The Last Airbender

Wow, The Last Airbender totally rocked my world. I knew I wanted to see it, but I had decided not to spend the extra money to see it in theaters (especially after hearing some less-than-enthusiastic reviews), so I didn’t end up watching it until just now. But hell, it totally would have been worth it. Not only was it a fun movie with great special effects, beautiful landscapes, and interesting characters, but we get two sets of teenage siblings. Count ‘em – two!

The Last Airbender is based on the animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender which aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon (2005-2008) – between this, iCarly and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, that network is winning major points with me recently. I’ve never seen the TV show, although I’m planning on checking it out. I have, on the other hand, played the Wii video game that was inspired by it while I was babysitting this spring: I wasn’t very good. So, as you can see, my exposure was rather limited. I was more or less tabula rasa going in. (Actually, there was one other thing, but I’ll go into that later). I understand that some fans of the original TV series were less-than-pleased, but adaptation is always a challenge, and you can’t ever please everyone.

I remember when the Eragon movie came out, my friend and I, who had both read the book before seeing the movie, did not agree: she thought the movie was deficient, I was glad that all of the boring stuff from the book had been cut out, and thought what remained was great.

As someone who has never seen the TV series, I really liked The Last Airbender.

I’ve been a fan of all of M. Night Shyamalan’s works. Some of his movies have been better than others, but I’ve liked them all. Signs is my absolute favorite – I saw it in theaters and it was the complete film experience – laughs, terror, chills, tears, and then a magnificent uplift. Oh, and lust.

Joaquin Phoenix may have some eccentricities, but he is not a bad looking man

(Quills is the other movie that usually gets me panting after him…

…he’s too creepy in Gladiator). I love how his character moves in with his brother to help out after his sister-in-law dies. That’s how family should be. I even liked The Happening, far more than Lady In The Water, though I liked that one too. I thought The Happening was an entertaining movie, and often creepy. The Sixth Sense and The Village have some great moments and great twists at the end, but Signs is the one of his movies that I could watch over and over again. And now I can add The Last Airbender to that list.

The dialogue isn’t particularly sharp – that’s where my main criticism lies. The language struck me as colloquially United-States-ian in a way that almost took me out of the film (as did the accents). My other criticism is that the movie felt kind of hole-y/disjointed. I checked out the deleted scenes, and they didn’t fix the problem. This movie is targeted is many ways towards young ‘uns, so the shorter length (90 minutes or so) is understandable, but I think Shyamalan should have taken another ten minutes or so to flesh it out. For example: one of our main characters, Iroh, has a son who died, and this is mentioned once in passing late in the film for almost no reason. It would have been nice to learn a little bit more about that. Another example: Katara is our narrator, and the movie begins with her talking about her family, but I felt like she became very distanced from the audience in the second half – we lose her voice. I think a couple of scenes to tie us back to her would have been very welcome.

Those criticisms aside, I wholeheartedly recommend this film to just about anybody. It was fun! (Which is just about the highest compliment I can give). I found the story and characters engrossing, and that’s even ignoring the crazy BSI shipping I was doing.  The special effects were exciting, and quite good most of the time.

Sometimes you could tell that the background was green screen, but even then it wasn’t unpleasant – they just live in a world a little brighter than ours. In short, this film is a visual feast.

Oh, and how could I forget? James Newton Howard’s score for the film is awesome! (Of course, he’s dependable in that way).

If you think you might be interested in this movie, I strongly recommend that you watch it before reading the rest of what I have to say, because, as is almost always true, I will be talking about the movie in its entirety, which means spoilers galore. I won’t say it’s extraordinarily unpredictable, but I’d still recommend seeing it before reading a detailed synopsis.

All right, you’ve been warned.

Here’s the background: There are four nations of people: fire, water, earth, and the air nomads. Into each of these nations are born benders – they can manipulate their birth elements. Then there is the Avatar, who is born into one of the nations, but who can bend all four elements. The Avatar is a sort of religious figurehead who can talk with the spirits, who keep balance in the world. The Avatar is kind of like the Dalai Lama, reincarnated each time after death, so there has really only ever been one.

The most recent incarnation of the Avatar is named Aang, and he was born into the air nomads. During the ceremony where he accepted his role as Avatar, he freaked out and ran away. He was told that the Avatar could never have a family, and he didn’t want to make that sacrifice. Aang was caught in a storm, so he created an air bubble and took refuge under the ocean. This is all he remembers. Somehow it all became frozen and he was put into a sort of suspended animation. (…Yeah…I know.) It’s possible he did it himself in a panicked state, because he certainly has the potential to do such a thing, but he is lacking the training at that point to manipulate wate. Anyway, he had with him Appa, a giant flying sloth/beaver/bison creature who is super cute but comically conspicuous.

The Fire Nation no longer wanted to comply with the wishes of the spirits, and instead found themselves wanting to take over the world. They knew the Avatar would be an airbender, so they wiped out all of the airbenders. I’m not sure why, because then he would be reincarnated, but anyway, that’s what they did. This was 100 years ago. Maybe they just didn’t like the airbenders.

Jump to the present day. The Fire Nation has been at war with the other two nations all this time.

Katara and her brother Sokka, of the Southern Water Tribe, are out hunting when they see something under the ice.

Being smart (not), Sokka begins hacking away at the ice beneath their feet.

Big surprise: it cracks.

Aang, Appa, and their air bubble begin to rise out of the water.

Katara, either dangerously curious or just as stupid as her brother, then hacks away at the bubble…

…and they find two nice presents inside.

A column of light rises out of the bubble – don’t ask me why, because I really don’t know – alerting the nearby Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation to the strange goings-on.

Look at his adorable little red nose (you’d think after a century he’d be acclimated)

Katara and Sokka take Aang back to their tribe, and Appa follows along at some point. Aang is covered in airbending tattoos, which sort of give him away as special since all of the airbenders are supposed to be dead.

Prince Zuko, his uncle Iroh, and their Fire Nation entourage arrive in Katara and Sokka’s village. They ask to see all of the elderly. It took me by surprise: that’s not usually the angry army commander’s request. Everyone believes that the Avatar is very old (and that’s who Zuko is looking for), but if you don’t know that, it seems very odd.

You can imagine their surprise when they find a child with the air markings. Aang leaves with Zuko to prevent violence.

Katara is a poorly-skilled and inexperienced waterbender, and other than that, she and Sokka have nothing going for them in terms of fighting, but they decide that since they pulled Aang out of the ice, he is now their responsibility, and they should save him.

Anyone else wondering if Granny is secretly a firebender?

Their grandmother obviously doesn’t care much for their safety as she convinces them that it is their destiny to go help the Avatar [Mom was kidnapped years ago, presumed dead (I infer), and Pops is off fighting in the war].

Is this ship awesome, or is this ship awesome?

Back on Zuko’s warship, Iroh tests Aang to see if he is the Avatar, and the results are (obviously) positive.

Aang’s escape plan involves doing a handstand on Zuko’s and Iroh’s shoulders…coolest escape ever

Zuko declares that he is delivering Aang to his father, the Fire Lord Ozai. Well, Aang isn’t having any of that – he escapes with little or no trouble

…and quickly encounters Katara and Sokka flying towards him on Appa.

Aang’s first order of business is to return home to the airbending temple where he was in the process of being raised. Oops. He doesn’t realize that he was in the ice for a century, and it’s a rude awakening, just about as bad as realizing that not only is everyone you ever knew dead, but they were massacred.

