You have questions, I have answers

In which I devote posts to reader questions to save my lazy ass from doing any work today.

Some excellent comments from readers I thought deserved longer replies.  Because I love the sound my own typing.

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The always lovely swenson says in response to my thoughts on one part of RvB:

RvB… what, you don’t adore episode 8? I could watch that episode loop forever. Occasionally I *do* watch it a few times in a row! I love that episode so very very much. 😀 Tex beating up Church with his own body in the next episode is a CMoF, too.

Also, when the first CGI sequence happened, weren’t you in awe too? I certainly was. I’d heard that they hired an animator, but when I actually saw it it was just the coolest thing ever.

I feel I should clarify that this scene applies in two different ways for me.

As a pure action sequence, it is gorgeous.  If I was in charge, I would take this episode, visit every film school in the world and rub the students’ noses in it saying, “THIS IS HOW YOU DO ACTION!  NO MORE SHAKY CAM SHIT!”

Purely examining the action, it is a glorious piece of art.

However, there then remains the story behind the action. [note to writers, directors, etc: always remember that action without motivation or plot is very boring]

Do I have a problem with the story?  Not at all.  The entire RvB premise is pretty much built on a cast full of Butt Monkeys.  Which is great and quite funny.  Of course, that means that the teams’ occasional successes are all the more sweeter because they are so rare. (remember Simmons summoning the crazy players to attack Doc/Omega?)  Tex attacking them all was funny and perfectly in line with the universe’s opinion of the RvB teams.  But… after awhile it crossed the line into a border-line snuff film.  Usually the characters are given a brief break between the cruelty.  Or at least the camera cuts to give the audience a brief break and enjoy what’s going wrong for the other guys.

And no it has nothing to do with the sexism or anything else in the scene (though it would be funny to watch reactions from some if it was recast as a single guy beating up a bunch of girls).  It’s more like the guys deserved that incident even less than before.  Like the first time Tex arrived, you didn’t entirely mind seeing the reds getting bashed because they had just taken the flag!  Here?  What did the reds or blues even remotely do to earn the beating this time?  Heck, Griff gets crotch shot the whole time when it should be TUCKER (a horn dog always making sexist jokes) getting all the nut shots.

But I did quite enjoy Church’s beating for not only the callback, but also that he had went and disturbed Tex (and was a jerk at various times) so he had earned some of the beating.

A Halo movie made by Roosterteeth would be amazing, I agree. I think they’ve definitively shown now that it’s possible to make impressive films just using in-game footage with the occasional animated sequence spliced in. The only problem would be that the movie wouldn’t be about the Red and Blue teams… 😦

I think they could do a movie with Red vs Blue, but it would have to be a new story with some things simplified for audiences.  But then, that would be up to the producers (do they want serious or comedy?) and I think once the tone is set, Rooster Teeth could do the rest.

Heck, production costs should be so low, the companies could spend a bit extra on hiring top-notch talent. (I see…. Kevin Conroy as Master Chief…)  Just seems weird that Star Wars: the Clone Wars could get released in theaters (sometimes it feels like a dream…) and something like this isn’t.  Yet.

I’m also ranting about the World of Warcraft movie by this point.  Blizzard has shown they can do some really beautiful, emotionally powerful CGI scenes, why don’t they just release a WoW movie in CGI format?  [shouting at Blizzard’s company] IT’S OK!  PIXAR HAS MADE IT COOL!  (mmmm… Pixar WoW movie….)

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The always badass ftidus says:

**Cracks knuckles**

I’ve been waiting for you to get to the finale, simply because it is (for me at least) the great flaw of the entire series, the one thing that prevents a show that I already consider to be as close to a timeless classic from being perfect.

Ozai and the final battle.

Hmmm… I think it had a few more rough spot, but I see where you’re coming from.  A really well done, powerful ending can cover up a multitude of sins, especially as the ending is more likely to stick in people’s minds than the middle.

First, a little set up:

For much the series we don’t get a clear view of what the Fire Lord looks like. We see a large shadow wreathed by flame, his flowing robe and frame making his outline seem jagged and inhuman. When Zuko and the other Firebenders recall him, the audience can only see a terrible shadowy specter. He did not speak for much of the series and yet his presence was chilling to behold. People spoke of him, his evil and his terrible power whispered by fearful witnesses or praised by the truly wicked.

I kept wondering throughout the show why he was always shrouded.  Usually in movies it’s for a big actor/horror reveal but since this show was an original animation, I couldn’t figure out why.

Several times in the series, plans by the main characters are countered as Fire Nation agents remark that “The Fire Lord thought you would you do that” or  “Did you not think that the Fire Lord could not see through your plain?”

