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Leradny2010-12-15 16:43:13

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Part Two: Iceberg Boy Can't Catch a Break

When last we left off, Iceberg Boy was being rudely dragged out of the tent by a douchebag guard and taken in front of Prince Zuko despite specific orders for elderly people. Why Zuko wanted elderly people I am not sure. Why douchebag guard went against orders is also unclear. Perhaps he was trying to go above and beyond the call of duty and get a promotion to someone with a name to be revealed in ten minutes?

Iceberg Boy states that Prince Zuko is "scaring these people", and my response as a viewer is "No shit, Iceberg Boy." Displeased, Zuko removes the hood—which happened about ten seconds ago and why it is back up again is unclear. Maybe Douchebag Guard was too busy dragging to notice Iceberg Boy pull his hood back up as a shield against the cold (y'know, since he doesn't have hair)? After being demanded for a name Iceberg Boy stubbornly refuses and we are disappointed.

Prince Zuko threatens to burn down the village and Iceberg Boy changes his mind in an attempt to keep anyone else from getting hurt. Gone is the fleeting spark of cheer and optimism, replaced by about as much emotion as someone caught between doing sixteen pages of homework or cleaning the entire house. Meanwhile viewers are distracted by the incredibly awkward angle for Zuko's part of the conversation. The camera is set practically at his hips and tilted up, which is good for an establishing shot of menace but not for an entire conversation. As Iceberg Boy get dragged off a random guard does a kick that sends the fire swirling around the heads of the villagers, who drop to the ground in fear. Probably it is the same douchebag guard who brought Iceberg Boy to Zuko in the first place.

Cut to the siblings in the tent. Captain Rathbone Sokka is mumbling something about the marks on Iceberg Boy's head. In "The Most Awkward Shoehorn Ever", Katara says something about their mother being dragged away in the same manner when they were children (how she remembers that so clearly is, uh, confusing). Then, she blathers on about how Momma would have fought, or something, and how Iceberg Boy is their responsibility and they should fight!

Katara then lays on a thick helping of guilt by asking what Sokka would do if they tried to take her away, and I couldn't care less that Sokka says he'd kill them all. Look, Parka Chick, you told Sokka not to fight when the firebenders were threatening other people you'd known your entire lives and only got indignant when they dragged off the kid you found that afternoon, so clearly there is something amiss with your priorities. They argue half-heartedly about responsibility and how Katara's optimism clashes with Sokka's cynicism, and I sort of zone out until the roar of a strange beast sounds outside the tent.

They languidly lurch out of the igloo to see Mutant Tauntaun hovering a few feet off the ground while a bunch of laughing children dangle off his six legs, and this is actually kind of a cute scene! Insert some obvious statement about how Bison Creature is FLOATING, and then another abrupt cut to:

Prince Zuko's Ominous Looking Battleship, where Zuko and an older man (who is presumably his uncle of before as he is wearing the same type of clothes instead of armor like the guards) enter a room with Iceberg Boy, who asks what they want with him. This is the perfect time to go through a few seconds of introductions and then... Oh. Wait. They go on about a "little test" that Zuko's uncle has performed millions of times and it won't hurt and would Iceberg Boy mind terribly if a few things were placed on the table in front of him WHATEVER CAN WE JUST GET A FUCKING NAME HERE?!

Oh hey, it only took about a minute after introduction for a name. I like you already, Iroh. Iroh reassures the boy that he will be returned once the test is finished.

Cut to Katara and Sokka with their grandma, who speaks with an inexplicable English accent of how "ever since they discovered Katara was a bender something something hasn't been a waterbender since her friend Hama was taken yada yada tattoos like the ones on that boy haven't been seen in over a century, those are airbending tattoos and thus that boy might be the Avatar". Grandma Exposition pulls out a scroll and I half expect it to be a bedtime story that she will read to get rid of the remaining jitters from that awful Fire Nation raid, but actually it's just a map. Something about the spirit world...

Honestly. This dialogue is pure undiluted infodump, devoid of any emotion or character dynamics or action of any sort. After the first two shots of Grandma Exposition with a kindly storytelling expression while her grandchildren stare blank-eyed at her I can safely click on this tab and type, just listening to the audio rather than watching. Which is another warning sign. Conversations shouldn't be this blatantly static the whole way through! Even if the characters are trapped in a closet together, there should at least be changes in the camera's position or shots of the characters' hands as they attempt to get out—not to mention changes in expression from panicked to bored to frantically hopeful as they hear footsteps outside, OR SOMETHING.

After Grandma Exposition tells them to "GO SAVE THAT BOY, DEARIES", we're (thankfully) back on the ship with Iroh, Zuko, and Iceberg Boy. Iroh puts a candle in front of Iceberg boy and—the flame mysteriously gets bigger! Cue significant glances at each other. Then Iroh does this wicked awesome thing where he waves his hand over the candle and puts it out and I start grinning like an idiot because this is the coolest uncle EVER.

And then I realize I just thought that about one of the antagonists. Durrrrhurrr silly me.

The camera seems permanently fixed to remain below Zuko's waist as he looks... hmmm. Expectant? Hopeful? Uncertain? Whatever it is, it's way more emotion than the siblings are showing.