At this point we meet Commander Zhao, right hand man of the Fire Lord Ozai, who reveals to us that Prince Zuko was banished by his father, and his price of readmission and reinstated dignity is the Avatar. The story is embellished by Zuko himself later: he spoke out of turn to a general in an effort to save some of his friends who were goingto be sacrificed in a battle. 

The situation culminated in a duel in which Zuko had to face his father. Zuko refused to battle his father, and so his father declared him soft and exiled him to toughen him up. His uncle Iroh, brother of Ozai, went with him. Iroh tries to convince Zuko to meet a nice girl and settle down in one of the villages, but Zuko wants to be his father’s heir and return in glory to the Fire Nation.

As happens to most errant heroes, Aang and company end up defending a poor boy…

…who is running from the big bad (hot) Fire Nation soldiers in charge of his village.

(This is the plot of every Legend Of The Seeker episode.)

Well, they don’t do a very good job defending him, and end up arrested. They are in the Earth Nation, and all of the earthbenders in the area are living in a sort of ghetto. Aang rouses them, and starts a rebellion.

All is good, until Aang reveals that he ran away very early in his Avatar training, and he does not yet know how to bend water, earth, or fire. Sokka suggests that they start uprisings in the villages they pass by as they head towards the Northern Water Tribe where the waterbending masters live, and where Aang can be trained.

Sounds like a plan!

Well, it would have been, if Aang hadn’t snuck away to check out one of the airbending temples in an effort to communicate with the spirit world. Commander Zhao is a smart man, and set up an ambush. Aang is captured. However, a figure who comes to be known as the Blue Spirit rescues him, and the two of them fight their way to freedom. It turns out that the Blue Spirit is Zuko! He needs to be the one to hand the Avatar over to his father if he wants to have his honor back, so that was his motivation. Unfortunately for him, he gets knocked unconscious during the fight. Aang runs away from him to join back up with Katara and Sokka.

They arrive in the Northern Waterbending Tribe city where Sokka promptly falls in love with their leader Princess Yue, and she returns his affection. Katara and Aang train in waterbending. Aang speaks again with the spirit world, and realizes that he can’t advance until he accepts the deaths of his loved ones and the role he played in their deaths.

Things are going well, until Sokka and Yue’s romantic balcony moment is interrupted by black snow. You know you’re not the good guys when your arrival is presaged by ash. That’s right: the Fire Nation is on its way.

The Fire Nation has deciphered some documents in a special library and discovered the location of the Moon and Ocean Spirits, which give power to the waterbenders. Commander Zhao kills the Moon Spirit, giving the Fire Nation the upperhand in the battle to take the city. Iroh is unable to stop him (he tries, because for him, killing a Spirit is going too far), but he encourages Yue to give her life to the Moon Spirit, restoring it.

Zuko sneaks into the city and kidnaps Aang, but with Katara’s help, Aang escapes, though not before showing Zuko and mercy and informing him that they could “be friends”.

Aang (aka Johnny Tsunami) waterbends the ocean super high

…bad news for the Fire Nation armada. They surrender.

Zhao is killed.


Everyone bows down to Aang as the Avatar, including Zuko and Iroh, and he bows back this time.

But Ozai hasn’t given up. In three years time, the Sozin comet will pass by, giving all of the firebenders the power of the highest firebenders (which is to create fire out of nothing/from their own chi – Iroh is one). He’s sure that will be the day when the Fire Nation takes over for good.

He enlists the help of his daughter, Zuko’s sister Azula (who Zuko tells us is a firebending prodigy and the apple of her father’s eye) to prevent Aang from mastering earthbending and firebending before the comet arrives.

Whew! A lot happens.

So, let’s talk casting and characters! (The section in which I do not recommend anyone for the Oscar).

There were some interesting choices made in terms of racial casting. The Fire Nation are portrayed by actors of mostly Indian and middle eastern descent/appearance. The Water Nation are white (except for some of Inuit appearance in the background). The Earth Nation members we meet are all played by actors of eastern Asian descent, but in the deleted scenes, Aang, Katara, and Sokka spend time in a village of the Earth Nation of which all of the members are played by actor of African descent. The Air Nomads are the most mixed. I have no commentary – I just think it was an interesting choice.

The story is quite obviously inspired by the Eastern spirituality and set in an Eastern inspired world, but the television show that this movie is based on is of Western origin, and the characters on the TV show are not identifiable ethnically, in my opinion. The names seem Asian, certainly. Apparently there was a lot of outcry when casting was first being done. I can understand that. But honestly, if you look at the animated series, at those characters’ faces, they don’t have easily classifiable features. There’s this whole website about it called Racebending (hee, that’s pretty clever!). You should check it out if you’re interested.

Aang is our main and titular character. I’m not sure how old he’s supposed to be.

Noah Ringer, the actor who plays him, was 11-12 during filming. I felt like he played Aang perhaps even younger than that. Aang has a childlike innocence to him much of the time. He’s not a young man – he’s still a boy.

I felt Noah’s delivery of his lines fell a little flat, but he has a charisma to him that totally compensated, and he has these gorgeous, expressive eyes which did wonders for the character.

I also felt like Noah was very good at the bending motions, which are a sort of tai chi meets ballet collection of movements. You can imagine how asinine that could look if done by someone who couldn’t handle it, but Noah lent a grace and dignity to the motions which again was perfect for the role.

Aang appears Asian simply because of his shaved head and robes (like a Buddhist monk), but I’m not sure of Noah Ringer’s ethnicity. He definitely appears to be at least a fraction of Asian decent.

Next, Katara…

played by Nicola Peltz.

I would have guessed that Katara was 14 years old, and that’s exactly how old Nicola was during filming.

I think she could have possibly skewed a little older – she has the face for it with the right makeup.

This isn’t the best picture for the comparison, but can you blame me for using it?

She totally reminds me of Sarah Lancaster from Chuck in the picture above. I don’t actually watch Chuck; if you can believe it, I find it a little silly. Tha’s right – me!

Her performance was unremarkable – a good thing and a bad thing. I felt like a little more gravitas for the character would have been good – something drawing us in towards her. She kind of lets us float away. Appearance wise, I found her perfect. She was not distractingly pretty or made-up, but still a lovely girl.

One of the things I read online is that the movie Katara is rather bland compared to the relatively vinegar-y animated Katara. That’s too bad, if that’s true. But I suppose I might like her better bland – I prefer my spunk in the bad girls.

Sokka is played by Jackson Rathbone.

 

Jackson is 11 years older than Nicola!

He was 24-25 during filming. I suspect that Sokka is supposed be somewhere in the 16-18 year-old range, though I have very little justification for that.

In a society like this, you find a bed buddy right quick

I guess if he was any older than that, I would have expected him to be married in that kind of society.

You may recognize Jackson from The Twilight Saga

he plays Jasper

Alice’s significant other. I didn’t recognize him, even though I’ve seen Twilight and New Moon, but I’m not very good with faces (and Jasper has a very distinctive look).

He looks a lot hotter in this movie. I may have mentioned before that I DO NOT find long hair attractive, but he keeps it back in a ponytail the whole time and it’s not very noticeable (particularly in Arctic gear), so it works out.

Do you want to know a fun fact about Jackson Rathbone? He was born in Singapore. He told met at himself. OK, no he didn’t. I read it on imdb. I actually think that he was fantastic as Jasper, now that I’m remembering him. There’s a charming timidity in that role, which he also brings to Sokka.

Something in me found Sokka (and Jasper, for that matter) instantly likeable.

It wasn’t an award-winning performance, (although he did squeeze out a few tears mourning for Princess Yue…

…and managed some very impressive eyebrow manipulation), but I’m not going to critique his acting because I felt a bond with his character, so clearly he did a good enough job for me.