Furthermore, we are constantly shown the skill, ingenuity and power of the main characters…and yet are constantly reminded that even with all their might, Aang will need to become the master of all elements in order to stand even a slight chance of defeating Fire Lord Ozai.

Aang: The guy who can go berserk and become a living god and toss around battleships like toys needs even more power if he is to stand a chance against Ozai.

It’s almost humorous the compare/contrast.  Azula realizes she’s going after the avatar (a powerful being) and gets some of the deadliest (and sexiest) people she knows to help her out.  Aang knows he has to defeat the firelord and… every plan is him going alone.  Why don’t they just all gaang up and attack together? (as they did with Azula and nearly won)  Part of me kept thinking that maybe it was because the Ozai would bring his own allies – in this case an army.  But…

At this point, I began to wonder if Zuko’s dad was actually Mephisto. He’s demonically ruthless, wields power that can rival the Avatar and is apparently omniscient. Now did I just describe a villain from a Nickelodeon cartoon or the Prince of Darkness himself?

Yet the big story was only being hinted at: in a series where even the minor characters get a huge back story, deep motivations, and fully realized characterization, surely the big reveal of why Ozai was causing all this carnage was going to equally big (if not more!). We would learn his backstory and what led him down his dark path, making the audience question every preconceived notion we had about him, and/or making us wonder how Aang and the crew could overcome such a force of destruction.

….nope.

Even more disappointing after the episode where Zuko’s ancestry is revealed.  I was willing to accept Ozai as just swept up and “carrying along the family tradition” but then we’re not even given a good explanation for why Sozen went all world dominating in the first place.  But there was the episode revealing that Uncle Iroh was going to be king, but something happened with Zuko’s mommy and grandpappy and… at some point my heard started to hurt because it seemed that the only clues we were given as to Ozai’s motivation was: CLICHE!  Except the show kept subverting cliche on us through all 3 seasons.  Suddenly enforcing it on the main villain comes off as cheap.

We don’t get diddly squat. Instead he just basically says, “BLARGH! I R TEH PHOENIX KING! I R TAKING OVA YER WORLD AN KILLIN YER DOODS!!”, fights Aang and then gets taken out by Aang’s Fist of the Northstar impression (I was halfway expecting Aang to sprout a mullet, point at Ozai and utter “You are already dead”).

That’s it.

We don’t know why he’s evil. We don’t have any backstory. Now that I think about it, he wasn’t even that much of a challenge for Aang to overcome.

What a let down!

They could have made Ozai into a truly memorable villain, but instead he’s the most disappointing boss fight since Exodus from Ultima 3.

Exactly.  In the end, Aang & Ozai fight one-on-one without any mention or effort by his friends to help.  I can kind of let Sokka & Toph go since they were trying to make sure a world would be left to save, but what about Zuko & Katara?  Hey, Zuko!  I know you need to take down your sister and I get that, but why now?  Why not have you & Katara help Aang take down your dad, then go beat Azula afterward?  The avatar doesn’t have to help you with that, but it would be an option.

And it then becomes more ironic when you realize that he only nearly beats Aang because of his daughter’s “lucky shot” earlier.  More of the challenge of the fight came from Aang trying not to kill Ozai rather than Ozai himself.

Let me go tangent for a second, I’ll bring this all back…

So I was watching Spoony’s takedown of Highlander: Endgame when it struck me on how the movie could have been done that would have solved a lot of plotholes:

Have the villain cheat.

“Isn’t that what they did?”

No, they did it badly.

The principle of the Highlander series is that seemingly in exchange for getting to ignore the physical laws that result in our deaths, the immortals have to deal with a whole different set of physical laws.  Laws they can’t break any more than we can break the laws of thermodynamics.  The two biggest ones violated in the movie were: fighting on holy ground, fighting more than one at a time.

So how do I mean for the movie to have Jacob Kell cheat in a way very different from the way he cheated?

All of his thugs are mortals.

Yeah, he can’t fight on holy ground, but his lackeys can run around and cut heads off (leaving Jacob to absorb the power).  Immortals may only fight one at a time, but there’s nothing saying he can’t have mortals helping him out (indeed, this is part of the lesson of the first movie: Connor wins because he has cultivated a relationship, granting him an ally at a key moment compared with the Kurgen who has forced everyone out of his life).  The movie ends up snapping our suspension of disbelief by trying to paint Jacob Kell as one who could possibly defeat Duncan MacLeod in a straight swordfight.  In my version: we know Duncan could beat Jacob in a straight up fight, but Jacob will never face him in a straight up a fight.

