Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Avatar vs. Avatar: The Ultimate Smack-Down

The July 4th weekend is nearly here, and that means all of us at The Sci Fi Catholic are trembling in anticipation of the release of the live-action film The Last Airbender, based on Avatar: The Last Airbender, now with one less word in its title to avoid confusion.

And confusion there is.  Many times recently I have tried to explain how much I love Avatar, only to end up saying, "No!  Not that Avatar!" The world is not big enough for both titles, so it's time for them to duke it out, once again using the style ripped off from Grudge-Match!


 vs.



(Contains spoilers!)


The set-up:  Bent on conquering new worlds, the Fire Nation has formed an alliance with a mining company from Texas determined to rape the pristine natural beauty of the planet Pandora.  Said mining company establishes a base guarded not only by its own rent-a-soldiers equipped with hovercraft and mecha, but by the Fire Nation's airships, steam-powered tanks, catapults, and firebenders.

Little do they know that Avatar Aang, beholden to the duty of communicating with the spirit world and protecting nature, has been contacted by Pandora's hippie mother goddess.  Aang stows away aboard a spaceship with his humorous sidekick Sokka, too-old-for-him girlfriend Katara, cute bruiser Toph, useless extra character Suki, and the wangst-ridden Zuko, along with his giant flying byson and lemur, which he manages to stow on the ship unnoticed somehow.

Once on Pandora, Aang contacts the furry natives, led by hot naked princess Neytiri, and announces himself as their protector--the Avatar!

"We already have an Avatar to protect us," Neytiri replies nakedly, and introduces Aang to her boyfriend Jake Sully, who's actually a dude lying in a tanning bed somewhere, but has a naked furry doppleganger he controls by remote.

Talks quickly break down and violence ensues:  Aang's friends rally to him, and Neytiri and several naked furries rally to Jake, along with some flying dragons and six-legged seahorse thingies.  But even as the two Avatars battle for the right to defend Pandora, the Fire Nation-Texan Alliance launches a joint military venture against our heroes!  Oh no!  Will there be an Avatar to defend the planet?  Will Pandora be strip-mined??  Does anyone care???

Let the battle begin.  As a fan of the cartoon, I will speak for Aang.  Lucky the Goldfish, nature-lover, will argue for Jake Sully.  Snuffles the Dragon, who's evil, will argue for the evil imperial-corporate conglomerate.

Snuffles:  Thanks for saying the word "naked" a whole bunch, Deej.  Now we'll start getting all those creepy hits again on the site meter.  I'll start this off by making it clear that Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai are on Pandora as well, teamed up with Colonel Quaritch.  That's a total of four bad-awesomes on my side, not to mention all the high-tech weaponry and all the soldiers.  Remember that Azula and her girlfriends could always give the gAang a run for its collective money, and Quaritch made a pretty good showing against Jake Sully and his pals.  Altogether, with an army doubled in size, combining the advantages of firebending with high-tech, I'd say we're having Avatar for dinner.  Both kinds.

D.G.D.:  You forget something.  Both Avatars have already shown themselves capable of defeating an airship assault carried out by evildoers who hold advantages of numbers and technology.  Your conglomerate isn't even a real player in this battle:  it's merely a question of who gets to do you in, and in that matter, the gAang has a clear advantage.  Aang comes from a happy children's cartoon universe where even in a global war almost nobody dies unless it's absolutely necessary for drama.  Jake Sully, on the other hand, comes from a James Cameron movie where people die all the time.  As soon as Aang, Katara, Zuko, and Toph start bending, they'll be amazed at how fragile the N'avi bodies are, but by that point it will be too late and Jake's Avatar body will be dead.  Then the remaining N'avi will join Aang to whoop your awesome, after Aang has had the appropriate period of I-can't-believe-I-just-killed-somebody-for-dramatic-effect remorse, of course.

Lucky:  Um, excuse me, no.  The N'avi have carbon-fiber skeletons and are not fragile.  Aang not only comes from a universe where almost nobody dies, but from a universe where almost nobody kills.  If Aang does something that's about to kill Jake, fifteen or so deus ex machinas will happen to prevent it.  He'll get whisked off by a lion turtle or something.  And since this is happening on Pandora, in the James Cameron universe, his inability to kill will render Aang useless against either N'avi or corporate conglomerates.  Jake is proclaimed Avatar and the gAang members serve as ineffective comedic sidekicks until the battle is over and they go home in shame.