This was the best of the wild-haired set

It was really hard to find good pictures of him – he has nasty, long hair (very Jaser-ish) on his own time, apparently.

But there were definitely some to be found.

Yum!

I read online that the animated Sokka was sort of a sarcastic character. That really didn’t translate to Shyamalan’s script, which is too bad, but I still liked the movie Sokka.

Dev Patel plays Zuko. He was 18-19 during filming, and I would have probably put Zuko at 17, so that matches up pretty well.

Among the younger castmembers, he was the most recognizable face for me.

A lot of people probably know him as the lead in Slumdog Millionaire

(he really lucked out getting that role, didn’t he? Talk about the “big one”. GREAT movie, btw, if you haven’t seen it)

But I have also seen him as Anwar in Skins, the British TV program.

What ever do I say about Skins? I like to say that watching Skins is like mining – most of it is filthy, but you find some golden nuggets when you dig down deep.

Skins had a rather unique set of siblings in Tony and Effy Stonem (that have a relatively strong ship following) – voila the reason I was willing to muck through it. Maybe I’ll do a post on them someday.

Although Anwar was pretty hilarious. His girlfriend was in love with his friend Maxie, so she started dying and styling Anwar’s hair and making him dress like Maxie, and it was pretty darn funny. I think I laughed for two minutes straight – no breathing.

Dev Patel is British, and I wonder if that brought something a little different to Zuko (as I noted earlier, the American accents on the other characters – namely Aang, Yue, and Katara – really took me out of the movie). –

Enjoy this picture of Dev Patel smiling, he doesn’t do it much as Zuko

Zuko is without a doubt the most interesting character in the film. He’s a good person trying to be a bad person. And he comes from a dysfunctional family, which I, of course, love to death.

Unable to live up to his father’s expectations, but desperate to. In competition with his sister for his father’s affection. All that good stuff.

His relationship with his uncle Iroh is very interesting.  When the two of them first appeared together, when Zuko introduced himself as the Fire Lord’s heir and before we learned that he was banished, I feared that uncle Iroh would soon be evil uncle Iroh because in dynastic conditions, uncles are usually after the throne (The Lion King, Ella Enchanted, Kings, Hamlet, Prince Caspian, Prince of Persia, to name a few).

But I was pleasantly surprised: not only was Iroh not a conspirator, he actually sided with his nephew against his brother without agenda, and was consistently a positive influence in Zuko’s life.

One of my favorite moments in the film in when Iroh tries to convince Zuko to find a pretty girl and settle in one of the villages, because he genuinely wanted Zuko to be happy. He says “We could settle down here. You could live a blessed life.” The two of them together. Iroh is the father that Zuko should have had. Zuko is really lucky to have Iroh in his life.

Uncle Iroh was also really sweet when he was helping Zuko sneak into the Northern Water Tribe City, telling Zuko to zip up his suit (or the before-zippers equivalent to that), and Zuko knew he was being overprotective and thanked him.

Commander Zhao enlists Iroh ( who is a famous general) to help him take down the Northern Water Tribe City, and Iroh does his best to help – he never goes against the Fire Nation, until the Fire Nation goes too far and kills the Moon Spirit.  Then he helps Yue save the Moon Spirit. He’s a very wise man. He respects the Avatar, even though he helps take him prisoner, and he tells Zuko that Zuko’s destiny is tied to the Avatar’s. It’s like he manages to see through all the sh!t.

Uncle Iroh is portrayed by Shaun Toub, another British actor.

He played Yinsen in Iron Man, the Iraqi doctor who helps Tony Stark.

He was also in Crash (as the storeowner?). Those are the two things I recognize him from. He was perfect as Iroh.

Aasif Mandvi plays Commander Zhao, which was delightful, because who doesn’t like Aasif Mandvi?

He’s my favorite correspondent currently The Daily Show. It was weird to see him in a serious role, because his persona on the The Daily Show is so sardonic – serious, but saying ridiculous things.

So I always had in the back of my mind the idea that everything Zhao was saying was comically preposterous.

Cliff Curtis plays Fire Lord Ozai.

If you recognize him, it’s because he’s been in a billion different things. I don’t have a lot to say, except that he brought the right amount of menace, without being over the top.

I’ll just bring up Sunshine, which he was in, because I mentioned it in my Fantastic Four post (Chris Evans -aka Johnny – was also in that film), and because it is directed by Peter Boyle, who directed Slumdog Millionaire as well.

Peter Boyle also directed 28 Days Later, and was an executive producer for its sequel 28 Weeks Later, which I may be doing a short entry on very soon.

Seychelle Gabrielle plays Princess Yue.

She was 19 during filming. I would guess that Yue was supposed to be 16, so she was a little bit older, but I think she played the role a little bit younger than her phsyical age, so it ended up working out.

Every time I saw her, all I could think was that she reminded me of Jessica Alba in the second Fantastic Four film.

Yue has white hair because when she was born, she almost died, but her parents prayed to the Moon Spirit, and the Moon Spirit gave their daughter life. That is how Yue was then able to give her life back to the Moon Spirit.  But her eyes are also lacking in melanin, hence the similarity in appearance to Susan Storm.

So, I don’t think I was quite satisfied with Seychelle Gabrielle’s performance, but it didn’t get on my nerves, and I liked Princess Yue well enough. She was humble. She fell for Sokka, even though he was just some poor kid from the southern tribe, who couldn’t bend and couldn’t even hunt.

She wasn’t stupid, trying to risk her life when there was nothing she could do (Elena, I’m looking at you). But when she was faced with a situation where forfeiting her life would save her people, she did it, after a human pause. I mean, you can’t help but feel bad for her, but she accepted her lot with poise. Instead of begrudging the Moon Spirit the life that she would never get to live, she was grateful for the life that it had given her.

The final character I want to talk about is Azula. There is a flashback to her when she is a few years younger, and she is played by a different actress than the 30 seconds she has on screen at the end.

But the modern day Azula is played by Summer Bishil. Summer is a bit older, she was 21 during filming, or so. Azula is younger than Zuko, however. It doesn’t matter:

Summer can play younger than Dev Patel without much of a problem. I thought she seemed a little bit familiar, but there’s not much in her filmography.

I think I’m most likely to have recognized her from Halloweentown 4: Return To Halloweentown, which I am embarrassed to admit that I have seen.

In my defense, I saw it because Lucas Grabeel was in it, and I was looking for footage of him for a Ryan/Sharpay video I was making (from High School Musical), which I never ended up making. OK, that wasn’t as great of a defense as it was supposed to be. The Halloweentown movies are pretty lackluster: the first one has the sharpest dialogue, but I think the last one has the best story. Honestly, for what it was, that movie wasn’t so bad. It has its own sibling set that I wouldn’t mind writing a post about, except that it would mean watching the movie again, which I’m not sure I’m going to be doing anytime soon.

Back to Summer: I thought she did a great job at the end. I read some criticism of her (big surprise there…not! Fans can be so hard to please sometimes. I only get hypercritical when it comes to The Vampire Diaries), but I thought she did a lot with her 30 seconds. As I mentioned, I haven’t seen the show, but I’ve come to understand that Azula is what one calls Ax Crazy. There is a spectrum of crazy bitch.

You start out with women who are ruthless but not necessarily always selfish – like Atia on Rome

Sherry Palmer on 24

or President Roslin on Battlestar Galactica.

Then you’ve got the always selfish set: like my beloved Katherine on The Vampire Diaries

Illithyia on Spartacus: Blood and Sand

or Sharpay from High School Musical.

And then, apparently, you’ve got Azula, who, I suppose, kills just to kill. Medea fits in there somewhere.

