Avatar: The Way of Water Review: Visually Stunning, as Expected.

I can still remember going to see the first Avatar movie as a kid all those years ago in 2009.
At the time, I was awed by the insane visuals and adored the film.
In the 13 years since, my passion for Avatar has dulled.
I still think its a good film with great CGI, even now, yet the issues with the story became more apparent to me as I got older.
Well, now, after over a decade, James Cameron has finally released the sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Does The Way of Water ascend or does it sink?

Going into the theatre, I was curious to see how I would feel about the film.
Oh, I had not doubt that I would once again be wowed by amazing CGI, but I wondered if I would love the story and characters line I did in 2009 or if I would be as jaded about it as I am now?
After seeing The Way of Water, I can say that it definitley needs to be seen in theatres.
The incredible visuals and CGI of the Na’vi and the world of Pandora make the film a spectacle to behold.
As for the story and characters, they hold the same quality of the original film, which is to say they are fairly generic yet not bad.
Honestly, The Way of Water retreads the structure of the first Avatar fairly often.
The film once again follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) who, in the many years since the events of the first movie, have started their own family.
This includes their three natural born children, Neteyam (James Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) .
They have also adopted a Na’vi girl named Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), who was born through unknown means by Grace’s Avatar, and a human boy named Spider (Jack Champion) who was left on Pandora by the fleeing humans.
It is these teenage characters who take up the majority of the screen time in The Way of Water so if they had been badly written or acted poorly then I think the film would have failed.
Thankfully, they all manage to be pretty likeable.
Although, I will say that it was quite jarring to have the 73-year-old Sigourney Weaver playing the teenage Kiri.
The fantastic CGI covered up this problem visually, yet Weaver’s voice sounded weird coming out of someone who is supposed to be a teenager.

Every time Kiri speaks she sounds way too old. You could make an argument that this is the point, to make her sound wiser beyond her years but I still found it off putting.

Along with the kids, the other main focus of the Way of Water is the Metkayina, a water tribe Na’Vi whose culture we spend the majority of the film exploring, after Jake and his family are forced to flee from their home when the humans come back with a vengance.
There was some pretty excellent world building with the Metkayina way of life, especially involving the whale species known as the Tulkan.
One of these Tulkan, Payakan, is a highlight in the film.

I’d be up for seeing more extremely intelligent alien whales in more Avatar films.

Despite fleeing their home, Jake and his family are still pursued by Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who returns as the main antagonist.
When I heard he would be returning, I dreaded a retcon, considering that Quaritch died at the end of the the first movie.
However, I actually really liked the way he was brought back and used in the film.
It was inventive and made a lot of sense. 
What did not make a lot of sense were some parts of the third act.
For example, an entire army just seems to vanish in the final battle just so the last fight can be more personal.
There is also a tense scene between Spider and Neytiri, which is never addressed afterwards, which was extremely weird because it felt like there should be some consequences from this event.
Maybe Cameron is saving the fallout for the next movie?

It will honestly be pretty bizarre if what happens to Spider at the end of The Way of Water is never addressed.

These problems aside, the third act is actually pretty great, with a lot of well shot action set pieces.
As a whole, the film works pretty cohesively, some plot holes aside.
It does run over three hours and that is mostly due to the long second act exploring the Metkayina culture but, as someone who enjoys good world building, I liked it.
All in all, The Way of Water is a good sequel to the original Avatar.
The visuals are, of course, incredible, and the story and characters are well done, although mostly nothing new.
It will definitely make for a better viewing experience in the threatres so, again, I would recommend watching it there.
I am also interested to hear about the future of this franchise and how far it will go, since the budget for each following movie will likely be extreme.
If James Cameron’s full vision for the Avatar story is realized, it will certainly make for stunning visual experience after stunning visual experience.
So, with my review out of the way, I only have one more thing to say.
Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Top 10 Avatar: The Last Airbender Episodes.