(a friend of mine has said there’s a very similar, if not identical plot to this in the tv series – why they didn’t just take this concept that must have worked and further refine it is beyond me)

So, what is the point?  Once Aang completed his training, we all knew the Fire Lord would never be a match for him.  The machines of the fire nation seemed to hint at a people who were very crafty and ingenious.  These are a people who do not fight fair.  They fight with their minds as much as their strength.  Yet in the end?  Ozai resorts to a contest of pure power against the Avatar (that’d be like an ordinary Japanese man trying to arm-wrestle Godzilla).  What we should have had was a chess match on acid.  Ozai trying to trick or lure Aang into a trap.  Aang trying to outsmart or counter it.

When the Avatar State was unlocked, I thought we might get that.  That Ozai might start trying to think his way out of the fight.  Instead, we just get a minute or two of the Avatar curbstomping the Fire Lord.

Which was still kind of cool, but I would have preferred to see that with Azula.  See reply to swenson: it just seemed more thematically deserved in her case.

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2 thoughts on “You have questions, I have answers

  1. Eh, I guess that makes sense. At the time, I did kind of wonder why she was beating them all up. I don’t think it’s ever even mentioned later, except for when she punches Tucker after coming out of armor lock, and, well, that was completely deserved. That sequence is still the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, though. Just rewatched it now. 😀

    And I agree that Church completely deserved the beating he got. Also, it’s just plain funny to watch someone get beat up with their own (former) body.

  2. Ok, I finally finished the series, and this looks like the last Avatar-related post in your blog, so I’m just gonna post my thoughts here.

    Overall, the last few episodes were almost perfect. Every character got a chance to shine, every villain got what was coming to them, and all the major story arcs were wound up (except the few you mentioned which are apparently going to be covered in the comic, which is nice). A very well done ending to a really great series.

    But two things really bug me. First: the lion-turtle. Now, the existence of the creature itself isnt a problem. The island-on-a-turtle’s-back is something I had actually been expecting to see somewhere in this universe, so I had pretty called it since the previous episode, and I liked the way it was animated as well. Also, the Avatarverse doesn’t contain any ‘normal’ animals, so of course it has to be a lion-turtle and not just a turtle. But…if this thing doesn’t qualify as a deus ex machina, than I don’t know what does. Not only does it show up out of butt-f**k-nowhere, telepathically bring Aang to it (somehow…), give him all the answers he needs (even after the previous avatar spirits couldn’t!), on top of all that, he then drops Aang off EXACTLY where he needs to be to wait for Ozai. Somehow.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just weak. Maybe if this creature had done only one of these things, like if it had provided the transportation for Aang while he had his discoveries in the spirit realm, or maybe if it had shown up to help Aang get the answers but then left Aang to figure out what to do next on his own, this wouldn’t be so bad. Or maybe if we had been given at least a hint somewhere in the series about this ancient art of spirit-bending or the creatures that taught humans how to do it, then it wouldn’t be so farfetched. But as it is, this thing’s appearance is just way too sudden and convenient, and left a bad taste in my mouth.

    The second thing is Aang’s return to the avatar-state. So Aang gets poked in the back at just the right spot, and that’s all it takes? So, what, was the pain of getting stabbed at the same point as his scar enough to awaken it? Did it somehow unlock his last chakra (even though that’s supposed to be impossible for him at this point)? If that’s the case, doesn’t that mean he loses his feelings for Katara? Or was all that stuff about having to let go of romantic relationships in order to reach enlightenment just a bunch of bull? Man, that episode where Aang went through that whole big process sure seems silly now; all he needed to do was fall on a rock!

    Why did the writers even need to give Aang the avatar-state back in the first place? I actually liked the idea that Aang would have to defeat Ozai without the avatar-state, and spirit-bending was actually a great tool for him to do that, despite how sloppily it was introduced into the story. But no, we need a fight scene, so let’s make up some really convenient excuse to give Aang his glow back so he can whup up on Ozai before NOT killing him…again…even though we could have used that screentime to show Zuko finding his mother, or Toph returning home, or Sokka and Katara seeing their grandma again, or any of the other dozen things that would have been more meaningful…let’s just have Aang go super saiyan one last time, just for kicks.

    But I don’t want to end on a bad note, so I’ll just say that this was probably the most enjoyable American animated show since Gargoyles, and despite my complaints about the series, I really liked it.

    /Uncle Chan

    One moooore thing!

    /Uncle Chan

    I just realized…remember that one temple they went to with all the statues of the previous avatars? Remember how the line seemed to be coming to an end with that spiral going to the center of the room? Well, if the air nomads really are all dead, then doesn’t that mean there can never be another airbender, and therefore the avatar line stops with the next firebender? COINCIDENCE?!?!

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