Ginie Reviews Film: Antapal

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Film: Antapal, aka The Gangster (อันธพาล)
Director: Kongkiat Khomsiri
Year: 2012
Notable actors:  Krisada Sukosol ClappSomchai KemgladSakarin Suthamsamai
Rating: 3/5

Kongkiat’s vision of 1950s Bangkok is super stylish and initially presents a seductively cool image of what it means to be a gangster or antapal (‘hooligan’) in 1950s Bangkok. Like the two newcomers in the film (Plak and Tong), viewers are initially seduced by the stylish clothes, effortless confidence and action-packed fight scenes – but as in all gangster movies, nothing is what it seems and the film very quickly reveals the grim reality of being an antapal.

The main story follows Jod (played by Krisada Sukosol Clapp), a jaded gangster who, following a stint in prison, wants to get out of gang life but seems to be pulled back in despite his best efforts. Parallel to this story is the story of the aforementioned newcomers, Plak and Tong (Kritsada Suphapphaphrom and Sakrin Suthammasamai), their idolization of Jod and his crew as young teenagers and their own destructive and tragic path into the world of gang warfare as adults.

What I really love about this film is the sense of everything coming and going in cycles, and of themes being repeated and mirrored in the stories of different characters. The film chronicles the changes in gang crime between the 50s and 60s (the movement away from knives as the main weapon to guns) and is interspersed semi-documentary style with modern-day interviews of old-timers recalling what life was like at the hands of these gangs.

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The film really shines when it deals with the internal motivations and lives of its main characters. It’s hard not to feel a sense of pathos at Plak and Tong idolizing gangsters in the same way they idolize James Dean and Elvis Presley. Especially as the further you get into the film, the more you realise that none of these gangsters are actually in control of their own destinies at all. While Plak and Tong admire them for the apparent power and respect they command, behind the scenes you realise that the gangsters are just hired muscle – the real power lies with the mafia and the businesses that control them and that they’re merely pawns in a wider game.

The brutality of the violence in this film has been noted by many reviewers – I have to admit I don’t know how I feel about it and I can’t always tell how serious it is. It’s clearly there to show the brutal reality of a life of violence and how much damage and hurt it leaves in its wake, but at the same time it’s kind of hard to take seriously when your main character kills another by stabbing them in the jugular with a crab claw.

The other thing that bothers me about this film is the lack of women in it. I understand that this film is about a hyper-masculine micro-society, but characters like Jod have mothers and sisters and women in their lives that they care for and they want to protect. Which is why it’s a shame we don’t get to see more of their perspective – outsiders whose entire lives are disrupted on a daily basis by the brutality of this boys club. In Antapal the women serve mostly as background characters – victims of the violence meted out by the main characters, but not actually characters in their own right with any kind of agency and that’s a real shame.

All in all definitely worth a watch – it’s a flawed film but one that deals with its themes in really interesting ways and really makes you feel for the main characters despite the reprehensible things they end up doing.

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Ginie Reviews Films: The Love of Siam

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Film: The Love of Siam (รักแห่งสยาม)
Director: Chookiat Saveerakul
Year: 2007
Notable Actors: Mario Maurer, Sinjai Plengpanich
Rating: 4.5/5

So I’ve been meaning to write this review for a long time, but to be honest: it had been a long time since I’d last seen this film and I was afraid I wouldn’t do justice to it. Thankfully, my mum gave me a reason to whip it out and as I sought to prove a.) that the Thai movie industry does produce some amazing films and b.) while still a minority of the LGBT representation in Thai pop culture, Thai media is totally capable of representing its gay characters with sensitivity and complexity.

~*Spoilers*~

The Love of Siam follows the story of two childhood friends who reunite in their teens after several years of separation. Tong is from a Roman Catholic family, and as a child his older sister disappeared whilst on holiday in Chiang Mai with her friends. Mew is a sensitive musician-type from an ethnically Chinese family with distant parents. He is closest to his grandmother, who passes away when Mew is in his teens.  Both boys are familiar with losing a loved one and this is what initially brings them together. Their story is further complicated by issues within Tong’s family – since his sister’s disappearance his father has turned towards chronic alcoholism and it is his mother, Sunee, who has to keep it together despite the tragedy as she becomes the sole caretaker and bread-winner of what is left of her family.