And that woman from Basic Instinct, which I’ve never actually seen.

You can tell that Summer is trying to portray Azula as a little crazy because she keeps dipping in and out of her smile – that’s textbook crazy.

i can haz license to kill?

Her father asks her if she accepts the task he’s putting in her hands. And she says, “I do, father.” And it’s creeeeeeeeeeppppppppyyyyyyyy. I thought it was excellently done. She’s clearly very excited, and that’s half of what makes it so creepy – she’s taking the task seriously, but she knows it’s going to be fun.

So, let’s get shippy!

Now you know the two sets of siblings: Sokka and Katara, and Zuko and Azula. I like how those names go together. Sokka and Katara both have k’s and end with a’s, Zuko and Azula both have z’s and u’s (in fact, I think their pairing is sometimes called zucest).

The great thing about these two sets of siblings is how different they are. It’s like we’re given an example of each extreme.

So, the movie opens with Katara practicing her waterbending. She collects a ball of water and it rises up into the air, and then it crashes into Sokka, who has been off-camera up until then. He runs up to her like he’s going to attack her, but she holds up her hand and he lets off.

Actually, his violent reaction is pretty interesting, given their ages. You can tell his heart was never in it, though. Maybe just an excuse to touch her…?

The Southern Water Tribe inhabits a coastal tundra.

It’s gorgeous, if that’s the kind of climate you like. Personally, I think I’m cut out to be in Water Nation. I’m totally a creature of water, who likes cold, and loves the moon, and can’t stand living away from large bodies of water. I romanticize the idea of a fish diet, although in practice, I’m really not a fan.

The Northern Water Tribe City is even better, because it’s carved into the mountains.

Although, I think airbenders have it best, because they can practically fly, and they always have air at their disposal, unlike the other elements.

It makes sense for waterbenders to live in a snow or ice area, because they’ll constantly have their element available to be bent. Although the waterbenders have a huge advantage over the earth and fire benders because there is water in the human body, which means that they are guaranteed to have water at any given time.

They could take the water out a person’s body and kill them that way – like Magneto taking the iron out of his prison guard’s blood in X Men II.

Katara explains about how their father is off fighting the war. She says that she and Sokka often go hunting for food, but unfortunately, “my brother isn’t the best hunter in the world”. How do I read that? My brother and I often go off alone and accomplish nothing…maybe because they’re doing something else besides hunting? Either way, they spend large amounts of time together away from their village.

They look so cute in their puffy winter clothes.

Like that kid from A Christmas Story

or Maggie in her snowsuit on The Simpsons.

Now, this shouldn’t come a surprise, but Sokka is awesomely protective.

Whenever there’s danger, he’s always grabbing onto Katara’s arm and pulling her away, or stepping/jumping/running in front of her, or making sure she’s in front of him if they’re running away. He’s cautious, but probably only for her sake. I think on his own he’d be a bit more impulsive.

They also do this thing where they stand next to each other, and it looks like they’re holding hands, but they’re not.

And he does a lot of helping her up as well.

His eyes really stay trained on her, don’t they?

And then there’s this (whatever this is):

Once Aang is revealed, Katara, a natural caretaker, is immediately at his side. I think it’s funny that she calls him exhausted when he doesn’t manage to quite reach consciousness – he’s only been asleep for a hundred years!

I want to contrast this scene with the one in Pirates Of The Caribbean when Elizabeth finds Will in the water. You can tell that Elizabeth’s interest is romantic, but I don’t think that Katara’s is. I’ll go more into that later.

I had the audio for the blind on while watching this part, and Katara is described as a teenager, while Aang is described alternately as a “preteen” and a “young boy”.

You’re going to get tired of me, maybe, because I may end up talking about everything – the movie is very fresh in my mind.

Katara looking at Sokka

Sokka begins poking Appa, which I kind of love, because that’s a thing boys do, right? They poke dead things with sticks. Fortunately, Appa isn’t dead. He lifts his tail, and puts it down on top of Sokka, and Sokka thinks he’s being eaten, which I thought was pretty funny, although I can see how others might find that particular bit of comedy a little corny.

Katara looking at Sokka

Why I’m going to the trouble to describe this scene is because Katara turns away from Aang to watch.

Normally in movies that sort of slapstick comedy/ comic relief goes on in the background without drawing the attention of the primary storyline, but Katara watches the whole thing go down even though she’s got an unconscious little boy right in front of her. She spends a lot of time looking at Sokka.

Katara looking at Sokka

Katara looking at Sokka

Katara looking at Sokka

Katara looking at Sokka; “Oh, are we bowing too?”

Then there’s a vision of the village. Pretty small, right? I bet there’s a lot of inbreeding going on there (wink, wink).

Bad dog!

So, the Fire Nation shows up (booo!). Katara and Sokka are standing next to each other. Sokka carries his weapons on his back, one of which is a boomerang (thanks narrator for the blind – I just thought it was a weird curvy stick thing!). He reaches back for it, and Katara immediately notices (see, she’s always watching) tells him not to. He immediately stops.

Equally bad dog!

Then a couple of minutes later, Katara starts waterbending and gathers up some snow. Sokka notices, and tells her not to. She immediately stops. Nice parallel there. Not only did they both have the same stupid inclination to intervene, but they both respected the others command without question.

Aang goes with Zuko, which doesn’t sit well with anybody.

Rodin’s lesser known Thinker

Sokka is a thinker – he’s trying to figure out who Aang is, and why the Fire Nation is interested in him.

“The Fire Nation sucks!”

Katara, conventionally, is more of a feeler. She tells us how their mother was taken the same way “when we were babies.” That doesn’t make any sense because  Katara tell us things that her mother told her, which she wouldn’t remember if she had been an actual baby. The line does, however, give us the sense that Sokka and Katara are close in age, and not 11 years apart like the actors who portray them.

“That boy is our responsibility”

Katara says “that boy is our responsibility”. It’s kind of like she and Sokka are now Aang’s parents. Awwww. She and Sokka are a unit, and throughout the movie this never really changes. They do everything together.

Sokka isn’t buying what she’s selling yet. You can tell he’s very conflicted – his natural inclination is to help Aang, but it’s not like that’s a practical option. Not only are they no match for Zuko, his men, and his warship, but they have no way of catching up with them.

“What would you do if it were me?”

But helping Aang matters to Katara, and she pulls out the big guns: “What would you do if they tried to take me away?” She knows exactly how he’ll respond.

“I’d kill them all”

He turns sharply to her. “I’d kill them all.” And we don’t doubt it – we can hear it in his voice.

Awwwww. My heart’s about bursting right now.

“Why?”

She approaches him, and sits down across from him. “Why?” she asks.

It’s a stupid question.

He says, “Because you’re my sister.” This answer is inadequate – there are only two other sets of siblings in this film: Ozai and Iroh, and Zuko and Azula. They certainly aren’t of the same mind.

“Because Father told me to protect you with my life” = an answer that’s less zealous and therefore less creepy

He seems to realize that he either didn’t say enough, or he said too much, because after a brief awkward pause, he launches into an embellishment: “Because Father told me to protect you with my life.”

Katara is silent for a second – too moved to speak, perhaps? But then she realizes that she hasn’t pushed Sokka in the right direction, so she has to “bend” the analogy to be one about responsibility: “Because I’m your responsibility” she says, answering her own question the way she wants it to be answered.

“What do you want us to do, Katara?” Sokka asks, despairing, lookin away because he doesn’t like the look of disappointment on her face and because he’s ashamed that he doesn’t have a solution. And I love it. You can see: he agrees with her completely, as she had known all along that he did. Their discussion was futile, because they were both thinking the same thing from the beginning, because that’s who they are, that’s what their relationship is.

