The Last Airbender

[SOM #55]

This is the first of five Avatar shows with more to follow as new Seasons of The Legend of Korra are released. This one serves as an introduction to the series, since my estimate is that 97% of you, my listeners have never had the pleasure of this, maybe the finest animated TV series in the world, and I do not use those words lightly.

The Legend of Aang is a story that starts out aimed at kids aged 6-11 but rapidly becomes something far more compelling to all age groups and walks of life. Taking inspiration from eastern mythology and martial arts, but with a fresh, original and very funny energy. Set over three series, which are paced like books, this has the scale of Lord of the Rings and the heart of Toy Story. You will find yourself devouring episodes, hungry for more as it draws towards a conclusion that will leave you breathless.

That series won ten major awards and ran from 2005 – 2008 but in an extremely rare instance Nickelodeon green-lit a follow-up series named The Legend of Korra which aired in 2012 and immediately met with massive success. It features gorgeous, animation that surpasses most theatrically released movies and a plot that embraces even more unexpectedly mature social themes than its predecessor. Nickelodeon was so impressed with the feedback, viewing figures and critical response that they recently ordered forty more episodes, a move that made my team here misty-eyed with joy.

To put the whole thing in perspective we review in this episode the disastrous, turgid and utterly hated cinematic outing from 2010, directed by M Night Shyamalan. Using it as a foil to explain what they did so wrong with the movie that was done so right on the show.

Joining me for this spoiler-free sizzle to convince you of what’s been missing from your life all these years I have Daniel Floyd, Pixar animator and the voice of Extra Credits and Joshua Garrity of the Cane and Rinse podcast and The Animation Archives, presented by Gonzo Planet. Also of Gonzo Planet, my ever-patient wife Mrs Sharon Shaw, anime and comic book fanatic Mr Jerome McIntosh and for one of his very first Gonzo shows, Mr Duane Griffiths.

This will be the show order for the upcoming weeks leading up to the epic Gonzo Planet #100.

95. Avatar: The Last Airbender [Movie and Sizzle Show]
96. Avatar: The Legend of Aang, Book 1 – Water
97. Avatar: The Legend of Aang, Book 2 – Earth
98. Avatar: The Legend of Aang, Book 3 – Fire
99: Avatar: The Legend of Korra, Book 1 – Air

The first DVD set you will need to get hold of can be picked up for £12.97 on Amazon and it is called “Book 1: Water“.

Author: Alex Shaw

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22 Comments

  1. I just want to say that I am so excited to listen to this. I think I live in a subculture in which every member has already watched this show (and play tabletop rpgs based on the show) and I am very glad for it to be presented to a wider audience.

  2. You mean that everything, other than the movie is worth our time?

  3. The whole first series is also available on nick.com as far as I know.

  4. I was excited about hearing more about the show, but all I heard was whining about how bad film was. Not very informative about animates series which I suppose I should watch.

  5. Watched a lot, but not all of it, when it was first running. Great show that I’ve been meaning to rewatch, and this should be the motivation I need to do so.

  6. I actually have something to thank this movie for. It was so bad it made me want to see what the original Nickelodeon series like. If I hadn’t sat through this piece of dross, I never would have started watching the Nickelodeon series.

  7. Terrific analysis of the film, eager to see you guys tackle the following seasons. Especially Season 3 and the first season of Korra.
    Pretty much spot on throughout the entire thing, I only disagree on a single point.

    At some point someone (I believe it was Josh, though I may be wrong) mentioned that Shyamalan’s comment about making Book 2’s eventual (pshh, yeah right) film adaptation “darker” was a bad idea. Honestly, I believe thats the only way an adaptation of book 2 could work.

    (SPOILERS AHEAD, of both the series and movie)

    Its the darkest season of The Last Airbender. It features some of the series’ most somber ideas; Appa’s Lost Days, Zuko Alone, the introduction of Azula, the occupation of Omashu, the library, the desert, the freaking Dai Li, not to mention the seasons overpoweringly downer ending where no joke, the bad guys win. In a sense Book 2 is very much the Empire Strikes Back to the first seasons A New Hope.
    But then again, Book 2’s darker tone worked mainly because it contrasted with Book 1’s extremely light hearted, bright and fun tone. By sucking out all of the fun of the first season, Shyamalan has made part of what made Book 2’s darkness necessary obsolete
    Not only that but he has already ruined the ending of Book 1 which I believed served as a perfect transition to Book 2. Allow me to explain my reasoning.
    Book 1 was as you guys have said, a fairly more light hearted, family friendly show then season two. Never getting any darker then you’re typical kids show. Then during the finally our main character, a nice little kid that hasn’t really been much of a real threat to the Fire Nation as a whole becomes an outright Kaiju and destroys an entire armada of Fire Nation Ships. He even -if indirectly- kills several people. In my opinion, the entire finale could serve as the series’ way to outright say “hey, things are about to get loud up in here!”