Mew and Tong as children,

Mew and Tong as children,

So…not your average teen romantic comedy. Despite the way the film was marketed, the Love of Siam really is just what it says on the tin – it’s about love. All kinds of love. It’s about the love you have for your family, the love you have for your friends and of course, the love you have for the first time you meet someone who touches your soul and sets your heart racing. I’m not going to lie – I tear up every single time I watch this film. Every single time. And although my knowledge of Thai films is by no means extensive, I feel like I watched a significant handful of recent blockbusters and The Love of Siam for me still ranks as one of the best Thai films I’ve ever seen.

First of all, the acting in this film is flawless. I don’t think there is a single weak performance amongst the main cast, although Pchy (Mew) and Sinjai Plengpanich (Sunee) deliver some particularly outstanding performances. Seriously though, both of these two just break my heart every time they’re on screen and just trying to hold it together. This is also of course, the role that launched Mario Maurer’s acting career and it’s certainly one that shows despite being (at the time) an amateur, the boy is definitely more than just a pretty face.

Secondly, although the running time is very long I feel the film really benefits from showing how the lives of these two broken families intertwine, how all these characters interact and the lasting impact they have on each other. While the focal point of the film is on the two boys who’re just coming to terms with their feelings for each other, there is a much wider story being told – after all, life doesn’t just stop happening because you’ve fallen in love. And sometimes, there are bigger things going on that just can’t be put aside.

Really, I think my only complaint with this film would be the role June’s character plays in the narrative. As a dead-ringer for Tong’s missing sister Tang, she gets recruited by Tong and Sunee to pretend to be Tang in an attempt to save Tong’s father from his crippling alcoholism. I guess this was the point where my disbelief officially stopped being suspended. I don’t know what else could’ve been done with this character to make her story-line more believable while keeping the lasting impact she has on Tong’s family, but as it is in the film it is the only thing that rings false to me.

Mew performing at the end of the film.

Mew performing at the end of the film.

I know I’ve read reviews that saw the ending as a bit of a cop-out, as Tong ultimately tells Mew that although he loves him, he cannot be his boyfriend (earlier on in the film when his mother discovers the nature of Mew and Tong’s relationship she forbids Mew from contacting her son and forbids her son from seeing Mew). I can completely understand this reaction – it’s an old and worn-out trope: gay couples can never have a happy ending; things must always end in tragedy. But in defence of The Love of Siam, I actually interpreted the ending as fairly optimistic? I don’t think people necessarily understand the amount of importance placed on duty to one’s parents in Thai culture, and as far as Tong was concerned – he had a duty to his mother and to his family. Growing up with a Thai mom, I have to say that the relationship between (most) Thai parents and their kids, particularly regarding sexuality, is a pretty closed one and my personal experiences have always involved being very patient about when and how I broach the topic with my mom. I’d always understood the ending of the movie as Tong wanting to help his family heal first, help them get to a better place before he could act on his feelings for Mew. Perhaps I had interpreted it too optimistically – but I had always seen that ending as an ambiguously happy one. “I know who I am – and although I cannot be with you yet, one day I will be able to”, or maybe even “I know who I am – and although I can’t have a boyfriend yet, one day I will be able to be open about my feelings for another boy, and that boy may not be you but he will definitely exist”. I had never interpreted that final scene as him repressing his new-found sexuality. Particularly as he had just broken up with his girlfriend prior to the ending scene. By breaking up with his girlfriend, Tong was affirming – at least to himself – that he knew who he was now and he knew that he had to be honest with himself. He was no longer confused about where he stood and was free to admit to himself (and to Mew) that he knows who he loves. I could not believe that anyone who had taken such a self-confident act could deny himself his own happiness forever. And I had always interpreted that scene as an indication that Tong would have to wait for his happiness a little bit longer, but he would definitely get it one day. But of course, I could be wrong and I am always happy to hear alternative view points.

This was Mario Maurer's break-out role. Here he is as Tong at the end of the film looking for Mew after breaking up with his girlfriend.

This was Mario Maurer’s break-out role. Here he is as Tong at the end of the film looking for Mew after breaking up with his girlfriend.