I love Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Created by Brian Konietzko and Michael DiMartino It is easily one of my favourite, if not my favorite TV series out there.
Despite being a Nickelodeon show, Avatar: The Last Airbender managed to be so much more than just a kids show.
It had fantastic characters, a great story and themes, and amazing animation and music.
All of these factors combine to create some truly incredible episodes of television so I am going to list my top 10 favourites.
However, before that, I want to briefly mention the 10 episodes that I considered to go on this list but did not quite meet the mark.
So, here is numbers 20-11 of my favourite episodes of the show.

20. The Winter Solstice Part 2: Avatar Roku – Book One, episode eight. 
19. The Drill – Book Two, episode 13.
18. The Desert – Book Two, episode 11.
17. The Tales of Ba Sing Se – Book Two, episode 15.
16. The Fire Bending Masters – Book Three, episode 13.
15. The Ember Island Players – Book Three, episode 17.
14. The Puppet Master – Book Three, episode eight.
13. The Blind Bandit – Book Two, episode six. 
12. The Avatar State – Book Two, episode one.
11. The Siege of the North Part One and Two – Book One, episodes 19-20.

These were fantastic episodes but were not as good as the ones I am about to mention, which are some of the best episodes of any show I have ever seen.
Without further ado here is my top 10 favourite Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes.

10. The Day of Black Sun Part One and Two – Book Three, episodes 10 and 11.

the day of black sun.jpg
This two part episode felt more like a season finale that halfway through one, with its amazing action and character development, along with the fantastic cliffhanger.
It follows Team Avatar and various recurring characters as they launch an all out assault on the Fire Nation during the Day of Black Sun, where an eclipse will render all firebenders unable to bend fire.
This is thought to be the perfect time for Aang to defeat the Firelord but, unfortunately, it is a trap set by Azula, who learnt of the invasion plan all the way back in Book Two.
The first episode of The Day of Black Sun serves to reintroduce the recurring characters and set up a feeling of hope before the battle, with Aang kissing Katara, however, this hope is dashed by the end of the episode when Aang unable to find Ozai in the throne room.
This leads into the second part where Aang, Sokka and Toph face off against Azula who is ready for them with her fighting skills and mind tricks.
By the end the invasion has failed and Team Avatar are forced to retreat with the younger characters while the rest of their army stays to surrender.
The actual victory of this episode does not go to them but to Zuko who, after two and a half books of development, finally takes a stand against his father and decides to join the Avatar.
The moment when Zuko redirects Ozai’s lightening gives me chills every time.
The Day of Black Sun is a great two-part episode with fantastic character moments, especially from Zuko, and leaving off with a feeling of despair.

9. The Guru – Book Two, episode 19.

The Guru

One word: chakras!
In all seriousness this episode had a lot of growth for numerous characters with Aang gaining spiritual guidance to unlock the Avatar State, Sokka reuniting with his father Hakoda after many years and Toph becoming the first metalbender.
Of all these growths, Toph’s is my favourite because the way she invents metalbending is shown by visualizing her vibration senses and Guru Pathik’s narration, which makes it very inspiring.
Toph is certainly “the greatest earthbender in the world.”
As for the other growths Sokka’s interactions with Hakoda did lead to some funny moments and Aang learning to unlock his chakras from Pathik, like Toph, was also very inspiring.
However, while this episode does have a lot of inspirational moments from its characters, it also has a feeling of dread throughout.
By the end of the episode Katara has been captured, a trap has been laid for Zuko and Iroh and Azula’s plan to conquer the Earth Kingdom is coming to fruition.
This combination of inspirational moments with an underlying feeling of dread prepares the audience for the insane finale that would follow this episode.
The Guru is a fantastic episode that gets you pumped for what is coming.

