Comparing The new Netflix Avatar Live Action Cast vs “The Last Airbender 2010” Film casting: who wins?

Aang in The Last Airbender 2010 movie (left) and Netflix Avatar live action (right)

Netflix live-action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has gained excitement over Live Action Casting choices amongst fans, especially now given that Avatar has also gained the title of anime. Another huge part of that anticipation for the show is the cast. In contrast to the poorly received 2010 movie adaptation, this new series provided us with a faithful portrayal of the cast by depicting Asian-focused and indigenous representation, aligning with the characters’ ethnicities in the animated series.

Comparing Netflix Avatar Live Action Cast to The Last Airbender 2010 Movie Cast

One of the biggest criticisms aimed at the 2010 live-action film was its “whitewashing” of characters originally depicted as Asian and Indigenous. Netflix’s cast, featuring actors like Gordon Cormier (Aang), Kiawentiio (Katara), and Ian Ousley (Sokka), reflects the ethnicities of their animated counterparts.

Netflix’s “Avatar” boasts a cast filled with seasoned actors. Daniel Dae Kim (Fire Lord Ozai’s voice in “The Legend of Korra”) and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee bring a wealth of experience to the series, promising a more nuanced portrayal of the Fire Nation. Let’s compare the main cast selections for Avatar in these two adaptations to find out the accuracy of each portrayal:

Cast:  2010 movie  2024 Netflix adaptation 
Aang  Noah Ringer: Accusations of whitewashing due to the poor portrayal of Aang. Aang (Gordon Cormier): His acting lends itself to being the fun goofy kid from the og animation.
Katara  Nicola Peltz: really poor acting, mainly because of no prior acting experience. Kiawenti:io Tarbell: Received praise for her acting despite the limitations of her character’s development.
Sokka  Sokka (Jackson Rathbone): Strayed away from the character’s ethnicity and mainly Sokka’s personality. Ousley has attracted the attention from fans depicting accurately of the sarcastic Sokka.
Prince Zuko  Zuko (Dev Patel): Zuko was originally portrayed as Fire Nation, a distinct ethnicity in the series. Zuko (Dallas Liu): His serious persona has been appreciated by fans with every scene of him bringing enjoyment to the show.

 

Aang

A still of Aang from The Last Airbender 2010 (left), The animation (middle), and Netflix Avatar adaptation (right)
Aang in The Last Airbender 2010 (left), The animation (middle), and Netflix Avatar adaptation (right) | Courtesy of M. Night Shyamalan, Nickelodeon, Netflix

2010 Movie:

Noah Ringer is a young martial artist and no prior acting experience, with a background in gymnastics, Ringer brought impressive physicality to the role of Aang. Ringer’s casting as the traditionally Asian Aang was a major point of criticism, sparking accusations of whitewashing.

2024 Netflix Series:

Aang (Gordon Cormier): A young Canadian actor who played Joe in The Stand (2020), Cormier has expressed his lifelong fandom for Avatar. Even though he is originally not East Asian but his acting has been highly praised by fans in the Netflix Avatar adaptation.

Katara

A still of Katara from The Last Airbender 2010 (left), The animation (middle), and Netflix Avatar adaptation (right)
Katara in The Last Airbender 2010 (left), The animation (middle), and Netflix Avatar adaptation (right) | Courtesy of M. Night Shyamalan, Nickelodeon, Netflix

2010 Movie:

Nicola Peltz: A British actress known for her role in “The Last Airbender”. Peltz’s casting as the waterbending Katara, originally depicted as Indigenous, drew the most criticism amongst all main characters in the 2010 avatar film due to her really poor acting.

2024 Netflix Series:

Kiawenti:io Tarbell, also known as Kiawentiio, is a First Nations actress and singer-songwriter. She made her television debut in the third season of the CBC series “Anne with an E” and her film debut in “Beans.”

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Even though the directing and portrayal of the personality of Katara is not much liked by fans in the Live Action due to altering the og character’s personality, but Kiawentiio received praise for her acting despite the limitations of her character’s development.

Also read: How has Toph from Avatar the Last Airbender affected our perception of people with special needs?

Sokka

Sokka in The Last Airbender 2010 (left), The animation (middle), and Netflix Avatar adaptation (right)
Sokka in The Last Airbender 2010 (left), The animation (middle), and Netflix Avatar adaptation (right) | Courtesy of M. Night Shyamalan, Nickelodeon, Netflix

2010 Movie:

Sokka (Jackson Rathbone): Best known for his role as Jasper Hale in the “Twilight” franchise, Rathbone’s portrayal of the sarcastic Sokka (originally Indigenous) also faced criticism for straying from the character’s ethnicity and mainly Sokka’s personality.

2024 Netflix Series:

Sokka (Ian Ousley): A newcomer with a background in theater, Ousley is a blank slate for fans, piquing their curiosity about his portrayal of the resourceful Sokka.

Zuko

Zuko in The Last Airbender 2010 (left), The animation (middle), and Netflix Avatar adaptation (right)
Zuko in The Last Airbender 2010 (left), The animation (middle), and Netflix Avatar adaptation (right) | Courtesy of M. Night Shyamalan, Nickelodeon, Netflix

2010 Movie:

Zuko (Dev Patel): The lone bright spot in terms of ethnicity, Patel, of Indian descent, brought his acting chops honed in films like “Slumdog Millionaire” to the conflicted Prince Zuko. However, Zuko was originally portrayed as Fire Nation, a distinct ethnicity in the series.

2024 Netflix Series:

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Zuko (Dallas Liu): This Canadian actor with experience in “Pacific Rim: Uprising” brings a martial arts background to the role of the conflicted firebender Zuko. His portrayal of Zuko has been highly praised by fans, with every scene of him bringing enjoyment to the show.

Other Significant Cast Members in the Netflix Avatar Live Action

Uncle Iroh and FIre Lord Ozai in Netflix Avatar live action
Uncle Iroh and FIre Lord Ozai in Netflix Avatar live action | Courtesy of Netflix and Nickelodeon

The Fire Nation also boasts a strong cast, with Elizabeth Yu as the cunning Azula, Daniel Dae Kim (who previously voiced Fire Lord Ozai in “The Legend of Korra”) stepping into the live-action role of the wise Uncle Iroh, and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee adding depth and menace to the villainous Fire Lord Ozai.

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Conclusion

Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender has garnered significant buzz, and a major reason for that excitement is the show’s cast. The cast itself seems genuinely invested in the project. Videos online showcase their enthusiasm, further fueling fan anticipation.

This passion for the source material, combined with the focus on cultural respect, acting, story portrayal, character portrayal, action scenes, impressive costumes, detailed set designs, and CGI that blends seamlessly contribute significantly to the overall production.

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