Watching this with my mom I thought I’d observe her and see what she had to say, as I usually use her as my gauge for whether I’ve understood the subtext of a Thai setting correctly. At the end of the film, she said “well they are not together today, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be one day.” And that is exactly what I’d taken away from the ending too.  One day I am hoping for an unambiguously happy ending for Thai gay protagonists, but in the meantime I am incredibly glad this film exists and if you’ve never seen it you should definitely check it out.

On an entirely different note: I am also super in love with the main theme song for this film

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Website updates: new page!

So I’ve added a new page to the website – a Fine Art page! This contains mainly acrylic and oil paint portraits from my days as an IB Visual Arts student.  Here’s a sample of what you can expect:

Portrait of paternal grandmother. 2008.

Portrait of paternal grandmother. 2008.

 

The Many Faces of Frank. Lino print. 2008.

The Many Faces of Frank. Lino print. 2008.

Portrait of male figure. Charcoal and chalk. 2008.

Portrait of male figure. Charcoal and chalk. 2008.

 

 

 

 

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Ginie Reviews: Rise of the Guardians

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Film: Rise of the Guardians
Director: Peter Ramsey
Year: 2012
Notable Voice-Actors: Chris Pine, Jude Law, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher
Rating: 4/5

While I have not been a die-hard hater of all things 3D when it comes to animation, I have to admit that up until now I was left mostly indifferent by it. Yes, even with the Pixar stuff – don’t get me wrong, I love Pixar movies for the story-telling and they’re visually fantastic but aesthetically it never quite moved me in the same way that a lot of amazing 2D animation does.

Basically, Rise of the Guardians changed all of that. Yes folks, I’ve been converted to the Church of 3D – and my god is it beautiful. Rise of the Guardians is easily the most visually gorgeous film I saw all year, and an animated film about childhood heroes is exactly the kind of thing you know I was going to love.

The basic premise of the plot is that there are four Guardians of Childhood – Santa, the Sandman, Tooth-fairy and the Easter-bunny and as their title suggests their job is to protect children the world-over. All of this is threatened when the Boogeyman, Pitch, plots to destroy the belief children have in these guardians. Without the children’s belief to sustain them, the Guardians could disappear. The story belongs to Jack Frost, who has been wandering the earth for the last 300 years trying to find a meaning to his immortality.

So far so good. I actually went to see this in theatres by myself like a loser because I’d been dying to see it since I first saw adverts for it and I couldn’t convince anyone I knew to come with me and I was damned if I wasn’t going to see something this visually spectacular on the big screen. You know what my biggest surprise was? A good month after the film first opens on a Tuesday night and the (admittedly just medium-sized theatre) is packed to the brim with adults. And every single one of them freaking loved it and so did I. This movie has lots of genuinely funny moments, so if amazing visuals aren’t enough of an attraction for you than then laughs and the genuinely moving parts of this film will.

I did have some beef with this film though. Especially on the “genuinely moving” parts. Jack Frost is clearly the emotional centre of this film – we see the story through his eyes and it is his existential search for meaning and identity that we care about. The whole save-the-world-from-the-Big-Bad is absolutely secondary to this in term of emotional stakes, and the character we keep coming back to that I couldn’t care less about was Jamie, the human kid and sole remaining believer in the Guardians. Basically Jamie saves the day by refusing to stop believing and ends up encouraging others to believe too.

Jamie. The kid without a freaking care in the world.

Jamie. The kid without a freaking care in the world.

This is all nice and well, but I just. Don’t. Care. The emotional scenes that Jamie’s involved in only have any emotional resonance at all because they are scenes in which Jack Frost comes closer to finding his purpose and comes closer to being believed in. And this is kind of a problem because I think the movie wants me to care about Jamie too, and I just don’t. He’s a generic white suburban American kid – one I actually have kind of a hard time believing actually exists in real life. Not because I don’t think that demographic exists – obviously it does. But I just don’t believe there is such a thing as a “normal” or “perfect” family and this character, for all intents and purposes, basically comes from what we must assume is a perfectly “normal” family where there is never any drama, there are no skeletons in the closet and no personal tragedy has ever befallen them. I do not know a single family like this in real life. I think this particularly bugs me in this instance because the film starts off quite global and epic because the guardians protect children from all over the world and then it’s like…this kid is the kid who is basically going to be the stand-in for children the world over. I don’t know about you, but he doesn’t represent me as a child or anyone else I knew as a child very well at all.

