‘Avatar’ Movie ‘The Last Airbender’ Is Streaming — But Not on Netflix

Netflix's live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender is finally out, while the previous live-action film is streaming now on Paramount+. The 2010 movie is simply titled The Last Airbender, and it is generally disliked not just by Avatar fans but by moviegoers in general. Still, for completionists, watching it is a right of passage.

Avatar: The Last Airbender was a massive hit when it aired on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008, but it has struggled to grow into a larger franchise since then. The 2010 film adaptation is one of the most infamous of its kind. It was co-written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who took some major creative license with the source material. Not only did he condense 20 episodes into just 103 minutes, he changed the way that "bending" worked for his movie and altered the course of the story itself. That movie never got a sequel, but fans will often revisit it for online discussions or to think about how far we've come since then.

The Last Airbender starred Noah Ringer as Aang, Dev Patel as Prince Zuko, Nicola Peltz as Katara, and Jackson Rathbone as Sokka. The story is set in a fictional world based on many historical cultures of Asia. In it, martial artists can "bend" one of four elements – earth, water, fire or air. However, once every generation an "avatar" is born who can bend all four elements, and they have a duty to maintain peace and spiritual balance in the world. The story begins in the midst of a "100-Year War," which happened because 12-year-old Avatar Aang was frozen in an iceberg for a century. When he is awakened, he has an uphill battle to master the elements and end the conflict.

The differences may sound subtle, but they were important to a detail-oriented fandom like this one. For example, in Shyamalan's movie, firebenders can only work with flames that already exist rather than creating it from scratch. That had some major impacts on the story and on how the story looked. There is also the issue of Aang's tattoos – in the cartoon they were faint blue lines mimicking the markings on a Sky Bison, but in the movie they were comprised of many tiny runes and markings.

Gripes like this permeated the online fandom, but the movie didn't do much better among professional critics. At the time of this writing, The Last Airbender has 5-percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 3 out of 10. Critics generally complained that the dialogue was poorly written, the action was ham-fisted and that the potential of the source material was not realized.

For years, fans wondered how such a beloved series could get such a subpar adaptation, but in the long run, the franchise still has a bright future. A new live-action adaptation premiered last week on Netflix, which will undoubtedly make some fans want to revisit this 2010 version. In addition, Nickelodeon has opened Avatar Studios with original series creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. They have new animated movies with original stories on the way. In the meantime, you can stream Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra and the live-action The Last Airbender all on Paramount+.