    • Actually I agree with all of that. Book 2: Earth is significantly darker than Book 1: Water. I am just cautious of the way cack-handed purveyors of entertainment tend to darken everything with the first sequel. Pirates of the Caribbean for example ended up with a lot less humour and this first Airbender film had already hit that stage so God knows what M Night would have done. Thankfully we’ll never find out.

      • Oh, absolutely. I see what you’re saying and I totally agree.

        What struck me most about this film was that Shyamalan just didn’t seem to care. It didn’t even seem to have that uniquely strange-but-in-a-good-way feel most of his other movies seemed to have. I mean say what you will about The Happening, it was terrible but it was also recognizable as a Shyamalan movie. The Last Airbender looks like an assigned project by the studio.
        So yeah, he would have probably just made the second film needlessly and generically gritty and edgy (grrrr)

        Oh, as for something completely different:
        OMG, I just realized I’ve heard that song at the end before, like years ago. This seriously took me by surprise, Halfway through the song I remembered it was used in this brilliant parody trailer by Cracked. Completely unrelated, but still, funny coincidence.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbhrz1-4hN4

  8. I’ve already had the pleasure of viewing this series but I hope you guys get many more to view it

  9. I agree the movie should have never been made but I feel you beat the movie much more to death then you should have. We got it, the movie took a amazing, wonderful, fun cartoon* and drained it of everything good, and added ^@&#. It would have been nice to hear more in depth cover of why its one of the best cartoons* America has made recently.

    • Listen to the next four shows for a ton more on this matter. Just had to get all the movie analysis out in a single episode. Plus that’s what we do on Digital Gonzo, we go deep and long on our chosen subject. If you haven’t already, go back and listen to the Star Wars reviews for a marathon session of nerd-rage.

  10. So I’m sending everyone from the avatar spirit site this way to listen and recommending they help others listen. Thanks for doing this and I think this show really needs to reach a bigger audience.

    • Thank you Ben. I absolutely agree. I’ve been longing for Star Wars fans, Marvel Zombies and Hogwartians to spread the love on their respective review shows for years now. I truly believe Avatarians (TM) will love this and the next four episodes. -Alex

  11. If you haven’t watched this podcast, nor the movie or the series, I suggest you watch the “M. Night Shyamalan’s the Last Airbender: Greatest Hits” video on Youtube to get a bit familiar.

    The podcast displays a few scenes in the movie, would be helpful to know what they are about. As I understand it, they mostly/only took the audio footage from the video that I mentioned.

    • Agreed. That video is brilliant. The Monty Python bit was the original poster’s idea and I doff my cap to him. Strangely there was almost no promotional material for that film that wasn’t stirring music and visual effects. No clips or conversations, none of the scintillating dialogue. It was left to that champion of YouTube to compile and for me to repurpose. ‘Rightbeneathurfeet’ I salute you.

  12. I loved this podcast. Thankfully, I never saw the film adaption, and now I have so many more reasons to continue in blissful ignorance.
    I have very recently finished watching all of Avatar:TLA series, and The Legend of Korra. I got THAT feeling; the same as i’d experienced through watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Star Wars trilogy, through reading His Dark Materials. It was a sign of a story not just well told, but told so well that it will stick with you for the rest of your life. I cannot stress just how great it was to watch the Avatar story, and I cannot recommend it enough.
    I hope the nerd-rage in this podcast will be channelled into an expression of passion for the animated series, and I very much look forward to listening.

  13. I was directed here by Extra Credits — it was a delight to hear Daniel, someone who consistently seems to feel identically about media as I do, speak alongside other adults I have never been acquainted with before. I am an active member of the Avatar fandom, constantly creating and contributing works to the creative community around this series, but I’m also an adult, and it can be a bit tiring to be exposed to the quibbles and thoughts of teenagers in regards to the show.

    It was a refreshing change of pace to listen to a long a hearty talk between ADULTS and their own take on the show.

    I greatly anticipate the following episodes and am very curious to see how sternly you guys critique the various seasons of the show — because it is an AMAZING show worthy of praise and honest critique, i think.

  14. Just found your site and reviews I am about to listen to/watch?/read several hours of stuff in the near future…Thank you.

    • Welcome to The Planet, Hejin. I recommend the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Back to the Future reviews. Batman: Breakdown, Never Mind the BuzzGeeks and the Gonzo Planet audio Magazine. The search feature should turn up all of these.

      -Alex

  15. I am extremely curious about what was actually said in the “Have a party with lots of ice cream” >.>

    • I think it was something like “Kill everyone” or something similarly upsetting for the little children. What was the wording context?

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