Katara looks down. She can talk big game until she has to provide a solution. She’s the girl who always gets to do the right thing, say the right thing, ride around on a high moral horse, dive in to trouble, because she’s always got Sokka there to back her up, make it happen, dig her out of the sh!tpile she’s gotten herself into, or just plain old save her. (Like Elena).

Sokka says, “I know you think everything is going to turn out fine, but I don’t.” Katara is naïve, just like Elena. They get to be, because there’s always someone practical standing behind them, looking like the bad guy or the coward or the selfish one when they state the truth instead of the dream.

I love that Katara never suggests going on her own. It was always going to be the two of them.

This is when they notice Appa, and that he can fly. Bingo!

They visit their grandmother before leaving. I like her a lot. I like the actress too – she’s like a little girl, but wise. I don’t care for this scene, though – it’s all exposition, and poorly worded. I love Sokka – he asks all of the questions that I have, and he does it later too, all of Katara’s questions are silly.

Their grandmother says: “Now, go help this boy, he will need you two.” I don’t think Daddy is going to be too thrilled when he gets back. I love that even the grandmother acknowledges their unity, and Sokka’s importance.

I’m sure Sokka develops quite the inferiority complex, traveling with a waterbender and the Avatar, while he’s nothing.

Kind of like Xander on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. That’s why I’m glad he got to have the princess girlfriend.

Aang uses his glider (which in the hands of an airbender is essentially a graceful jetpack) to land on Appa’s back, and he explains to Katara and Sokka that he’s got things to do. Sokka says, “We’ll come with you.” He’s so quick to speak for the both of them. Then Aang offers to take them back to their village.

“We’re coming with you”

Katara looks at Sokka (Sokka is looking at Aang), then turns back to Aang, and says “We’re going with you.”  They are always on the same wavelength – it’s so beautiful.

The airbender temples are awesome!

They are high atop narrow rocky edifices.

It’s like the Pandoran mountains of Avatar, actually, except less floating and less mist.

“You tell him” -“No, you tell him”

When Katara and Sokka begin to realize that Aang has been in the ice for a long time, they exchange a knowing look. They do this a lot – they communicate without speaking. They understand each other, and they reach the same conclusions.

So, meanwhile, Zuko is invited onto Zhao’s ship for lunch. While Zhao is saying bad things about him in front of the entire crew, Zuko begins to gather up a flame, and his uncle puts a comforting hand over Zuko’s. Awwww… Another parallel for the scene between Katara and Sokka and their violent instincts.

Later, Iroh is drinking tea on an upper deck, while Zuko spars against a dozen other guys below. Iroh isn’t worried; he sips his tea calm as can be, while Zuko kicks everybody’s butts. He’s not even watching – that’s how confident he is! Zuko’s dad was so wrong about him! He might have a soft spot for his friends, but he’s a kickass warrior!

When the earthbending boy comes running towards them, he automatically goes to Sokka for protection, and Sokka automatically protects him, while Katara steps forward in a defensive stance. They don’t need to decide to intervene, they both just do.

Sokka grabs his boomerang, and Katara forms a water ball as we’ve seen them do before, only this time they’re prepared to use them.

But Katara just isn’t the waterbender she thinks she is…

,,,and the ball of water goes flying back at Sokka, encasing him in ice. Maybe he could have saved them all if Katara had done that. Anyway, this happened in the first scene, and even then Sokka states that every time she does that, he gets wet. Why, I ask. Maybe the water is directed towards the person she’s thinking about? That she can’t help but send the water towards Sokka because she is unable to control her thoughts from drifting to him? I know, I know, you’re trying to tell me that it’s just for humor. Well, be quiet, leave me to my delusions.

They are arrested and taken to the ghetto for the earthbenders. We really see Aang step forward here. Noah Ringer doesn’t really bring any magic to the speech here, and the speech isn’t particularly rousing, but whatever. We still see that Aang has a destiny, a purpose, it’s inside of him, and he’s embracing it. Katara starts a fight with the Fire Nation guards, but Sokka doesn’t try to stop her – he jumps right in.

And then he’s the one who comes up with the plan. I love how even though he isn’t special in a bending way, he still manages to make himself important. He’s the one with all of the big ideas. He’s the guiding force behind Aang’s brawn, and Aang’s spokesperson persona. And he’s the one who realizes that they’re being followed – by Zuko, and by Zhao.

The Fire Nation doesn’t look so bad. It’s not a barren wasteland. It’s a little flat for my tastes, but still quite lovely in its way.

The Fire Nation strikes me as being sort of like Sparta: austere, regimented, belligerent, and prizing honor and fire-bending/fighting prowess above all else.

Because when we see the flashback of when Zuko was supposed to duel with his father, Zuko is played by a younger actor, so who knows how old he was. He was already going to war, already facing these sorts of consequences.  And I didn’t even mention that before banishing him, his father burned Zuko.

So, I totally forgot one of the most important things! After Zuko storms out of his luncheon from hell with Zhao, he pulls an image out from his tunic of his family.

His mother and father are in their thrones, and Zuko sits at his mother’s feet, while Azula sits in front of her father. The primitive nature of the image does not lend itself to analysis. First of all, the way Azula is dressed and has her hair done makes her look like a man – she even looks like she’s got facial hair, poor girl. She is obviously kneeling, but Zuko almost looks like he’s standing, which makes him look like a dwarf. Anyway, after some intense research involving bureaucratic runaround, trips to the Vatican library, and many sleepless nights, I have discovered that Zuko is (according to the canon of the cartoon) two years older than Azula.

When I first watched the movie, and saw Zuko looking at the picture with such longing, I thought awwww, he misses his mum and his sisters (the brief glimpse at the photo tricked my eyes into believing it was littered with little girls). For some reason, the first thing I thought of was Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe’s great novel. A boy is taken away from his tribe, and he describes several times how much he misses his mother and his sisters. He’s supposed to be a man, but he’s just a boy who wants to go home to the affectionate female members of his family.

Anyway, Zuko strokes the image of his mother. Poor kid. We never see her, so I’m going to take a wild guess and say she’s dead. She could very well be alive, though. Does Zuko miss her because she’s dead, or does he miss her because he’s exiled? It could be a very important point, because it could be the main drive for him to return to the Fire Nation. Anyway, this picture moment is the first moment when I just want wrap my arms around Zuko and give him a good, comforting squeeze. This inclination only becomes stronger and stronger as the film goes on.

So, back to the flashback. Zuko refuses to face his father, and then his father adds insult to injury (is that expression appropriate in this context?) and taunts him saying that he should bring Zuko’s sister up there to defeat him. Then we see Azula step out of the background into the light and laugh in slow motion.

You have to remember that when I first saw this scene, I had no conception of who Azula was. In fact, she could have been one of many sisters, and she looks like a little girl in this scene, not the psycho bitch she will become. It’s only upon later reflection that I could really see that her joy and laughter here are malicious. My first impression was merely that she felt flattered, but now I see that she’s an evil little girl who delighted in her brother’s misery and shame. Delicious!

This scene develops a couple of ideas (regarding their relationship) which are emphasized later: 1) Azula is prized by her father, 2) Azula is very skilled, 3) Azula is a rotten little bitch, 4) Zuko’s resentment/jealousy/hatred/rivalry towards Azula runs so deep that it is practically an institution.

Yay!

So, Ozai burns his son because he’s a douchenozzle (Papa, not the son), and they show Iroh’s face while it happens – he’s so troubled, so regretful. It’s easy to see on his face why he followed his nephew into exile.

