:"

"And I'm really impressed with the fan community for doing and embracing that. It was really kind of going well; it wasn't perfect, but we really did enjoy it. And then, at the end of the day, that's all you want. And we're learning, too. So, it's one of those things where things have to grow. It's very, very rare that something is pitch-perfect right out of the gates, right?"

When it comes to fan reception, Dallas Liu told The Direct how he "love[s] seeing just how stoked everyone is on the bending effects:"

"I'd say, like, I love seeing just how stoked everyone is about the bending effects in our show. I think Jabbar [Raisani] and his team really nailed that part of like, what everyone loves about the original."

Producer Jabbar Raisani revealed it is "the fan reception to the show" he's most proud of:

"I mean, really, the fan reception to the show, right? Like, we tried to make this thing that felt like the animated series, had the heart and soul of the animated series, but lived in breath in a live-action world and people responded to that. That was a very challenging thing to actually do."

Arden Cho, the actress who plays June, shares how she has been "really happy to see everyone enjoying and loving the show:"

"I think I'm really happy to see everyone enjoying and loving the show. And there's just so many different things that are being noticed. And yeah, I think I knew people would love this because everybody's working hard on it. And it's such a loved story to begin with. I'm so excited to be a part of it. But yeah, I think what I'm enjoying the most is sort of seeing the response to all the kids and everything and just the world [of Avatar]. I love the world... The world is so fun; it's so fun to be a part of it."

[ Avatar Star Dallas Liu Explains Zuko & Katara's Rivalry In Live-Action Show (Exclusive) ]

Letting Avatar: The Last Airbender Find Its Footing

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee has a point—countless shows have grown exponentially in quality as they went on. Some just take time to find their footing.

With Season 1 in the wild and audiences giving plenty of feedback, the creative team has every chance to improve upon the foundation they’ve already built. They don't even need to worry about whether they will be able to finish the story.

If Netflix can knock the next two seasons out of the park, there is a good chance fans can expect even more stories to be told in that universe. Maybe one of the upcoming new adult Aang movies could get an adaptation or even the Legend of Korra.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is now streaming on Netflix.

Read more about Avatar:

'It's Gonna Suck': Avatar Netflix Star Prepares Fans for Season 2 Conflict (Exclusive)

Avatar: The Last Airbender Zuko’s Live-Action Vs. Animation Differences Explained by Dallas Liu (Exclusive)

Who Is Sebastian Amoruso? 5 Things to Know About Avatar's Jet Actor from Netflix Live-Action Series

- 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.