I’ve been watching Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender via Netflix with Thing 2 for a second time; Dark Horse Comics has been publishing comics that continue the tale told on TV and we both wanted to get back into that world. Since M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action Airbender movie was so awful, I also wanted to make sure that DaddyTips readers are aware of how awesome the cartoon and comics are, despite the fact that the movie was terrible. Also of note is a new animated series, Avatar: The Legend of Korra,
which starts July 9th which has been on the air for awhile now but somehow I didn’t notice. I don’t know anything about the show, although I have a feeling I’ll be watching it. For now let’s discuss the original.
It’s not uncommon for a film adaptation of a story from another medium turns out to be less than stellar. But the Shyamalan-directed Airbender flick was a fiasco. Not only did he fill the cast with mostly non-Asian actors, thereby irritating a huge chunk of fans before the film hit theaters, he seemed to have forgotten how to make a movie. The story is fairly straightforward, and the movie had the potential to be as epic as Star Wars. (Well, almost.)
Suffice to say, it wasn’t. The special effects were surprisingly good, but the dialog and story-telling were horrendous. Thing 2, who is a big fan of the Airbender cartoons and now the comics, actually fell asleep before the thing was over. Here’s the trailer. Try to stay awake.
I don’t mean to pile on M. Night (Night? M.?); maybe you’re a fan of his. (Or, since this is the Internet, you could be him. If so, sorry dude.) The bottom line is that I want everyone to know that Avatar: The Last Airbender, the cartoon and comics, are really good all-ages entertainment. The show has an almost perfect balance between humor, action and emotion, something that is incredibly rare. The jokes are usually not stupid, and the intense moments aren’t overly intense. That said, dramatic scenes are allowed to happen without being interrupted by irritating Family Guy-style cutscenes. Kids can handle a little intensity. Heck, look at the Pixar movies. Toy Story 3? Hello?
They’re surrounded by fire! Are you going to tell me this isn’t a movie meant for children? Of course it is! And guess what? It’s where you sleep when you go camping — intense. (Get it? Thank you! Tip your waitresses!)
Some cartoons ruin a dramatic moment or action sequence by cutting to a lame joke before things get too hot. While I understand the desire to not scare little kids, sometimes I feel like they aren’t given enough credit for being able to handle a little action, adventure, and even emotion.
The Airbender cartoons don’t make this mistake. Somehow the writers managed to maintain a consistently fun and exciting tone while telling a 54 episode story, and keep things very kid-friendly. For the record, the show was co-created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. There were many other writers, some of whom also wrote comics set in the Airbender world.
I’ve been meaning to write this for awhile, and was inspired to do so in part by Gene Yang’s essay at DarkHorse.com. Gene wrote The Promise, the new awesome new Dark Horse comic that got Thing 2 and I to go back and re-watch the cartoons. “Man, I love that show,” Gene writes, adding that it reminded him of the stories his Chinese immigrant mother used to tell him. “As I followed the last Airbender on his journey to save the world, I felt the same stirring inside that I used to get from my mother’s stories.” That’s pretty strong praise in my opinion.
So check out Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoons on DVD, Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, or online. If you already have a Netflix or Amazon Prime account, you can watch the entire saga for free. (Free with your monthly subscription, that is. My point is that if you’re already paying, you should watch good stuff.) And read the comics. Links are provided below. You can thank me later.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Lost Adventures [Paperback]: This is a collection of comics that came out in various places while the cartoon was on the air. (If I’m wrong about that, please correct me in the comments. I won’t be offended. I’ll even give you credit. I’m cool like that.) The stories are mostly quite good. The art is somewhat inconsistent, mostly because they use a lot of different artists. (I’m realllly smart.)
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 1 [Paperback]: This is the first part (hence “Part 1″) of a story set after the end of the cartoon series. Extremely well-done.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 2 [Paperback]: Part 2. Still awesome.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 3 [Paperback]: Thing 2 and I finished Part 2 and immediately asked when we would get Part 3. Well, Part 3 comes out on October 9, 2012. Not soon enough, but patience is a virtue. (Wahh! I want it nowwww!)