Back to Sokka and Katara. Aang wants to travel to the air temple because its close by – he’ll be back in less than a day. Do you know what I say to that? If it takes a day roundtrip, it’s not that close! Also, when is splitting up ever a good idea?

Sokka doesn’t think that’s such a good idea either…there’s a boy who uses his noggin. (Sokka is totally right, because as I mentioned before, the Fire Nation ambushes Aang there.) Sokka tells Katara to talk him out of it.

Katara seems to agree with Aang, but she doesn’t put up a fight with Sokka, she immediately does what he says. However, Aang sneaks off alone to do it anyway. Sokka and Katara need to lay down the law for their little boy. Anyway, this part felt really weirdly put together, like they skipped a scene. The scene wasn’t necessary, because we can ell envision how it would have played out and we don’t need to see it, but it also felt very disjointed without it.

Sokka and Katara are already (or still – is it morning?) in bed (wow, I like saying that) when Aang takes off on Appa. I almost wish their party was larger so that I could point out that it’s significant that Sokka and Katara were lying right next to each other. All I can really say is that their “beds” all seem pretty close together, and they might face some awkward situations waking up in the morning, particularly if the night was cold.

In fact, the way the shot is framed, they could almost be sharing a “bed”.

It seems to be warm enough (and dry) wherever they are for this scene, though. I bet when it’s cold they all curl up with Appa. That would be fun, as long as he didn’t smell.

I bet they wouldn’t have minded a tent like Harry, Hermione, and Ron have in the latest Harry Potter movie.

So, Aang and Zuko make a pretty kickass team when they’re trying to escape from Zhao and his men.

I’m not crazy about Zuko’s Blue Spirit costume, or the way he walks (not fights) when he’s wearing it – it’s almost androgynous. I’m not educated in masks, but it spoke of Africa to me, especially in combination with the hair.

The expression on the mask is quite ugly. How does he see with it on?

Although at least it’s a real mask, and covers up more than a pair of Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses (Mystic Falls Masquerade Ball – I’m looking at you).

While they are making their escape, Zhao has an arrow shot at Zuko which knocks him unconscious. Aang removes the mask. Surprise!

While they were fighting, Aang had clearly developed an affinity with his companion, and is now conflicted to realize that the Blue Spirit who he thought was an ally is actually just as much his enemy as Zhao. He stares at him, his expression inscrutable. Aang, being a Buddhist-peacy-rainbow type does not kill Zuko while he’s out, or do anything to him except for move him into the forest.

Aang hangs around him for a while, though I’m not sure why, perhaps waiting for day. Zuko is still unconscious when Aang finally does leave. And how does Aang leave? By jumping up the branches of the tree! I’m so jealous!

Jasper could do it. Honestly, one of my favorite parts of Twilight is when Edward puts Bella on his back and goes all Tarzan, except instead of swinging on vines through the canopy, he hops around like a sexy squirrel.

We never really get to hear what Zuko thinks about the whole ordeal. It seems that he keeps it a secret from Uncle Iroh, although the wise Iroh can probably guess more or less what happened. However, Zuko does seem…strange. Silent. Thoughtful.

Cozy…notice the thoughful neck-nape-scratch…Dev Patel is great!

So, our crew finally arrives in the Northern Water Tribe City, and they meet Princess Yue, who is actually queen, but is always referred to as Princess. She’s kind of like British royalty these days, because as far as I can tell, her advisors do everything, and her power is symbolic.

Katara narrates and says: “My brother and the princess became friends right away.

I say: “Right, ‘friends’.”

In Ozai’s discussions with Zhao, we learn that he gets regular reports on his son. I think he loves his son, and still has hope for him. He tells Zhao not to hurt him, although Zhao doesn’t listen and tries to kill Zuko a number of times. The origin of their antagonism is never revealed. I wonder if Zhao has designs on the throne, maybe he’s the evil uncle that Iroh isn’t.

Believing that Zuko is dead, Zhao has invited Iroh to help him take the city. He reminds Iroh about the death of his son in the siege of Bah Sing Se, a city which Katara mentioned earlier in the film. And that’s all we learn. I kind of hope that this son was one of the friends that Zuko was trying to save when he first got in trouble, not that that’s necessary for the bond between Zuko and his uncle. Iroh has snuck Zuko onto the ship.

We learn that Sokka, Katara, and Aang have been in the city for a few weeks. I’m curious about the sleeping arrangements.

The relationship between Sokka and Yue happens largely off screen.

They really only get one scene to flirt with each other, but it’s where Yue tells the story of the Moon Spirit saving her at birth, so it’s all plot exposition. Then the ash starts to fall (a sign for them?). I’m not sure I feel any chemistry between them. We never really connect with her until she dies.

*cough*

So, I have to hate the Fire Nation, because they are major polluters. It’s a good thing their world isn’t industrialized, because those Fire Nation ships are already doing more damage than the forests can handle.

So, Zuko has to swim underwater to get into the city, and he has to break through a sheet of ice on top of the water. His fingers burn orange to melt the ice and help him break through. It almost makes him seem like he’s one of the highest level firebenders, and can create fire using his own chi. I wonder if that will turn out to be the case.

Aang needs to talk to the Dragon spirit, so he goes to the spiritual place that the city was built around. It’s in a grotto, a cave in one of the mountains. It’s a beautiful place, with clear ponds and a pink-leaved tree. (Cherry blossom? Dogwood? I’m not the botanist I wish I was.) Yue leaves , and Sokka is her guard, so he leaves too. Katara says that she’ll stay with Aang. I keep getting mad at Sokka for leaving her alone. He never should have agreed to be Yue’s bodyguard: he already has someone he’s supposed to be guarding with his life. But then I remember that he had no reason to believe that Katara was in any danger, and in the end, she wasn’t.

Zuko arrives (and he brought fire!).

There’s something totally epic about Katara first seeing him. I mean, just look at this picture:

Aang is meditating, so he’s totally out of it. Zuko takes Katara out. He’s impressed at first with her waterbending skills, or perhaps just with the fact that she can waterbend at all. He asks, “Who are you?” And then she proceeds to tell him every relevant fact about herself. Why? I don’t know, don’t ask me. But he can bend two columns of fire, and she can only bend one column of water, so he manages to knock her out. That, or she was taken by surprise. I find it hard to believe that it’s the latter, because how do you not notice a column of fire hurtling at you? There’s plenty of water and sparkling cave walls to reflect it.

Zuko doesn’t leave her lying there. He flips her onto her back, gently. He brushes the hair out of her face (our narrator for the blind missed that one).

And then he explains that he can’t go home without the Avatar. That’s right, he feels the need to justify himself to her. Of course, she’s unconscious, so she doesn’t hear him. He stares at her for a bit. So I start shipping them pretty quick. At least their relationship might actually happen.

The battle begins.

Sokka and Yue return to the cave. I don’t know where they went, or what they did, because their absence was contrived for the plot.

Sokka finds Katara unconscious.

I hope he’s kicking himself. He’s awfully handsy during this part. Are you looking for a moontone, Sokka? He’s got one hand down on her leg…

it slowly moves up her thigh.

“Is this Heaven?”

The other one is on her cheek (one of my favorite romantic gestures)

Follow the thumb…

then he strokes her cheek with his thumb

Yep, that’s a caress. She’s already awake, Sokka!

then he moves his hand into her hair, before resting it on her shoulder.

A room with a view

Zuko takes Aang to a place to hide until night when they will slip out.

“It’s called a personal bubble, buddy”

Aang is, I guess, still meditating, talking with the Dragon Spirit, who gives him some good advice, although in a brutally honest manner.