Similar strange things happen to a puddle of water Iroh pours onto the table, and a big lumpy rock. Zuko then whispers accusations of Iceberg Boy being the Avatar, and an airbender—DESPITE THERE NOT BEING ANY SIMILAR DISPLAY OF AIR BEING BENT—and says that he will take the Avatar back to the Fire Nation. Avatar Boy exclaims "But you said—!" with a glimmer of actual dismay on his face. Iroh then gently corrects him, "Whoops, I actually meant that we would return you if you failed the test, not if you succeeded. But since you did, you're coming home with us! And also it is an honor to be in your presence young Avatar sir."

Zuko promptly undoes his uncle's reassurances by saying, "DON'T EVEN TRY TO ESCAPE LITTLE BOY THIS IS A WARSHIP!" But since he doesn't want to stay, Avatar Boy does a handstand on the table and leaps out the door, blowing it shut. Oh hey, airbending. Then he manages to blow the guards away, literally, and gets up onto the deck of the ship where Mutant Tauntaun bellows and lands on a cliff. Zuko arrives and says "THERE'S NOWHERE TO RUN!" Not to be deterred, Avatar Boy pulls a staff out of nowhere and turns it into a big kite thing, which he uses to fly up to Mutant Tauntaum (whose name is now revealed to be Appa, thanks for that) and it was actually a pretty cool sequence.

Except WE STILL DON'T KNOW THE AVATAR'S NAME.

Aang The Avatar says something about the Fire Nation being up to something and how he has to stop them and yadda yadda. Sokka offers to go with him, which kind of DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS HIS PREVIOUS CHARACTERIZATION, Aang the Avatar protests weakly and says he'll take them back to the village, then Katara says casually, "we're going with you". This kid just escaped from a warship—is he going to take that lying down?! Appa flies off without a reply from Aang the Avatar, not even an "Oh thanks so much I could use a few friends to help me out!"

Cut to Zuko watching them fly away, tearfully saying "For a moment I had my honor back" and I just went "D'awwwwww". Then I remember that he's supposed to be the villain, and also that if he wanted the Avatar to stay on his ship he could've said that in an attempt to look friendly like his uncle, or at least less intimidating, instead of hollering "DON'T TRY TO ESCAPE" like a particularly angry jailer. Iroh reassures him that "your destinies are tied", or something.

Katara's narration helpfully gives us the Avatar's name: Aang Ong. Also a bunch of other shit about Aang Ong running away from the southern air temple and something about nearly drowning and yadda yadda. Why this couldn't have been portrayed in a less clumsy way that would also allow for characterization to be established, like a scene of them having a goddamn conversation, I don't know.

Ong then stand on a ledge or something and calls, "HEY (a crapton of names which will surely be important) I'M BACK! AND I BROUGHT A COUPLE FRIENDS WITH MEEEEEEE!" Nobody comes out as his voice echoes, Katara asks with mild confusion if this is, in fact, where Ong lives. "Oh well," Ong says without answering. "They're probably playing a trick. Monk Gyatso is gonna jump out and scare me any minute now." Holy camole, is this actual cheerfulness? I guess his subdued performance of before was due to fear or something.

Then Katara asks his name and I raise an eyebrow because 1)) we already know his name because of the voiceover! Why not put the introduction BEFORE that?! and 2) did they seriously go the whole damn trip without introducing themselves to each other?! Appa must fly pretty fucking fast!

Then a sort of flying lemur thing lands on Ong's shoulder and he goes, "OH COOL A FLYING LEMUR BAT! SO CUTE!" Katara then asks, "Your friends were monks? Didn't lemur bats go extinct a long time ago?" and I really can't blame Ong if he's too distracted playing with his new pet to hear her. Which is one of the many things that bothers me—why are so many questions asked, yet unanswered? Does the scriptwriter have an aversion to writing coherent dialogue?

Well, this time Ong answers "Yes," and "No, there's like a billion of them on this mountain, they make really neat pets."

Then Ong rushes off to a place where his friends are sure to be, and ominous music plays just as he finishes skipping down the steps to see a field littered with skeletons. And while Ong looks confused and tear-stricken, EXPOSITION KEEPS SPEWING OUT OF KATARA'S MOUTH! Would it have been so hard to make Miss Last-Waterbender-In-The-Southern-Water-Tribe seem like a compassionate human being instead of an exposition machine?

Ong wanders around as Katara yammers on about how the Fire Nation killed his friends, teachers, and father figure, then steps on a bone causing the cleanest break I've ever seen. Unable to take her exposition anymore, Ong yells that she's lying and I can't blame the kid. Then Ong runs over to a skeleton with an amulet on it, and a rather sweet flashback shows Ong giving the hand-made amulet to Gyatso. (HEY, BRIGHT COLORS!) Promptly interrupted by a Big "NO!" from Ong. As Katara stands around like a cardboard cutout—god forbid she give him a damn hug to try and calm him down, BECAUSE SOKKA TOLD HER NOT TO—he starts glowing and a whirlwind swoops around them, and...

And then an awkward cut to Ong standing alone in the middle of a strange, dark forest.

Ugh. I'm out for today.

Comments

Dec 18th 2010 at 12:50:49 PM
You know someone's not cut out to be a screenwriter when they don't think a line needs to be rewritten, despite containing a phrase like "the water of the ocean."
Mar 10th 2011 at 12:24:26 AM
To be honest, the racebending thing doesn't really bother me. I never saw what the problem was. It's the absolutely hack-level writing that's really annoying me.

Character names. You go 15+ minutes without even saying what the main character's name is. Writers have been doing this for millenia, in plays long before movies. This level of writing is beyond belief.
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