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Summary

  • Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender changes the dynamic between Aang and King Bumi, turning their friendship into animosity.
  • The adaptation presents Bumi as resentful and challenging, straying from the original animated series’ portrayal of him as quirky and supportive of Aang.
  • The new take on Aang and Bumi’s relationship in the live-action version fails to resonate with fans, missing the heartwarming moments of the original story.



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Netflix’s first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender makes some faithful choices and fascinating changes, but the adaptation of one iconic pairing gets a bit rocky. In The Last Airbender episode 3, Aang, Katara, and Sokka travel to Omashu, one of the last free cities of the Earth Kingdom. It is in episode 4 that Aang meets King Bumi, whom he recognizes as his childhood friend from a century ago.


From here, things take a turn in a way that could be concerning for fans of the original animated series. Avatar is known for, among other things, its incredible intergenerational friendships. Crown Prince Zuko and Uncle Iroh, for example, are an iconic pair that not only receive a faithful adaptation, but also new scenes that add more to their endearing relationship. Unfortunately, not all duos have been given the same treatment in live-action.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender Review – Netflix’s Impressive Adaptation Keeps Animation’s Best Qualities

The Netflix series is a rather faithful adaptation, carrying the spirit of the original through intricate details and proper character development. 


Netflix’s Avatar Has Transformed Aang And King Bumi’s Relationship

Bumi standing with Team Avatar in Netflix's The Last Airbender


In both the animated and live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender, King Bumi and Aang befriended each other as kids. Aang recognizes his old friend—literally, as Bumi is now one hundred years older than him. But unlike the original, the century has bent him into a jaded man who resents Aang for his absence during the war with the Fire Nation. He claims, “you left us.” When boulders threaten to crush them both during their duel, Bumi forces Aang between a rock and a hard place. He argues he must make impossible choices and can’t rely on friends. Aang proves him wrong when Sokka and Katara come to help.

The animated series has the quirky king quickly recognize Aang, but not the other way around. Bumi is exacting yet patient, and he plays a more mysterious role in challenging Aang with his trials. When Aang finally recognizes who Bumi is, he has tears in his eyes, and they embrace. All along, Bumi has been testing Aang’s readiness to be the Avatar and encouraging him to think differently to find solutions in seemingly impossible situations. Instead of asserting he must work alone, repeating the other Avatars’ claims in the live-action, the animated Bumi recognizes the need for Aang’s friends.


Why Avatar’s Bumi Changes Don’t Work

Aang and King Bumi Having Fun on Omashu Chute

Netflix’s version of Avatar‘s Bumi doesn’t work for its version of Aang. Before their duel, Bumi says, “It’s all about games with you, isn’t it, Avatar? Who cares about responsibility? Who cares about, oh, saving the world? No. More fun to goof off. Am I right?” The show seems to forget that its version of Aang doesn’t goof off; instead, he wholeheartedly accepts his responsibility as the Avatar by the end of the pilot. In the animated series, Aang convinced Sokka and Katara to ride the Omashu chutes for fun, destroying the cabbage merchant’s cart and bringing them before the king.


Bumi’s trials are inert, then, for an Aang who no longer runs away from responsibility. When Aang asks what Bumi’s trying to prove with his tests, he tells Aang, “Maybe I’m trying to show you there are no easy journeys for the Avatar.” However, Aang has already endured difficult journeys in the three preceding episodes. Ultimately, it’s not Aang who learns something from the trials—it’s Bumi. Aang helps restore Bumi’s hope when he shows the bison whistle the king whittled as a kid. While the moment is affecting, the episode fails to move Aang’s character forward as well.

This moment and the quick flashback of their childhood friendship can’t withstand the animosity much of the screentime is devoted to, making the “call on an old friend” ending feel hollow. The adaptation also neglects to set up kid Bumi and Aang having fun on the Omashu chute, making the scene after the trials feel shoehorned in for fans instead of genuine and heartwarming. This is a sad move, since the adaptation does a good job bolstering Aang’s intergenerational friendship with Monk Gyatso. For better or worse, Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender changes the original to give a new take on the tale.


Avatar: The Last Airbender
(2024) is streaming on Netflix.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Live-Action)

Cast
Gordon Cormier , Dallas Liu , Kiawentiio , Ian Ousley , Daniel Dae Kim , Paul Sun-Hyung Lee

Release Date
February 22, 2024

Seasons
1

Writers
Albert Kim , michael dante dimartino , bryan konietzko

Directors
Michael Goi , Roseanne Liang , Jabbar Raisani , Jet Wilkinson

Creator(s)
Albert Kim



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