8. The Chase – Book Two, episode eight.

the chase

This episode starts out slow but it builds and builds to a hectic finale where one of the fates of the main characters is put into question.
After picking up Toph in The Blind Bandit it is in this episode that we see how Team Avatar interact with her, in particular Katara who has a problem with the way she acts.
These feelings are further amplified with the ever constant presence of Azula, Mai and Ty Lee as they relentlessly pursue the group.
This eventually leads to Toph leaving and encountering good old uncle Iroh and, in a heartfelt scene, the two give one another advice on how to deal with their problems.
It is with the chase itself though that most of the episode’s tension rises, as shown by the title.
The culmination of this building tension comes with the confrontation between Aang, Azula and Zuko in a ghost town, which makes for a great fight sequence.
It gets even better when Katara, Sokka, Toph and Iroh show up to help in defeating Azula, which leads to the shocking moment of Azula gravely injuring her own uncle with her firebending.
This was the second instance that displayed how deranged Azula could be and generated much fear for the fate of Iroh.
Overall, The Chase had a great build up to an intense conclusion and the episode ending with the characters having a much deserved rest.

7. The Avatar and the Firelord – Book Three, episode six.

the avatar and the firelord

The Avatar and the Firelord serves to explain how the Fire Nation started the war and to push Zuko further towards redemption.
It is here that we learn not only the backstory of Avatar Roku but Firelord Sozin as well, as the two were friends in their youth.
Roku relays this story to Aang and how his friendship with Sozin turned sour after he began making plans to spread Fire Nation influence by invading the other nations.
What follows is the tragic tale of their doomed friendship, which ends when Sozin leaves Roku to die in a volcanic eruption.
This episode had many other good elements as well by showing us what a fully realised Avatar could do, when Roku attacks Sozin and when he tries to delay lava and ash from destroying his home.
There was also Zuko’s storyline, where he learns he is not just related to Sozin but Roku as well, who is his great grandfather.
This bridged the gap towards The Day of Black Sun episodes, where Zuko would betray the Fire Nation to help Aang, and it was done really well.
It is the doomed friendship between Roku and Sozin that makes this a fantastic episode though because the writers managed to give it a tragic feel in only 23 minutes, which is a great accomplishment.

6. The Storm – Book One, episode 12.

The Storm

The Storm is an episode I hear a lot about when people talk about the best episodes of Avatar and justifiably so.
This episode delves into the backstories of both Aang and Zuko, detailing why Aang ran away and how Zuko got his scar.
Both are very tragic tales that help us relate to the two characters very well.
We see how both had seemingly good lives before one moment lead to it all crashing down.
For Aang it was being declared the Avatar and for Zuko it was speaking out at a war meeting against sacrificing Fire Nation lives.
After Aang was declared the Avatar everyone treated him differently and he was going to be taken away from Monk Gyatso, his adopted father.
This caused him to run away with Appa and getting frozen in ice, dooming the world to 100 years of war.
We got to see Aang’s pain and guilt as he relived running away, making him incredibly sympathetic.
It is Zuko, however, who has the more tragic past because after speaking out of turn in his father’s throne room he is forced to duel him.
Zuko refuses and this results in Ozai scarring him for life and banishing him until he can capture the Avatar.
This was a brutal moment that really brought understanding to Zuko’s actions and also gave us our first subtle hint at Azula, the best villain of the series.
The look that Aang and Zuko share as they both escape the storm is the best cut in the entire series as it shows how both are on similar paths, without knowing it.
The Storm made us understand Aang and Zuko better as characters and was the first hint of Zuko’s redemption.
I can clearly see why a lot of people love this episode and I do to.