Setting aside the fact that this character doesn’t feel entirely believable or relate-able to me, there’s also the fact that I just don’t know why I should be invested in his belief in the guardians. Aside from the threat to the guardians themselves of course (who are far more fleshed-out than the human children in this film are). Why should I care if this boy stops believing in the Easter Bunny or not? What does he lose if he stops believing? I guess what I’m saying is, this would’ve meant more from a kid who needed to believe in the guardians. A kid who needed their protection and company. A kid who was lonely (for whatever reason) or who has been having a difficult time dealing with, well, life. From what we can see, Jamie has loads of friends, has a loving family who care for him and seems generally pretty chipper and happy with his life. I can imagine that it’s sad to lose faith in something you believed in, but I don’t believe him not believing in the guardians would’ve been that tragic.  Even within the movie’s cast I could’ve found a better candidate. You want to know who? Cupcake.

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Apologies for terrible screenshot. Apparently the Cupcake fandom is much, much smaller than the Jack Frost fandom.

So she’s all smiling in the above picture, but when we’re first introduced to her she’s like the big mean scary brutish kid that everyone else is afraid of. And you know what I can deduce from that? She was probably one damn lonely kid. You know what’s rough? Growing up as a Big Girl. That shit’s pretty painful growing up in a society that has some pretty damn narrow rules for what is acceptable femininity. Add on top of that the fact that everyone thinks she’s mean just because she (quite rightly) doesn’t let people mess with her?  And you have a kid who pretty desperately needs to not feel alone and probably needs to believe in the guardians some what more than Jamie does.

So yeah…that was my big beef with this film. Jack Frost’s story was genuinely moving and genuinely had me caring, but Jamie’s? Not so much. It wasn’t Jamie’s story, so he was never going to have the emotional narrative that Jack Frost has, but seriously. I should still care.

Otherwise my love for North, his Yetis, Sandy, Pitch and Baby Tooth is basically endless. They are all adorbs and fantastic and I love them. I found it harder to warm up to the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Let’s not mention the fact that in the original books Tooth was meant to be South East Asian and in this film she is…

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…decidedly not. About the only thing left from Tooth’s South East Asian heritage is (very possibly) her Tooth Palace, the design of which I think looks vaguely South East Asian inspired. And by vaguely I mean very vaguely.

South East Asian palace? Very possibly. Probably. I think.

South East Asian palace? Very possibly. Probably. I think.

So is it a good film? Definitely yes. Do I love it? Yes! To bits, which is why it’s getting a 4 star rating even though I can totally see why someone else may watch this and be left decidedly less impressed. For what it’s worth, it is a visually stunning feel-good movie with some surprising moments of emotional depth and poignancy.  If you are not at least impressed by Sandy’s dream sand then I do not know what’s wrong with you.

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Ginie Reviews Film: Batman – Under the Red Hood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film: Batman: Under the Red Hood
Director: Brand Vietti
Year: 2010
Notable Voice-Actors: Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs
Rating:4/5

So this film has actually been around for two years, but I’ve recently just discovered it and it’s pretty awesome. Seems like DC Animation has been taking a turn for the more mature and making quite a few animated films actually geared towards an adult audience, and this is very prominently displayed in the opening scenes of “Under the Red Hood”.

It’s like the film is shouting “Hey – hey you! If you’ve put this on for your kids you should turn it off now. Like, right now. This isn’t a kid’s film. And to prove it we’re going to have the Joker beat the crap out of Robin with a crowbar in the opening five minutes of the film. Got it? This is not a kid’s film!” but honestly? I actually really enjoyed this film and while there is a lot of violence it never feels unjustified or excessive. We are dealing with the Red Hood after all, one of DC Universe’s most messed-up Robins (maybe after Damian Wayne) and violence is absolutely in his modus operandi.

I think perhaps what is most interesting about this film is that in a way, it addresses the age-old concern of whether or not superheroes actually help, or whether they’re the root cause of all the super-villains in town. It also forces Batman to confront the extent of his commitment to his cause and how many people he’s endangered and put at risk because of it. Because if you really think about it? Bruce Wayne has to be one of the worst guardians/foster parents ever. Not only does he risk the life of one orphan kid by training him into becoming his side-kick super-child-soldier, he risks the lives of like, six. Seriously, the list just doesn’t end, and although it’s frustrating that the DC editorial team seems to feel the need to add more and more to Bruce’s already gigantic man-pain, I do think that Jason’s story (not his death, so much as his resurrection and coming back to be a blight on Bruce’s city) does shed not only some vulnerability to Batman, but also some fallibility.

