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Thursday, March 20, 2014

TV Talk - Avatar: The Last Airbender

This installment of TV Talk has been brought to you by the Fire Nation's Ember Island Players. Their rendition of Avatar is leagues better than the thing that Hollywood released back in 2010.

As you can probably tell by now, I’m not talking about James Cameron’s Avatar. While that movie was unoriginal, it was still better than the live-action version of the show I’m talking about today. I really don’t have much of a preamble, so let’s get to it.

Background
When Avatar first came on, I watched it but I wasn’t an avid watcher of the show. I was on and off during its duration since I was in college and didn’t know when it would air. I didn’t get to see much of the third season either. I don’t know if Nickelodeon had a love/hate relationship with that show or what. I was able to watch the last four episodes when they finally aired. After that, I tried to view the third season episodes online, but it wasn’t happening for a while. Then Netflix showed up and I was able to finally see it all. I also own the first season on DVD and will try to get the other two seasons.

For those who don’t know, the show takes place in its own world. This world is made up of four nations: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. In each nation, most of their people have the ability to control (bend) those elements. The Avatar is essentially the master of all four elements. When the Fire Nation rose up and decided to rule over everything, the Avatar disappeared. 100 years later, a brother and sister find the newest incarnation of the Avatar in a young Airbender named Aang. The show details Aang and his friends as they try to restore peace between the four nations. If my little summation doesn't do it for you, here's something that might.

Likes
 As you can probably tell by now, I think this show was awesome.
Yeah, I wouldn't mess with them either.
  • Great Characters – All of the main characters on this show were excellent. Everyone from Aang to Zuko was developed pretty well over the show’s three-season run. There really isn’t an unlikable one in the crowd. Well, there was Commander Zhao, but he is supposed to be an unlikable character anyway. One thing I do like about the show is that it didn’t totally paint the Fire Nation as complete bad guys. While you did have evil guys like Firelord Ozai, Comm. Zhao, and Azula, you had good people like General Iroh and others. Then there’s Zuko, the most developed character on the show. The creators showed that you can have well-developed characters in American animation. 
  • Great Animation – The show also had some sweet animation. It was influenced by Japanese anime as well as the Asian culture itself. Everything is designed well. It can be pretty lighthearted at times as well as pretty dark. I also thought that it was pretty cool how the bending itself was presented. The fight scenes were pretty epic.
  • Great Voice-Casting – The show also had some awesome voice-casting and voice-acting. There are also some veteran voice actors on the show. We get to people like Mako, Dante Basco, Clancy Brown, Mark Hamill, Grey DeLisie, and Mae Whitman .
  • Genuinely Funny – The show was pretty funny. A lot of the jokes worked. I also liked that the characters could shift in between pretty lighthearted and serious. Three big examples would be Sokka, Iroh, and Toph.
  • A Genuine Ending – While I have complained about shows that get cancelled for no reason, I can’t do that with this show. While it lasted for three seasons, the show has a natural beginning and a natural ending. While it doesn’t wrap up a couple of points at the end, almost everything gets wrapped up well  in the end.
  • Well-Balanced – The show also was also pretty well balanced between lightheartedness and serious. While you had your funny moments, you also had pretty serious and dark moments as well. The show itself does get gradually serious over its course, but it doesn’t get too serious. I mean, one of the last episodes was “The Ember Island Players”, and that episode was pretty hilarious.
  • I think I’ve gushed over this show enough. Go out there and watch it!

Dislikes
Honestly, there really isn’t much to dislike about the show. There may be a couple of lackluster episodes, but the show as a whole was perfect. Still, if there is anything negative about the franchise in general, it would be the live-action movie that came out in 2010. Since I’ve talked about how awesome the show is, I might as well talk about how bad the movie is. Don’t worry; I’m not even touching the racewashing aspect since that wasn’t the worst thing about that movie. It was directed by M. Night Shamaylan aka “M. Night Shaymalama Ding-dong”… Sorry, I've always wanted to write that down.
I have no words for this. 

The whole movie is basically a Cliff-Notes version of the first season. Actually, I think those Cliff-Notes books have more of the story in those than this movie did. The problem is that it doesn’t flow all that well. There are twenty episodes in the first season and the movie tried to fit a large majority of that plot in. The acting is pretty poor. The main characters also really don’t act like they do on the show. It’s like someone sucked all of the fun and depth out of the leads and replaced it with blandness. Even good actors suck here. The dialogue is nothing but exposition for the most part.
This proved that everything shouldn't be adapted into live-action.

There’s also the fact that some of the changes don’t make any sense whatsoever. For example, the Firebenders can’t generate their own fire. They actually have to have a source like a torch to pull it from. How the heck did these guys conquer most of the world? I mean, they have other advantages like their advanced technology, but I really don’t get it. The action was also pretty bland when compared to the show. I do remember that the one sequence with Aang using his water and air powers in the final battle was okay. I will say that the effects looked decent and the look of the characters did fit the look of the show. Other than those two decent things, this movie sucked.

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Since I really can't make up my mind on what my favorite episodes are, I'm just telling you to go out and watch the show for yourself. It's that good. IGN's list of favorite episodes is a pretty good list. It actually includes all of the episodes I would say are the best. If you want to see the live-action version... well, at least I warned you. I haven't checked out The Legend of Korra, a spinoff to Avatar, yet. I will one of these days. I've heard it's pretty good. Well, that's all I have for today, so peace and God Bless. Also, make sure that M. Night Shaymalan doesn't touch another adaptation.

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