Immediate Thoughts on the “Korra: Book Two” Trailer
I’ve watched this trailer twice, and each time has left me with an unbearable sense of emptiness.
It wasn’t necessarily what I was seeing that made me so depressed. In fact, what I saw looked amazing. The sheer scope and beauty of the imagery made me momentarily forget that this was a preview for television animation. Hell, it almost justified co-creator/art director Bryan Konietzko’s response to accusations of white-washing, which mostly consisted of his explaining the challenges of his job as opposed to addressing the race issue head-on. Almost.
No, it wasn’t the imagery in and of itself. Rather, it was the tone and manner in which those images were presented that did me in. For the life of me, I don’t understand why the trailer had to be so damn somber. I mean, yes, every single trailer these guys have put together has been rather somber. But here’s the thing: the somberness of Avatar/Korra trailers has never been particularly exciting. And isn’t the point of a trailer to excite you for the impeding release of the proposed feature? Something that leaves you wondering things like: “I sure can’t wait to hear that line in context!” “That’s a funny/cool/bizarre image; I’ll have to see the film/show to find out what that’s about!” “This is an interesting concept! I want to see where they go with this!”
Essentially, the ideal trailer creates a kind of mystery that at once: 1) is ambiguous; and 2) perfectly conveys the tone of the work. Here are two of the most perfect trailers in the history of cinema: Dr. Strangelove and Alien.
Unfortunately, the Book Two trailer for Korra is all ambiguity, no tone or mystery. Sure, there’s the occasional image that makes you wonder what they’re getting at–I was particularly intrigued by the occasional flat background that, I know now, are the backdrop for the back story of the very first Avatar–but the overall presentation is more off-putting than inviting. If the entire series is as pleasant as this funeral march of a trailer, then I don’t want to see it.
It doesn’t help that the Track Team’s soundtrack is absolutely tuneless. Typically, they make up for their lack of melody-making skills with atmospherics, but this time they blew it. It’s beyond me whether the music was supposed to convey any mood besides “unfinished.” They’d have been better off just getting the rights for a Brian Eno track to set the trailer to. At least Eno’s tracks can provoke an emotional response of any kind.
But I’m getting sidetracked. So far, these are all just technical nitpicks that avoid the real issue: it appears that Book Two (and beyond) will be devoted to exploring the inner workings and mythology of the Avatar universe more deeply than was allowed before. And the obvious question to this is: so what?
More to the point: why I should care that the creators are exploring the minutiae of their fantasy world when–as Book One sadly proved–they weren’t even capable of deeply exploring (let alone recognizing) the underlying social theme of the single situation in their own story? (That is, of course, the issue of privilege as it pertains to Benders and Non-Benders.) Hell, they couldn’t even develop the characters in an adequate fashion.
Fantasy–any form of storytelling, really, but most especially fantasy–is only worthwhile when its emotional/intellectual core is somehow connected to the real world (and not strictly in a political sense, mind you). Sadly, Korra fails this simply prerequisite because the handling of its central conflict completely misses the point that it initially appeared to be implying.
Through all this rambling, I suppose what I’m really trying to say is I no longer trust creators Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino anymore. Despite the inclusive of more writers and directors (presumably to make the production process, rather than the creative process, easier), I can only see Book Two and beyond as a self-indulgent purgatory for everyone involved. Considering this was a trailer made specifically for Comic Con, where only the most dedicated fans go, I can only hyperbolically suspect that the rest of Korra will be an exclusionary circle jerk in which all the participants wear urban sombreros. Unless the writing is actually much better and less contradictory, I have no hope for Book Two.
That said, if I do end up watching Book Two, it will be strictly for the blog and as a critic. I hate watching something strict as a critic (this is one reason I’ve never discussed those boring Avatar comic books in an actual post).
EDIT: I want to make something clear: it’s not the trailer in and of itself that depressed me. It was the accumulative effect of the trailer and its exclusive nature, my disappointment in Book One, and a fear that Book Two would be more of the same for the next few years. That said, I did overreact; it was pretty foolish of me to get so emotional over a trailer, even if it wasn’t a particularly good one.
Also, last night, I was inspired to re-edit the Book Two trailer and set it to other music. I can’t say it’s any better than the trailer was as presented at Comic Con (there are lots of technical issues), but I had fun making it.