5. Zuko Alone – Book Two, episode seven.

zuko alone

Zuko is the best character in all of Avatar and one of my favourite characters of any show and this episode really shows why.
In Zuko Alone, after splitting up with Iroh, Zuko encounters and befriends a young boy and his family in an Earth Kingdom village.
He teaches the boy how to survive, which is necessary because the village is being exploited by corrupt Earth Kingdom soldiers.
However, when these soldiers try to take the boy Zuko is forced to use his firebending to save him, exposing his true identity as prince of the Fire Nation.
This leads to everyone in the village, including the young boy, despising him and ordering him to leave.
This episode really puts the viewer into Zuko’s mindset and makes you feel for him.
He initially wants nothing to do with these people but grows to care for them, however, the moment he decides to stop looking the other way and help causes the people to hate him, due to his identity.
It is a sad life for Zuko, further established by the flashbacks to his mother’s disappearance.
However, this episode does not just establish more for Zuko but Azula as well.
This episode was the first time we saw how twisted she could be because, at only eight years old, she was laughing at and mocking Zuko when she learnt their father planned to murder him.
This episode established just how much of a sociopath she is.
But it is with Zuko where the heart of this episode lies because we see the difficulties he has with accepting his identity and what he really wants.
This episode made me really feel for Zuko and was a great continuation of his arc established in The Storm.

4. The Blue Spirit – Book One, episode 13.

the blue spirit

Speaking of The Storm, the episode following it, The Blue Spirit, was even better with another great continuation of Zuko’s arc.
After Katara and Sokka get sick, Aang has to go and get the cure for them, getting captured by the Fire Nation in the process.
However, just as it seems all is lost, a mysterious masked figure, known as the Blue Spirit, comes to rescue him.
After an exhilarating escape sequence the Blue Spirit is knocked out and Aang learns, much to his surprise, that his rescuer is Zuko, who was only helping him so he could capture the Avatar himself.
This leads to one of the most important scenes in the entire series where Aang stays by an unconscious Zuko’s side and, when he wakes up, asks if they could ever be friends.
Even though Zuko does attack Aang, the implications of this question are still huge for the series because it sets up Zuko eventually regretting what he has done and helping Aang defeat his father.
Watching Aang and Zuko team up to escape the Fire Nation stronghold, as well as being exciting, was also very important because it showed how well they could work together, which would later be seen in episodes like The Firebending Masters.
Episodes like The Storm and Zuko Alone may have foreshadowed Zuko’s redemption but it was The Blue Spirit that foreshadowed his eventual friendship with Aang.

3. The Crossroads of Destiny – Book Two, episode 20.

the crossroads of destiny

What a finale for Book Two this episode was.
The Crossroads of Destiny is a fantastic finale with the best cliffhanger of the series.
The feeling of dread felt throughout the previous episode, The Guru, comes to fruition here with everything that could go wrong happening.
Zuko helps Azula fight Aang thus betraying Iroh, The Earth Kingdom falls due to Azula’s plot and Azula appears to fatally wound Aang with a bolt of lightening while he is in the Avatar State.
Thankfully, Katara is able to heal Aang with water from the Spirit Oasis but for a moment it looked like the Avatar cycle was going to die with Aang.
This despair is further heightened with Earth King Kuei declaring that the Earth Kingdom “has fallen,” making an excellent cliffhanger to lead into Book Three.
This episode, along with these despairing scenes, had fantastic character moments as well.
Watching Azula outsmart Long Feng to take control of Ba Sing Se was thrilling to watch, along with Zuko deciding to help Azula and betray Iroh, who also got some great scenes when he showed why he was called The Dragon of the West and when he held off the Fire Nation siblings to help Aang and Katara escape.
There were also somber character moments as well when Aang had to let go of his feeling for Katara to enter the Avatar State.
With great character moments, an excellent final action sequence and all of this with a feeling of despair throughout, The Crossroads of Destiny is definitely The Empire Strikes Back of Avatar.

