After months of anticipation, Netflix’s live-action remake of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has finally premiered.

Here’s everything you need to know about the series — and the controversy surrounding it.

What is ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ about?

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” takes place in a fantasy world that is split into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Fire Nation, the Air Nomads and the Earth Kingdom. Each nation has “benders,” people who possess the ability to control and manipulate a specific element.

The Avatar is a powerful figure who can control all four elements and acts as an agent of peace among the four nations. In the series, the Avatar has disappeared, and in their absence, the Fire Nation has risen up in attempt to take over the other three nations.

Aang, a 12-year-old Air Nomad, learns that he is the next Avatar. Daunted by the associated responsibilities, Aang flees with his sky bison Appa. They are eventually caught in a storm and Aang suspends himself and Appa in an iceberg in order to stay safe.

A century later, Southern Water Tribe siblings Katara and Sokka stumble across Aang and Appa in the iceberg. They revive him and join him on his journey of mastering the other three elements to fight Fire Lord Ozai, the leader of the Fire Nation, and ultimately restore peace to the four nations.

Throughout the first season, the three are trailed by Prince Zuko, son of Fire Lord Ozai, who is attempting to capture the Avatar to regain his father’s favor.

What is ‘Avatar’ rated and why?

The original, animated “Avatar” series is rated TV-Y7, according to IMDb. The new live-action series from Netflix is rated TV-14, per IMDb, for the following:

  • Moderate violence and gore.
  • Mild profanity.
  • Frightening images.

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ live-action cast

Here’s the main cast of the newest live-action “Avatar” remake:

  • Gordon Cormier as Aang: Aang, a mischievous and fun-loving 12-year-old, is constantly struggling to balance the responsibilities of being the Avatar with his desire to be a normal kid.
  • Kiawentiio Tarbell as Katara: 14-year-old Katara is the last waterbender of her tribe. After enduring a tragedy, Katara found herself taking on more responsibilities than a young girl should — with the potential to be a powerful waterbender.
  • Ian Ousley as Sokka: Sokka, Katara’s 16-year-old brother, is a sarcastic and sardonic leader in his tribe. But because he’s so young, he’s often questioning his skills as a leader and a warrior.
  • Dallas James Liu as Prince Zuko: After suffering a humiliating banishment from the Fire Nation, 17-year-old Zuko is on a quest to regain his honor. He is unwavering in his goal: capturing the Avatar.
  • Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Uncle Iroh: As Zuko’s uncle (and Fire Lord Ozai’s brother), the loving and even-tempered Iroh joins Zuko on his quest.
  • Daniel Dae Kim as Fire Lord Ozai: As the power-hungry and cruel leader of the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Ozai is determined to take over the other three nations.
  • Elizabeth Yu as Princess Azula: Sister to Zuko, Azula has much in common with her father: She’s power-hungry, driven and a powerful fire-bender.

The controversy around the live-action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender,’ explained

Despite the anticipation, die-hard “Avatar” fans were worried when, in 2020, the show creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino of the original animated series announced they were leaving the live-action remake due to “creative differences,” according to Business Insider.

In an Instagram post, Konzietzko said, “We will have no involvement in the project moving forward. ... We ultimately came to the belief that we would not be able to meaningfully guide the direction of the series.”

‘Avatar’ showrunner says the series ‘couldn’t just be for kids’

Additionally, showrunner Albert Kim recently came under fire by fans for saying that “Avatar” shouldn’t just appeal to children. In an interview with IGN, he said, “We had to make it a serialized Netflix drama, which meant it couldn’t just be for kids.”

“It had to also appeal to the people who are big fans of ‘Game of Thrones,’” Kim continued. “And so, it had to feel grounded and mature and adult in that way too.” 

Fans immediately expressed their discontent. As Tristan Stringer wrote for Dextero, “The response can be summarized as ‘Oh no,’ with fans believing the live-action creators potentially didn’t watch or understand the original series that, while presented for children, handled mature themes better than most shows aimed at adults.”

The live-action series eliminates Sokka’s sexism

The live-action series fell under further scrutiny when it was revealed that Kiawentiio had told Entertainment Weekly, “I feel like we also took out the element of how sexist (Sokka) was.”

Many fans pointed out that eliminating Sokka’s sexism could erase his character development, especially an arc from the original series around the Kyoshi warriors, an all-female group of warriors.

As Zosha Millman pointed out in Polygon, the sexism Sokka displays in the episode “The Warriors of Kyoshi” “was considered somewhat expected.”

“But it was also clearly understood to be wrong — and somehow, the original ‘Avatar’ does more in 20 minutes with this plotline than Netflix’s can manage in an hour,” Millman wrote. “The animated episode grabs Sokka and his obvious sexism by the scruff and puts him through his paces.”

Is ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ live-action series good?

This time around, it seems that reactions to the newest iteration of “Avatar” are mixed. The series has a 60% average score and 77% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Here’s what critics have to say:

  • “Although there are plenty of things to quibble with in successor showrunner Albert Kim’s version of the series,” Aja Romano wrote for Vox, “so many things go right that this adaptation of ‘Avatar’ not only rejuvenates the whole franchise but elevates Netflix’s flagging live-action project.”
  • Aramide Tinubu wrote for Variety, “Although the series is far from the mess that was M. Night Shyamalan’s ill-conceived and white-washed film adaptation, it will leave fans wishing the streamer had left DiMartino and Konietzko’s masterpiece alone.”
  • “There was so much potential in this story ... to create something gorgeous and striking in a live-action medium,” Kelly Lawler wrote for USA Today. “But out of fear of angering die-hard fans, lack of time and/or budget or a fundamental misunderstanding of what ‘adaptation’ really means, the new ‘Avatar’ is a regretful mess in its first season.”
  • Bryan Lowry wrote for CNN, “Netflix gets the look and action right in a lavish series based on the Nickelodeon show, but too-elemental dialogue and uneven performances make this eight-episode sit a bit of a grind for anyone who has gotten past puberty.”
  • “This show works not by rehashing every shot, but thanks to an intimate focus on showcasing its cast of compelling characters,” Joshua Yehl wrote for IGN. “Already powerful emotional moments gain new depth thanks to a willingness to depict what’s only alluded to in the original series.”

How many episodes of the live-action ‘Avatar’ are there?

There are eight episodes total, all of which are currently streaming on Netflix.