Source: Baturday Tumblr

Holy smokes Batman! Whatever happened to our family-friendly Boy wonder?

The plot and the conflict set up in this film is really well-done, but then I’ve always been more partial to character-driven stories and this one does get very personal for Bruce. To summarise: five years after Robin (Jason Todd) dies by the Joker’s hand there is a masked vigilante known as the Red Hood who has taken control over all of Gotham’s drug trade, happily beheading any drug lords that stand in his path or don’t fit his code of conduct. Batman keeps trying to take him down, but the Red Hood knows his every move before he can even make them (quel surprise…) and in desperation, the last remaining Drug pin has made a deal to break the Joker out of Arkham…if the Joker will take out the Red Hood. But of course, the Joker is a wild card and who knows what will happen when you throw him into the mix?

Who is the Red Hood? Can Batman and Nightwing outmanoeuvre him? And finally, who is actually in the right? Red Hood, or Batman?  These are just some of the questions that the movie forces us to ask and I must say watching the movie to get the answers is an entirely enjoyable experience (although the first one is pretty damn obvious). Oh and there’s Ra’s al Ghul, the League of shadows and the Lazarus Pit thrown in there too for good measure.

I also wanted to make a note about John DiMaggio’s performance as the Joker – I think like for most kids of the 90’s, Mark Hamil is the definitive Joker, but I have to say I really enjoyed John DiMaggio’s performance too. He’s a very different Joker, much less polished and quite a bit less theatrical (despite trademark make-up and purple suit). He also feels a lot rougher and a lot more physically brutal and very unpredictable. In short, he’s pretty amazing and it’s a joy to watch him on the screen. (And also possibly my new favourite Joker).

As for the animation, it is just wonderful. And if you love watching the Bat-family interact, then this movie is a pure gem. Basically go watch it now.

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Ginie Reviews Films: The Dark Knight Rises

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film: The Dark Knight Rises
Director:
Christopher Nolan
Year:
2012
Notable Actors:
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman
Rating:
4/5

~*Spoilers Ahead*~

I know, I know. Really Ginie? A Dark Knight Rises review almost two months after its release? Why even bother? Well, in my defense I’ve spent the last two months working and studying in different cities, and what with the moving around and all the administration that entails I haven’t had much time to keep up to date with my reviewing. Secondly in honour of a.) the last film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy b.) the Dark Knight Returns film DC have announed for this year and c.) my current  Batman obsession, I am declaring this month unofficial Bat-month where I’ll be reviewing various Bat-related things. Sounds good? Now on with the review!

So like pretty much everyone who went to see the film in theatres I was completely blown away – the pacing of the film, the tension, the way it neatly ties back to Batman Begins and completes the trilogy while leaving us wanting more – it was excellent. It was also great to see Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows return as the trilogy’s ultimate antagonist, and the introduction of Talia al Ghul is a nice touch (and maybe sets up the possibility of a Damien Wayne in any future Nightwing movies? Who knows…also – called it! Called it the moment she started going on about not always having been privileged!) Basically there was plenty in it for Bat-nerds to get excited over, but also worked as a standalone for viewers who aren’t familiar with the DC universe at all.

And bizarre though this may sound, it was great to see Batman age (I know, he’s only what, like in his thirties at this point?) but being the Batman has taken an emotional and physical toll on him and I guess that’s one of the great things about Nolan’s universe  – the fact that it takes little realistic things like ageing and messed-up knee caps into consideration. Although no one will ever top my favourite grumpy old curmudgeon Batman, Christian Bale obviously does a great job. It’s even weirder watching Batman Begins again because he looks and acts so young in that film and it’s interesting to see how being the Batman ages Bruce Wayne. I also liked Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, and I think it was a smart move on Nolan’s part to have this Selina Kyle be fully into her identity as Catwoman already to avoid any comparisons with say, Michelle Pffeifer’s transformation into Catwoman in the Tim Burton films. She’s quite a different character to Rachel Dawes and the contrast works quite well – a more cynical ally for a more cynical Batman.