2. The Southern Raiders – Book Three, episode 16.

the southern raiders.jpg

The Southern Raiders deals with the conclusion not only of Katara’s thirst for vengeance against her mother’s killer but also of the antagonism she holds towards Zuko for his betrayal in The Crossroads of Destiny.
This episodes with, once again, a fantastic action sequence, which is a thing Avatar always gets right.
Watching Zuko battle an unhinged Azula was exciting and lead into the conflict between him and Katara with the scene where everyone is praising him at a campfire, only for Katara to point out how he betrayed them.
This makes Zuko decide to help Katara find the man who killed her mother and it is from this point that we see a different side to Katara.
She is full of hatred and plans to do terrible things to the man who killed her mother as can be seen with her using bloodbending, the forbidden technique first shown in The Puppet Master, on a Fire Nation soldier she mistakenly thinks is the killer.
This darker side to Katara was something we had never seen before and it was rather sad to see her go through this.
Her pain all culminated in the her confrontation with her mother’s killer.
While most shows would have done something cliche like have the killer reformed and have Katara forgive him, Avatar does something entirely different.
The killer, Yon Rha, is now nothing but a sad, pathetic, old man who offers to let Katara kill his mother instead of him.
He has become so pathetic that Katara decides he is not worth it and spare his life but does not forgive him.
However, this does lead her to forgive Zuko for his prior actions in a heartfelt scene.
While this episode does get rather dark and deal with heavy subject matter, it not without its funny moments as well.
When Zuko goes to ask Sokka about what happened to him and Katara’s mother and finds him waiting for Suki with a rose in his mouth always gets a laugh out of me.
The Southern Raiders is a dark episode that is not without humor, that displays themes of rage, grief and forgiveness.

1. Sozin’s Comet Part One to Four – Book Three, episodes 18-21.

Avatar Aang

That is all I had to say when watching the four part series finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, wow.
This was an absolutely incredible way to end the series and, combined, these episodes are the best the show has ever given us.
I thought about counting these episodes separately but, at the end of the day, I just could not do it.
These episodes need to be talked about as a collective whole because they all flow together to create one of the best finales in television history.
I am not kidding because everything that made Avatar such a fantastic show culminates in this finale.
It has by far the best music, animation, sound design, action and character moments of the entire series.
In the four part finale, Sozin’s Comet finally arrives pushing Aang into his confrontation with Firelord Ozai, which will decide the fate of the world.
Meanwhile Sokka, Toph and Suki go to stop the Firelord’s forces, Iroh leads the White Lotus to liberate Ba Sing Se, and Zuko and Katara face off against a completely insane Azula.
These final two episodes were amazing and really left the viewer with closure, while the first two episodes of this four part finale also served as fantastic build up.
Learning of the Firelord’s evil plan to commit genocide against the Earth Kingdom using the comet really set the stakes and watching Zuko tearfully reunite with Iroh always makes me cry.
This all builds up to the final two episodes with the battle for the fate of the world, with some truly fantastic moments.
One of these was the gradual decline of Azula’s sanity.
Watching a character, who had started off as a poised calculating villain, slowly transform into a deranged mad woman, who is left crying and struggling like a wild animal to escape, actually made me feel sorry for her.
The two big fights between Zuko and Azula, and Aang and Ozai are also the best of the series.
The big question of whether Aang will have to kill Ozai in the final fight is presented throughout the four episodes and it all culminates in the dramatic scene where Aang is able to defeat Ozai by removing his bending, a power given to him by a Lion Turtle.
This, to me, was very inspirational, seeing Aang overcome the odds and being able to end the war without resorting to taking a life.
The final moments of the last episode were also a great conclusion for the series with almost every character getting a proper send off.
Watching Aang and Katara kiss as the shot pans up over Ba Sing Se was a fantastic final shot for the series.
Sozin’s Comet is not just the perfect finale but one of the best series finales ever put to screen.
If you watch it, I would highly recommend watching all four parts at once because it flows together like a movie.
It is an excellent conclusion to an excellent epic.

Avatar: The Last Airbender, not just a kids cartoon but a sprawling epic.