Aang slows stirs out of his meditative state to the words of Zuko: “My sister Azula was always the special one. She was a firebending prodigy. My father loves her. He can’t even look at me sometimes. He says I’m like my mother.”

So much there! Zuko is staring at the window, although he’s not actually looking at whatever’s going on. I love how he stands there pouring his heart out to Aang, how is not only in some ways his enemy, but is also unconscious! This poor kid really needs a psychologist! He can only talk to unconscious people, apparently.

Here we finally learn the sister’s name. She was “always the special one”. Zuko spent his whole life watching her be in the spotlight. She’s an expert firebender. And their father loves her. Apparently poor Zuko doesn’t think his father loves him at all. He doesn’ say “My father prefers her”, or “my father is proud of her”, but “my father loves her” – it’s so sad. And the way it’s worded, Zuko doesn’t even necessarily imply that Ozai loves Azula because of her firebending skills – she’s simply the one that he loves. Now the “he can’t even look at me sometimes” is really interesting. We already know that Zuko is an awesome warrior, so why is Ozai so hard on him? (It’s possible Zuko developed his skills after his banishment – I can’t know). We can assume that this similarity to the mother is the quality of “softness”. But if the mother (the Fire Lady?) is dead, then maybe Ozai can’t stand to look at his son because the pain is too much, and it reminds him of his dead wife.

Is that too Captain Von Trapp? Ozai certainly isn’t going to pull out the guitar and sing Edelweiss, but I’m not convinced he doesn’t have a heart in there somewhere. I’d like to believe everyone does, of course.

“And then on my twelfth birthday she didn’t even get me a gift…”

What I love is that we catch the end of Zuko’s little monologue. It’s constructed, obviously, so that we hear what we need to hear, but I wonder how long he’s been talking? He could have been droning on about Azula for an hour.

I love how Aang’s escape plans always involve him being upside down at least once

Aang wakes and tries to escape. He’s smart to go straight for the door, no thinking, no talking. He and Zuko duel.

In fact, Aang doesn’t actually win the fight, because Katara shows up and encases Zuko in ice. In his defense, she took him totally by surprise.

She looks him up and down for a minute – I don’t know if she’s thinking about him, or admiring her own skill, but I’d like to think the moment’s about him.

I’m proud of Katara during this scene, because she gets right down to business, asking him if his conversation with the Dragon Spirit revealed information needed to win the battle. Sokka and Yue are right behind her.

Aang frees Zuko’s head from the ice and tells him that he won’t be killed by waterbenders if he stays there.

They he says that they could be friends. Aang and Zuko have a strange relationship. Zuko begins to use his chi to melt the ice.

Aang joins the battle while Katara, Yue, and Sokka investigate what’s going on. It probably should have been the other way around. Aang apparently has a weapon that he carries around with him, a staff (which apparently is also his glider). I don’t know where he keeps it. Every time the narrator for the blind says that Aang grabs his staff I think dirty things.

Zhao finds the Moon Spirit in the form of a fish in the pond in the grotto. He asks why they take the form of such benign creatures. Good question, I say. An animal? OK. But a fish? Apparently the Moon Spirit is an incredibly deficient fish, because Zhao catches it in a bag. On the first try – putting forth about 5% effort. He kills it. Iroh, Yue, Sokka, and Katara are all there. They tell him not to do it, but they never physically try to stop him. I guess they couldn’t believe that he would ever actually do it. Mandvi does a good job here: you can tell that he is going to do it, but he doesn’t really want to. Iroh says earlier that Zhao has no “sacredness”. It’s true, but there’s a little ember burning deep down inside of him.

Before and after the death of the Moon Spirit

The moon turns red, Yue falls to the ground hurt

…and Aang gets a blinding headache. I really like that Aang was affected – that was a nice touch. All around the city, the waterbenders lose their mojo.

Flame-retardant trees are a necessary addition for every Firebender’s garden…only $19.99 if you call now…ask about our lingerie line

Iroh gets pissed off, creates fire with his own chi, and scares the other Fire Nation members out of the grotto. It’s a good thing that was a magical pink-leaved tree or it would have caught on fire.

“Die, Water Tribe whore!” -“OK.”

Teenage girls don’t seem to mean much to Iroh. He either wants them to sleep with his nephew, he wants them to give their lives for the spirits. It must be because the only one he ever knew was Azula. He tells Yue what she must do.

Sokka says not to listen to him, because he’s Fire Nation. It’s the plea of a desperate man.

“Well this is a fortunate – I mean, unfortunate – turn of events…” (And I thought I was going to have to kill her myself)

Miss save-everybody (aka Katara) is curiously silent. Maybe she’s as ready to see Yue – aka the obstacle to incestuous love – die as much as I am. She seriously just sits there and lets it happen. Her face says “this is a grave situation”, but it certainly doesn’t say anything like “oh God no”, or “this can’t happen” or “how will we make it through this great loss?”.

“I can’t lose my hot royal honey!”

Yue and Sokka have their sad goodbye moment. Sorry, I feel nothing. They didn’t have love yet, just potential love.

Their kiss was quite nice, though.  I don’t blame him for not wanting to let go of his beautiful princess.

“Please don’t make me any more scared than I already am. I’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know.” (lame!)

She tells him not to make make her any more scared than she already is, which is the perfect way to shut down his protestations. Props to her/Shyamalan for that line. The one that follows isn’t Shakespeare, though.

Nom nom nom chi chi chi

She lies down in the water, and easy peasy the dead fish sucks up her chi.

Her hair turns dark.

Iroh is the one who walks into the water and carries her out. I don’t blame the others for not wanting to go in there: Yue has just given the Moon Spirit a taste for human flesh chi…maybe he’s still hungry. Duh duh duh…Interesting that the Moon Spirit is male, because cross culturally the moon is almost universally considered to be feminine.

Aroooooooo! (Awfully considerate of the Fire Nation to attack on a full moon)

Everything is fixed!

Sokka gets a little necrophiliac-y for a moment. Just kidding, it’s actually quite sweet. He presses his forehead against Yue’s, which is another of my favorite romantic gestures. It’s more romantic when one of them isn’t dead, though.

Aang has been kicking asses and taking names. He realizes its time for a grand gesture – the atomic bomb in his arsenal of bending, if you will.

But he can’t until he accepts his loss, and his responsibility in the deaths of the Air Nomads. We see a flashback of him in training at his temple with the monks.

There is a very understated and beautiful sadness to the flashbacks. I teared up the second time I watched the movie and then they started really rolling. It really got me. Aang doesn’t really carry his devastation around with him on his face, it’s only in the flashbacks when you really see what he has lost. Wow, I’m starting to cry right now just thinking about it. If I was writing on physical paper, you’d be seeing tear drop marks blurring the ink. I think it’s really well done. Howard’s score helps, of course.

So Aang does his wave thing. His eyes go blue and his arrow glows, as has happened before when he enters the spirit world.

Nom nom nom chi chi chi

It makes me think of Lost Girl, when succubus Bo starts snacking on people.

Aang and Katara hug briefly

but it isn’t long before they are joined by Sokka. He’s smiling already. They help Aang down to the outdoor throne area. Aang has apparently been weakened by his exertion. Everyone there begins bowing to him.The Fire Nation soldiers who were abandoned in the city are off to one side. In the center is Yue’s top advisor and Aang’s waterbending instructor. The drum beat is so perfect for this part…gives me chills.

I always get chills during mass bowing scenes, though, or mass ovations. Like in To Kill A Mockingbird, or The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, or at the end of The Lion King.

Sokka leaves Aang’s side and goes to the join the masses, but he waits for Katara to join him until he bows. Unity!