Non-cat-ear cat-ears! Super cute.

Bane was an awesome villain, a very interesting contrast to Heath Ledger’s Joker in the previous film. In some ways I felt like their tactics were very similar (creating chaos and instilling fear) but the contrast in their motivations and the execution of their plans makes Bane a very interesting new villain. I did find it weird that no one ever talked about the Joker though. Especially considering how Harvey Dent was a key reference throughout this film it just seemed odd that Gotham was in chaos once again and no one ever mentioned that other time when Gotham was in chaos. But I guess all things considered, I can probably understand why they didn’t want to bring attention to the Joker character at all.

Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure how I felt about the Talia reveal at the end. I get that it was meant to be a surprise and all (for those of us who didn’t catch on that she was Talia in like, the first five minutes) but it just felt like I wish I’d known more about her motivations. We know she’s carrying out this work for the League of Shadows and we know she’s avenging her father, but I feel like there was more of a story there that should have been told.

So all in all an amazing movie and a great end to a fantastic trilogy that brings the DC universe into a more relate-able real-life setting. But then this monstrosity showed up:

So not that I’m not a fan of  ‘the Bat’, but I think it was at this point that my suspension of disbelief failed me and I was like “seriously, how does Gotham NOT know that Batman is Bruce Wayne? How many other multi-billionaires are there who are the head of a company with a weapons division in Gotham?!”

(No seriously though. How does no one figure it out? Or at least figure out that Wayne Enterprises is totally involved?)

And maybe this is the problem with trying to make comic characters work in a realistic world. The idea is fundamentally an exaggeration and only really works in an exaggerated universe…the universe of comic books. The moment you try to apply it to real life everything falls apart a bit. And once I noticed how ridiculous the bat-helicopter was I couldn’t stop noticing all the other things that didn’t add up. Like the fact that a nuclear explosion (even out at sea) would still result in the entire population of Gotham risking cancer from exposure to radiation. Or how Bruce Wayne got back into a locked-down Gotham. You know. Plot-holes like that.

Still, if you can ignore the plot-holes, this is an incredible enjoyable film with a fantastic cameo from Cillian Murphy as Dr. Crane with easily one of the best lines in the movie:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I recommend seeing The Dark Knight Rises? Of course! It really is a great ending to the Nolan trilogy and it’s genuinely kind of sad (but probably for the best) that this will be the last film in this series.

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Ginie Reviews TV: The Legend of Korra (Book One: Air)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TV Show: The Legend of Korra (Book One: Air)
Creators: Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko
Years: 2012 –
Rating: 3.5

Maybe it’s unfair to review a show that has only had its first season, but I think Book One of The Legend of Korra has given me plenty of initial thoughts and feelings about the show, the characters and the direction it all seems to be heading in and I thought this would probably be the right time to get them all out.

I get the feeling I may get some flak for this, but while I did love The Legend of Korra and would definitely call myself a fan (the kind of fan that listens to Republic City Dispatch podcasts and gets into speculative discussions about who Amon might be, etc.); a part of my feels a bit let down by The Legend of Korra.

If Avatar: The Last Airbender was a show for kids that dealt with various issues and themes with a far greater sense of maturity than most adult-TV-shows; then The Legend of Korra is a show that’s clearly aimed at an older audience and yet fails to adequately tackle the mature issues and concerns that are raised by the very nature of its central premise. Namely, that there is a non-bender revolution taking grip of Republic City and that balance needs to be restored by Korra, the Avatar (and as such, the ultimate bender as she can bend all the elements).

~*Spoilers Ahead*~

So first of all, the things I loved: the animation is, as ever, absolutely gorgeous. It’s so fluid, the character expressions are great and the designs are wonderful. I loved the idea of a 1920’s industrialised Avatar world! It just had so much potential and was so awesome – not to mention the soundtrack which is also beautiful and combines traditional Chinese music with jazz. Just. So. AWESOME. Not to mention the fashion, the Sato-mobiles, Republic City itself – there’s been a lot of fantastic world-building for this city and I loved every bit of it.