5 stars
Unlike most fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I did not grow up watching the show.
I knew of it but I never watched it.
In fact, my first exposure to the show was the live action movie and we all know how that turned out.
So, imagine my surprise, when I learnt that a lot of reviewers I listen to considered this to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
After hearing this I naturally had to check it out and watch all three seasons of the show.
And you know what?
They were right.
Because Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the greatest TV shows I have ever seen.
It is right up there with Death Note, Game of Thrones and Westworld, for me.
This surprised me to no end because, before this, I considered the show to be nothing more than a kids cartoon like Spongebob Squarepants.
But Avatar: The Last Airbender is not this.
Instead of your average kids cartoon the show is a sprawling epic, full of likable characters, engaging stories and excellent use of world building.
If I had one criticism of the show, it would be that initially it does not appear to be the epic story that it is.
The first episode did not really grab me like most of my favourite shows’ first episodes did.
However, after the first few episodes, the show expands its storytelling, creating a complex world and characters that left me engaged from start to finish.
The plot of the show feels more like an epic tale like Lord of The Rings.
The plot is that the world is divided into four nations, Earth, Water, Air and Fire, and each of these nations is able to control their own individual element.

Avatar map
Map of the four nations seen in the show.

The Avatar is the only one who can control all four elements but he disappeared 100 years ago, allowing the Fire Nation to invade the other nations in an attempt to take over the world.
100 years after the Avatar’s disappearance, Water Tribe siblings Katara and Sokka discover the Avatar, a kid named Aang, frozen in ice.
After freeing him the three set out on an adventure to stop the Fire Nation and save the world.
This is a really great premise and it is helped by the show’s storytelling, with each episode expanding our knowledge of the show’s world and its characters.
In fact, the characters are some of the best out of any show I have ever seen.
Every character stands out, from the heroes to the villains.
Aang is a lovable naive kid with a great moral code, Katara is a motherly figure who stands up for her friends and Sokka may be the comedic relief  but he is also incredibly smart and is extremely useful to the group.
Chasing after them is Prince of The Fire Nation Zuko and his uncle Iroh.
These two are easily the best characters in the series, with Iroh coming across as the kind old man who anyone would like to have as their uncle and Zuko has, in my opinion, the greatest character arc of any character I have ever seen.
If you compare Zuko from the start of the show to the end he is a completely different person and watching him make this journey of personal growth across the series was nothing short of enthralling.
And as the show went on even more great characters appeared like Toph, Azula, Suki, Ozai and many more.
I could literally make an entire post about why these characters are so good.

Team Avatar
The three main characters Aang, Katara and Sokka along with their pets Appa and Momo.

These great characters mixed with the intriguing story make for some fantastic episodes that are some of the best TV I have seen, like The Storm, The Crossroads of Destiny and The Southern Raiders.
Even the filler episodes are great.
Avatar Day has nothing to do with the main plot, yet it is a great episode because of its intriguing mystery plot and funny moments.
And then there is The Ember Island Players, which is literally the only good recap episode I can remember.
This episode actually did something creative with the idea, turning it completely on its head.
When making a recap episode, The Ember Island Players should be set as the standard for what makes a great one.

the ember island players
The Ember Island players in the only recap episode that ever had me invested.

There were only a few stumbles with episodes like The Great Divide, and Nightmares and Daydreams but these episodes do not detract from the overall greatness of the show.
The show is further improved by its soundtrack, animation and themes, all of which are excellent.
The soundtrack and animation are so unique in their style that if I stumbled across the show on TV I would instantly know I was watching Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The themes of the show are also presented really well covering spirituality and balance.
All of this greatness culminates in the four part series finale Sozin’s Comet.
It feels like the creators of the show were holding back on the music and animation until the finale because the music and animation on display in these final four episodes is nothing short of fantastic.
The themes are also best displayed in these episodes and the characters go really well with them, especially Aang, who had a great character arc in these final episodes.
If you watch the final four episodes, I would suggest you watch them all together because it feels like you are watching a movie.
Sozin’s Comet was a fantastic way to end the series, which is surprising considering most shows go on for too long or have lackluster finales, while Avatar: The Last Airbender ended its story perfectly.

Avatar State
the four part Sozin’s Comet was a fantastic way to end the series

Honestly, I cannot recommend Avatar: The Last Airbender enough.
I loved the show and it left me wanting more so I cannot wait to check out its follow up series The Legend of Korra.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is a fantastic show that deserves recognition for the epic story that it is.