We need to STOP making live-action remakes! 

 On Feb. 22, Netflix released its live-action adaptation of “Avatar: the Last Airbender.” Now that there is a remake of a beloved animated series, I feel that now is the best time for me to say why I do not like live-action remakes. I want to first address that I have not watched the new “Avatar: the Last Airbender” show and everything I bring up is what I heard second-hand from reputable sources. Second, I am not here to criticize any of the actors or anyone else who worked on the show, and I do appreciate Netflix casting Asian and Indigenous actors. Finally, I am not here to tell people to not watch the show, I am just here to explain why I do not like live-action remakes (and remakes in general). 

My first critique of live action remakes is “why?” In the case of the original “Avatar,” it is already a beloved show that many (including myself) see as nearly perfect. It would be difficult, dare I say impossible, for any remake to top the original, so why even try? There is nothing that could be done that would not take away from the original. The answer: money. While I am sure that the people who worked on the remake loved the original, I see remakes as nothing but an easy cash grab. I feel the same way with the Disney remakes. When I saw the 2017 “Beauty and the Beast,” all I saw was a bland live-action copy of an already amazing film. While the people who worked on the film did a great job, that does not change the fact that Disney made the film just to make money. These studios would rather capitalize off of and milk an already beloved piece of media instead of putting in the work to further the art of film and storytelling. 

My biggest critique of live-action remakes is the fact that they completely dump on the medium of animation. Animation is my favorite medium of storytelling, and seeing these studios take beloved animated stories and create bland live-action copies makes me really mad. It gives the impression that the mainstream thinks that the medium of animation is not as mature and at the same artistic level as the medium of live action. The original “Avatar,” while having some childish moments, is at its core a very mature and complex story about war. There are some very dark and intense scenes that had me at the edge of my seat when I first watched them as a teenager. 

A majority of the live-action remakes I have seen were just the animated film pushed through a lifeless live-action filter. I recognize that having remakes does not get rid of the original, but I cannot help but feel that the studios that do remakes are still erasing the original. With Disney remakes, and now “Avatar,” there is now going to be a new generation of kids who watch the remakes instead of the originals first. They experience the story for the first time not through beautiful animation and art, but through CGI sets and costumes that do not perfectly capture the magic of the original. 

That goes into my next point: there is a lot more flexibility with animation. Again, I have not seen the “Avatar” remake, but from what I have seen online, the world does not feel as immersive and lived in. To me, everything feels cheap and fake. I was able to suspend my disbelief in the original seeing the Kyoshi warriors fight in floor-length gowns. Looking at the Kyoshi warriors in the remake, my first thought is, “How do they not trip over all that fabric?” While this is a small critique, it shows how much animation can impact one’s suspension of disbelief. Looking at the bending in the remake, while the effects look really good, they don’t have the same natural feel and fluidity that was present in animation. The same applies with other remakes. Going back to “Beauty and the Beast,” it is a lot weirder seeing a human woman fall in love with a furry beast and talk to candelabras when in live action. 

Animation can get away with a lot more as well, especially when it is aimed for kids. Zuko’s scar is a very important part of his character and is a visual symbol of his trauma and the evil of the Fire Nation. In the original, Zuko’s burn scar takes up the entire left side of his face, forcing his eye partially closed, shriveling up his ear and making it so his eyebrow does not grow back. In the remake, Zuko’s scar is sanitized and not nearly as severe (he still has his left eyebrow), which takes away so much of its symbolism.  

These last changes are less of a critique of live-action remakes and more of a critique of remakes as a whole. First, Sokka is not sexist in the remake. In the original, Sokka starts out as a sexist character, but as the show goes on and he meets a lot of (badass) women, he does a complete 180. Sokka getting over his misogyny was a big part of his development into becoming a great strategist and leader. Also, the fact that we see Fire Lord Ozai’s face in season one is infuriating. In the original, part of what made Ozai such a terrifying main villain is that the audience does not see his face until season three, the show’s final season. The audience not knowing what he looks like adds so much suspense to his scenes. Sure, it would not capture the same amount of suspense in the remake, but there would still be at least some kind of suspense. These two examples are not only changes that take away from the original power of the show, but they also show that the original series used writing and storytelling techniques intentionally. Those are two elements that a lot of people do not expect an animated kids’ show to have. 

Overall, live-action remakes (and remakes in general) need to stop. The goal of a remake should be to give a fresh new take on a story, not a bland one-for-one copy. Remakes today spit on the art of film by taking the easy route instead of making something new and spit on the art of animation by giving the impression that live action is more mature and valuable.