And I also loved the premise, although from the start I was weary about the real-world parallels that were being drawn between The Equalists and the rise of Communism in China. Not because I didn’t think it was an interesting idea to explore – more because I wasn’t sure a Nickelodeon show (however awesome) could do justice to that kind of seriously turbulent history, and furthermore the in-universe history of the United Republic and Republic City is different to real-world Chinese history. You can’t understand the rise of Communism in China without understanding the civil war and the Imperial system that came before it. But I was willing to be open-minded and I trusted that the show’s creators knew what they were doing: that they’d offer some insight into how this world has evolved with a bending elite and a non-bending underclass who are under-represented in government, in the police (Beifong’s Metal-benders) and in other crucial areas of Republic City life. And that Korra’s restoration of balance would involve an acknowledgement of this – that it wouldn’t just be about getting rid of Amon and the Equalists, but that it would also be about re-dressing the balance so that non-benders have an equal place in Republic City’s society.

So far that hasn’t happened yet.

Now I know this is just Book One, and that maybe these issues will be addressed in the next season (I dearly hope so). But I can only assume that with Amon and Tarrlok out of the picture for good, Book Two will have to introduce a new antagonist – and that means there might be a chance that this theme is dropped in favour of something else.

I suspect this might happen because the Book One finale had clearly tried to tie up all loose ends. Korra lost her bending, unlocked her air-bending, unmasked Amon who was later killed by his brother Tarrlok, entered the Avatar state, got all her bending back and the ability to return bending to others all in one fell swoop. Not once in the entire season were the actually legitimate concerns of Equalist sympathizers acknowledged or addressed and indeed, Amon and his Equalists are nearly always dismissed as “that madman and those crazy Equalists”. Now while Amon clearly uses manipulative fear tactics and could be labelled a terrorist, I was disappointed that Korra was only forced to confront the inequality between benders and non-benders once: when Tarrlok and his task-force were rounding-up protesting non-benders (“You’re our Avatar too!”).

Not to mention I was hoping to hear more about the Spirit World (and had secretly hoped that Amon was somehow linked to Koh, the Face-Stealer – an excellent, excellent potential villain that has been totally under-utilised in both A:TLA and TLOK). Considering how much emphasis was put on Korra’s spiritual block at the beginning of the show, I can’t help but feel let down that her spiritual block had been “solved” so quickly and so effortlessly. I don’t buy that Korra losing all her other bending and sulking about it constituted some great spiritual epiphany, even if it is true that her bending is very tied up with her own sense of identity and self-worth. And while I totally bawled like a baby when Aang turned up with all the other past Avatars and Korra finally went into the Avatar-state (shut up!) I was disappointed that Korra had lost her bending, only to re-gain it all within a matter of screen-time minutes. Maybe I’m being nitpick-y, but a loss isn’t really a loss if it’s so easily re-gained (which is also why if you choose to kill off a character they had better stay dead, at least for a little while, because otherwise it’s just cheap and there was nothing really at stake).

So those were my concerns with Korra on a thematic level. But I also felt somewhat let down by The Legend of Korra on a character level.

All I can say is that while a lot of the characters are awesome and show a lot of potential (LIN BEIFONG IS MY FAVOURITE-EST PERSON EVER) so many characters have had their character development and storyline pretty much shafted (I’m looking at you, Asami and Bolin). I’m still holding out that Asami will become more than just a useful plot-device to throw in extra romantic ~tension~ between Mako and Korra. And that Bolin will evolve to be more than just a comic relief character. And I’m hoping that the romance between Mako and Korra will eventually feel natural and not so forced. But I’m not nearly as optimistic as I was at the beginning of the season. Here’s hoping things will change though, and we get to see the New Team Avatar interact with each other more and actually give us a better idea of who they really are.

So is The Legend of Korra a good show? Absolutely yes. It has plenty of tension and enough mystery and questions that you’ll keep coming back for each new episode to find out what it will reveal. Is it as good as Avatar: The Last Airbender? Still hard to say at this stage – I genuinely think A:TLA was a better show, but then I went into A:TLA expecting nothing and the show did mature a lot over three seasons. We are only into Book One of Korra, and I went into TLOK with very high expectations following my love for A:TLA. While I think I do have legitimate reasons for preferring A:TLA to TLOK, I’m also willing to admit that at least some of it may be due to my own biases.

Conclusion? Definitely go watch it! Lord knows Tumblr needs more fandom theories about what the future holds for our heroine Korra 😉

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