She follows a second later, and bows down with incredible grace. When she places her head to the ground it’s the single best moment of acting she does in the entire movie. Then Noah Ringer rocks the whatever it is he does, and bows back to them, and the music gets powerful and loud and it’s awesome! The almost perfect ending. (Although Aang looks a little freaked, and like he needs to do some balance board exercises because he can’t quite hold the position).

Of course, the actual ending was even better, for me, because we got to see Azula. And she’s not dressed like a man – she’s wearing a veil, with her hair down. The Lord took mercy on me. And she’s wearing a lot of layers, but one of them is pink! And her top layer is a deep velvety blue which reflects in her hair. And who is associated with blue? The Blue Spirit!

I have to say, part of wohat worked so well for me during Summer Bishil’s 30 seconds is that she spoke with an affectation – an accent.

“I do, Father” (accept this unspeakable important task…with relish)

Now, you may be wondering if it’s possible to ship a brother and sister who were never even in the same shot, and I’m telling you that yes, it’s very possible. By the time I finished watching the movie, I was far more interested in the explosive potential of Zuko and Azula than Sokka and Katara.

They hate each other, or so it seems. I am always interested in the passionate potential of pairs who hate each other, and when they’re brother and sister, it’s just that much more titillating. Now, Zuko never states that he hates Azula, but I think it’s pretty clear from his voice that he’s not her biggest fan. He doesn’t admire her. I think it’s obvious that she doesn’t respect him, but we don’t get very much from her point of view. If she’s as crazy as they say, she may not care about anybody.

And what about Zuko’s apparent lack of interest in other girls? Iroh’s checking out all of the hot teenage tail while Zuko’s got tunnel vision. Or maybe he’s already met the gold standard – Azula – and no other girl could ever compare.

Now, not only do Zuko and Azula hate each other, but they are in a position where they may very well end up fighting physically. They’ve gone from familial enemies to enemies in the larger sense – the Fire Nation (Azula) against the rest of the world (Zuko).

Azula may be a firebending prodigy, but Zuko kicks ass in hand-to-hand combat. Like Florence says, “A kiss with a fist is better than none.”

And then it gets better: they’re members of a royal family, which means they may very well have a throne rivalry in addition to the rivalry for their parents’ affection. Gender doesn’t seem to be an issue.

As both firebenders and holders of royal blood, Zuko and Azula probably think of themselves as special, better than everyone else. The Fire Nation already seems to think that about itself, so I imagine it only gets more intense as you move up the chain. In situations like this, I often resort to this blood thing – a sort of eugenics. In real life, mating two biological siblings to encourage their physical characteristics is nonsense at this point – the risks outweigh the benefits. But when you’re dealing with mythology, when the features you’re breeding for are rarer but guaranteed under certain conditions, then its different.

For example, in Mists Of Avalon, the Lady of the Lake and Merlin breed Arthur with his half-sister Morgana because they have magic in their blood. The product of this union – Mordred – is supposed to be the pagan savior.

Or course, Mordred is evil, as anyone who knows the story realizes. In Mists of Avalon, he’s evil because he is raised by someone evil. He is, however, exactly the magical being they had been hoping for.

Now, in terms of Zuko and Azula, this idea of breeding can relate to their royal blood, but then also to their firebending abilities. They’re both firebenders, their uncle and their father are both firebenders. We’re never told that bending is genetic, but it certainly seem so be the case. We meet father and son earthbenders too. Iroh is one of the highest firebenders, and Azula is a firebending prodigy, and I read that she is the only or one of the only ones who can do lightning.

So this begs the question: why can’t Sokka waterbend?  We don’ know about their parents. I wonder if he’ll discover later on that he can. I doubt it, but maybe. On the other hand, Katara is the only waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe – they need more waterbenders! So if waterbending is genetic, then it makes sense to look for more waterbenders in families that have already produced them.

“I like her reasoning…let’s listen to her.”

Which means furthermore that it actually makes sense for Sokka and Katara to reproduce with each other in an effort to furnish more waterbenders. Of course, this becomes less true once they travel to the Northern Water Tribe where there are plenty of waterbenders = studs.

So, about the canon couples. I don’t have much more to say about Sokka and Princess Yue. She died, so she’s off the table anyway. I’m sure Sokka would have come back around to Katara anyway.

I’m not sure whether Aang and Katara are supposed to be love interests or not.

Never has their age difference been more stark than in the photo where they most look like love interests…o the frustrating irony!

I saw no indications that they were except convention (as in, all main characters have a love story). She’s clearly older, which generally nixes the idea. There’s no reason for her to be older if she is supposed to be Aang’s love interest. And even though Noah Ringer was 12, I really feel like Aang was supposed to be even younger than that…at least that’s how he came across to me. (I’m not cheating and looking up what happened on the show.)

She and Aang never have any meaningful conversations, at least when they do, Sokka is also present. In fact, it’s hard to even buy them as intimate friends, although they hug, and they hug at least two more times in the deleted scenes. When Aang freaks out because he can never have a family, I believe he’s talking about parents, and not about a wife and kids. He describes the monk Gyatso as being like his father. And he’s only 12 (or possibly younger) for goodness sake.  I certainly didn’t get any vibe from them.

In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Anakin was only 10 years old, but you could tell that he and the 14 year-old Padme/20-something Natalie Portman were headed for romance.

And then I wonder about Zuko and Katara. They are more age compatible. It certainly seems like Zuko will be fighting on Aang’s side from now on. Especially now that his father considers him a traitor. There’s plenty of time for them to fall for each other. I wouldn’t mind it, although I’d rather that it didn’t happen. I’d rather that none of them had any canon love interests so I can fully enjoy my incestuous fantasies for them.

It looks like the chances of a sequel film are quite promising! This movie certainly left itself wide open for a sequel, although I’m pleased as pie with how it ended, so I hope the second makes me happier instead of disappointed. That’s the risk you take. Actually, it looks as if there might be three, because this first film is labeled at the beginning as Chapter One – Water, and it’s the film in which the Aang masters waterbending, so he also has to learn earthbending (which is harder than it looks if you’re using a Wii remote), and then finally firebending. (And that matches up with the three seasons of the TV show) With Sozin’s comet coming in three years, all of the characters will be older. Hmmm…. Will that have any effect on Aang and Katara?

So, I mentioned that I’d had limited exposure to the premise of the film. What I left out was what I had read on the Brother-Sister Incest page on TTAI and seen in the video it directed me towards. Having no context for the characters or the relationship, I more or less forgot it. It was in the back of mind going in to the movie, but I didn’t remember their names, and for all I knew they were minor characters who wouldn’t even be in the movie, so I wasn’t really thinking about it.

The movie turned out very pleasing in that respect. And I’m all the more interested in checking out the TV show.

And you should check out The Last Airbender (and cut it a freaking break)!

If you’re interested, I’ve also done a Comparison/Contrast with the Animated TV Series, and a Shipper’s Guide to Zuko/Azula for the TV series.

Your moment of zen (forbidden booty from the deleted scenes):

Appa is a versatile means of transportation

“Even though I can waterbend, I’m going to fight these professional soldiers with my bare hands because I’m a little girl and can probably do it”

The bloodthirsty side of Katara

“I can fight too! I don’t even need my boomerang!”

 –

“What do you mean you want to date my sister?”

“Chill, Boo: you know I love you”

About shipcestuous

http://shipcestuous.tumblr.com
This entry was posted in Action Adventure Movies, Family/Kids' Movies, Movies, Movies That Should Have Incest, TV Shows, TV Shows That Should Have Incest, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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