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From Under A Rock: The Legend of Korra

July 9, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: The Legend of Korra  

Avatar: The Last Airbender first hit Nickelodeon in 2005, coming at a time when I (Aaron) considered myself to be “too old” for cartoons. Thankfully, my family knew a good thing when they saw it, and I gradually got sucked into the universe and fell in love with it. Avatar became mandatory viewing for my whole family, and still holds a place as my favorite cartoon series of all time. Michael has watched that show at my suggestions (and he loved it), and today we are taking a look at its successor.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael and Aaron checked out RoboCop. This week, Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock by showing him Season 1 of The Legend of Korra.

The Legend of Korra (Book One: Air)
Released: April 14, 2012
Series Creators: Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino
Janet Varney as Korra
David Faustino as Mako
P.J. Byrne as Bolin
Seychelle Gabriel as Asami
Steve Blum as Amon
J.K. Simmons as Tenzin

Aaron Hubbard Right off the bat; The Legend of Korra never quite connected with me the way that Avatar did. It’s hard to recreate the magic. But I did enjoy the show, and watching this season is going to be the start of me watching all four seasons over the next couple of months.

Michael Ornelas: Personally, based on this first season, I think I may be inclined to like it a little bit more. I loved the original but the story seems more mature (minus the occasional fart joke…). Aang was great but I connect more to Korra and like her better as a lead. Either way, both are fantastic, but I’m excited to watch the next season after this review.
Korra and the New Team Avatar
Aaron: Korra is the reincarnated Avatar, a being who can bend all four elements (water, earth, fire, and air) to her will and serves as protector of the world. She’s sixteen years old and has mastered three elements, but had to learn airbending from Tenzin, the son of previous Avatar Aang. But she gets distracted by pro-bending (the coolest fictional sport since Quidditch) and makes friends with her teammates; brothers Bolin (an earthbender) and Mako (a firebender). Along with Mako’s rich girlfriend Asami, they form the new “Team Avatar”. Michael, what are your thoughts on the new cast of characters? Do they live up to Aang, Katara, Sokka and Toph?

Michael: Well as I hinted up above, I like Korra better than Aang as a lead. What gives the original series the advantage, however, is the side characters. Katara and Sokka specifically were my favorite components of The Last Airbender. Toph was pretty sweet too, but she came along later so she doesn’t feel as “core” to me. I think the reason I like Korra so much is because there are so many parallels between Katara and her. Avatar definitely felt like the story was a team effort while Legend of Korra feels like a one-woman show. That said, I’m okay with it. I’ll call it a push for that reason, but if I really had to pick a favorite team, you can’t beat the original.

Aaron: I would have to agree with your assessment. I like Aang and Korra about equally for different reasons, and I love that Korra is very different in personality. She’s competitive, outspoken and confident, and there’s definitely a magnetic quality about her. The brothers are fine; Bolin is very close to being a Sokka knock-off but he is a little more kind-hearted and free-spirited, and Mako… well he’s cool in season two. Asami took a little bit to get interesting, but her arc with her father is probably the best B-story of the season. And there are a lot of them.
Meandering (Early) Plot
Michael: We’ve talked about it privately so we may as well bring it up here: I didn’t like the early focus on Pro-Bending. It made the first half of the season really difficult for me to get into. Amon was scheming hardcore but he was in the background. It wasn’t until he attacked the Pro-Bending finals and we got an awesome series of action scenes that I really cared about the show. Now, having said that, everything from that point on had me completely sucked in and invested. I loved seeing Bloodbending in action and the development of Amon and Tarluk. They really made backstory work in favor of what was going on in the present and that is so much more difficult to execute on a TV show than it sounds. So the second half of the season approached flawlessness, but the first six were touch and go, in my opinion.

Aaron: I happened to love the pro-bending plot; I especially like how something as trivial as a sporting event seems like the most important thing, until reality slaps everyone in the face. Heck, it slaps Korra really hard when Amon captures her just to let her go, and her response is to get lost in pro-bending instead of dealing with the real problems. It feels very true to life to me. My real problem was the forced romantic subplots. Yes, I get that teenagers are like this, and yes I know that a great deal of the fanbase are into “shipping” characters. But I felt it was too much, too early and distracted from the story rather than added to it. Even Tenzin and Lin Bei Fong (my favorite new character by a mile) get caught up in this. Can’t we just focus on the real story? Like how Korra is supposed to be learning how to airbend and saving the city?

Michael: I guess I’m just so used to relationships popping up and dying out in TV shows that I didn’t even really notice it. I honestly don’t feel it distracted too much, and given that our characters are teenagers, their hormones should be running amok and confusing them with emotions and what-not. It struck me as realistic but to me it never dominated. Doesn’t mean I was in favor of it or anything, just that it didn’t bother me.
Amon: The New Face of Evil
Aaron: Mick Foley has always had the philosophy that a great villain should believe that what he is doing is right. That’s always stuck with me, and I will argue that the truly exceptional bad guys are the ones that can make the viewer see the validity of their actions. Magneto comes to mind. Amon and the Equalists are definitely top tier villains, and a worthy follow up to Fire Lord Ozai and Azula, who are two of the best ever, in my humble opinion.

Michael: While I agree that having a sympathetic viewpoint makes good villains great, what makes them iconic is in their ability to overmatch our hero. Amon was awesome because he had abilities that served as true obstacles to our hero Korra, even going so far as to take away her bending ability. Once we learned he could do that, he went from being a well-motivated villain with a cool mask to the Gustavo Fring of the world of Avatar.

Aaron: I am of the opposite opinion; Combustion Man had a cool look and was a viable threat, but how often do I think about him? Never. Amon sticks out because there are people just like him in the real world. He’s able to manipulate an entire city and turn it against itself just by preying on fear. That’s scary. And it continues a trend; I’ve always lauded Avatar for respecting its young audience and their intelligence. War and its consequences were a major theme of the show; Korra pushes the envelope farther with its moral complexity.
Aaron: The Legend of Korra has an imperfect start, but it has a great lead character, a truly amazing setting, and a great villain. By the time it wraps up Season One, it feels right at home on the shelf with Aang and company.


Michael: It’s so hard to rate this without seeing the rest of the series, because I gave Breaking Bad an overall A+, but even that starts somewhat slow. I feel like here, we have half a season of an acceptable-to-good show, and a great-to-perfect second half. Where does that fall on the letter grade scale? I’ll lean on the side of optimism.


Aaron: Season Two is better so far, so I am glad I decided to give this another shot.

Michael: I’ll be ordering my blu-ray next week so I’m right behind you, bud.

Do you prefer Korra or Aang as the Avatar?

Next week:

Michael: Well I think it only makes sense given the timing to review the first movie in an absolute classic film franchise, seeing as you haven’t seen it yet.
Aaron: I know a surprising amount of things about this movie, but I am sure it will make a lot more sense when I finally see it.

Michael: I’m not as huge on it as others, but I’ve only seen it twice. Maybe the third time will be a charm?

But really though, who you gonna call?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air

Michael’s Spin on Things is a comedic YouTube product review parody channel in which Michael Ornelas will review ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in accordance to the criteria provided by the spin of a wheel.

In this week’s episode, Michael reviews a bucket full of popcorn kernels because the idea made him laugh. He ended up in front of a giant bonfire. How’d he get there? Check it out!

My three part analysis of The Force Awakens is concluded this week with a look at Kylo Ren and final thoughts on the movie.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Despite a strong main character and a terrifying villain, The Legend of Korra sometimes struggles to make its supporting characters feel worthwhile or its plot feel coherent. It takes a while to really find its groove, but the last half is worth the journey, especially the last couple of episodes.