The internet has been assuring me that there’s a new movie called Avatar that’s coming out, and it’s going to be amazing. I agree! Prior to this weekend I’d consumed the source material furtively, typically while sitting in hotel rooms waiting to fall asleep, or for someone to get out of the shower, or for the goddamn downstairs buffet to open already. That changed this weekend: Emily and I caught the end of a marathon on TV and were hooked. The first season can be streamed from Netflix, and we’re already about halfway through it.
Except apparently this isn’t Avatar. I mean, it is. But that’s not the Avatar, the one getting directed by James Cameron. Ours is Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Peabody Award-winning three-season animated series that’s deeply influenced by Hayao Miyazaki’s films. But the apparently-nominal Avatar that’s gotten everyone else excited is a bulbous epic that appears to be one part Warcraftian Night Elf cinematic and one part M.A.N.T.I.S. I’ve got no idea why people find this premise compelling: it’s hardly the first time that hard sci-fi specificity has been used to excuse high fantasy ridiculousness. But eh, whatever.
What I can say is that this airbender business is pretty solid. It’s admittedly all a bit Captain Planet; and the middle standalone episodes of each twenty-episode season are no better or worse than a standard kid’s cartoon. But the art is of a consistently high quality, and the important episodes — if this were the X-Files, we’d call them the mythology episodes — are always engaging (and charming!). The super-powered fight choreography is also noteworthy: it’s inventive, and it doesn’t repeat itself. That’s unusual.
Oh, also, one of the characters has a gigantic flying bison. In other words: recommended.
(For what it’s worth, this property is also being adapted into a series of three films M. Night Shyamalan; I don’t have particularly high hopes for them, though.)