So I Watched the First Episode of Book Three
It’s amazing what a little perspective can reveal, isn’t it?
On one hand, the Frozen video review, which I initially intended to be just about the movie, has grown way beyond anything I first imagined. I never expected to extol so much of my energy into this thing, but once again, the wisdom of the late Roger Ebert proves true: “Look at a movie that a lot of people love, and you will find something profound, no matter how silly the film may be.” Indeed, Frozen is such a fascinating film to write about because, even as I trash it, there is so much more to it that makes it worth pondering and exploring. Everyday I revise my review, and I find so much more to say!
On the other hand, I practically had to force myself to watch the first episode of Book Three of The Legend of Korra, and came away with just about nothing to say. At least, nothing that I haven’t said a million times already on this very blog. If anything, I came away more assured than ever that I’d made the right choice to leave the series altogether. Even my attempt to treat the viewing experience as a sort of scientific examination—with so little investment of any kind (let alone emotional!) in the story and characters, I’d keep myself interested by approaching the show from a purely theoretical viewpoint in regards to storytelling—proved futile. If anything, creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko beat me to the punch: this first episode is so emotionally and artistically inert that it truly feels like an avant garde experiment masquerading as an American animated children’s show; the only interest I can see being gained from this show are purely intellectual.
And when I call this series an experiment, I truly mean it: it’s like DiMartino and Konietzko are testing their audience, consistently pushing the limits of how little actual storytelling they can get away with before even their most loyal fan base finally abandons them. If Book One was the morality test (how ideologically wrong-headed can a protagonist and her goals be before you can no longer consider her victory satisfying?), and Book Two was the spiritual test (how nonsensical can the events on-screen get before the audience no longer cares?), then Book Three is the emotional test, in which the essential elements of storytelling are stripped of all invention, creativity, and acknowledgement of the potential for real, emotionally involving drama.
This mentality is most apparent—painfully so—in the dialogue. The dialogue in this episode should be taught in screenwriting classes on how not to write acceptable dialogue. It’s so on-the-nose, so obvious, so lacking in any personality and/or invention that you’d swear what you were hearing was the very first draft of the script being read from the legal pad it was written on. That legal pad, of course, had to be passed from voice actor to voice actor in the studio, and it shows: no characters speaks as if they’re actually talking to another human being, even if, on-screen, that person is right in front of them. Either the actors are in on the experiment, or they’re at as much a loss as I am on how to comprehend—let alone add emotion to—any of the interactions in the script.
Speaking of the actors, part of the reason I watched this episode, at least, was to hear Henry Rollins’ voice as the new main villain. What a letdown that was! Rollins is not the greatest actor in the world, but he has a natural presence and charisma that is shockingly absent in this episode. Perhaps Rollins was defeated by the brain-dead dialogue (just as the incredible Christoph Waltz was in Epic, an animated film so profoundly stupid that it makes Frozen look like Citizen Kane on ice).
To make matters even worse, the main theme of the episode—and the series, apparently—revolves around change and its repercussions. This, of course, means we get blatant conversations between Tenzin and Korra regarding the consequences of change, all of which seem suspiciously like creators DiMartino and Konietzko trying to explain themselves or justify their poor storytelling choices throughout Korra. It was at this point—beyond the lack of tension, creativity, effort, etc—that I knew that watching any more of Book Three would only be masochistic. Why should I even give this series another chance if it’s just going to patronize me?
And this is surprisingly where Frozen has my utmost approval: it is not a patronizing movie. It’s wrongheaded in many places, but it isn’t trying to bait you into questioning its authenticity like Korra is. Frankly, I’ll take a sincere commercial product over nasal-gazing “artistry” any time. It’s only fitting that Frozen should make a billion dollars while Korra has been banished from regular television programming to spend the remainder of its season online. Poetic justice arises in the most unusual places.