Snuffles:  I don't believe this nonsense about nobody dying.  This is Pandora, and we're told the place is deadly, so the cartoon characters don't get to bring their get-out-of-death-free cards with them.  They're going to have to figure out they're as vulnerable as everyone else.  And when my heavily armed army gets there, they'll find out the hard way.  Oh, and just to make clear, as soon as my mechs arrive, I'm going to order them all to shoot Suki first.  Cripes, I hate that character.  She starts out as a tough amazon warrior, but then when she gets relegated to Sokka's Girlfriend Status, she becomes a perpetual demonstration that love makes you dumb.

D.G.D.:  I may allow you to kill Suki, but nobody else.  I shall sick Toph on you and much enjoy the sight of a twelve-year-old blind waif ripping one of your mecha apart with her bare hands.

Snuffles:  Aha, you have fallen into my trap.  Yes, Toph with her metalbending probably will rip one of my mecha apart.  One of them.  But I have more, and without Suki to serve as deus ex machina, nobody will save Toph and Sokka when they hang from one of my dirigibles by their fingertips and have a touching moment recalling Toph's mild crush previously used only for the purpose of humor! They will fall to their doom!  Bwahaha!

D.G.D.:  *Pfft.*  Saved by flying byson.  Or dragon.  Doesn't matter.  Toph is too awesome to die, and we need Sokka for comic relief.  But as for you, Lucky, if that is your real name, you forget that if Aang kills Jake's Avatar body, Jake himself will still be alive.  He'll just wake up in his tanning booth, so the laws of Aang's universe will not prevent him from slaying Jake's Avatar, though Aang of course won't realize Jake isn't really dead, because we need that angsty drama.  Then Aang will feel powerless against the corporate conglomerate because he can't bear the thought of doing battle and accidentally killing again, but then somebody, Katara maybe, will give a stirring speech about feelings and he'll be right as rain, ready to lay the smack-down on some hovercraft with his airbending, a smack-down from which all the soldiers will walk away unharmed but thoroughly defeated.

Snuffles:  Um, hello, have I mentioned bullets and missiles?  These cartoony people have a serious problem:  their technology is underdeveloped because they come from a universe where elemental magic is common.  Even the comparatively high-tech Fire Nation hasn't invented bullets.  When they build tanks, they don't arm them; they just put big windows in so someone on the inside can shoot fire blasts with his fists.  But now the Fire Nation is teamed up with the military of a spacefaring civilization that most certainly does have guns and bombs and missiles.  The gAang won't know what hit them.  You think Toph can dodge bullets?  Is Sokka going to take out a mech with a boomerang?  Is Suki, assuming she survives the onslaught of my hate, going to take down an airship with her fan?

D.G.D.:  I think Toph can dodge bullets.

Lucky:  Might I point out that your high-tech army lost to naked furries with arrows?  We did it before, and we can do it again, right after we get rid of this false cartoony Avatar.

Snuffles:  Yes, yes, you did it before.  But your jungle critters are afraid of fire.  The problem with that last time is that the Texans didn't use enough incendiary rounds.  This time, we have firebenders, who will drive your dragons and glowy seahorses and giant panthers nuts.  A little fire-enhanced Shaolin boxing and we'll have your warriors' mounts on a stampede, crushing their own riders!

Lucky:  No way.  The N'avi have their hair-plugs in their mounts, so the animals won't stampede.  The firebenders are nothing compared to the army we've already defeated.

D.G.D.:  II'll add, Snuffles, that your high-tech airships are vulnerable to airbending, so I've got both Aang and Appa here to knock the gunships out of the sky.  Besides that, if you want to talk about deus ex machinas, don't forget Aang's brought all the deus ex machinas with him.  As soon as things get bad, or as soon as somebody threatens Katara, it's Avatar State Time, baby!

Lucky:  Locked chakra!  Locked chakra!

D.G.D.:  Dammit.  Um...he hits his back on a rock at exactly the right--?

Snuffles:  I don't think so.  No Avatar State for you, pal.

D.G.D.:  Uh, well, it's the jungle, so Katara has plenty of water around to make those flying razor blades.  And Toph can throw boulders on the mechs.  Sokka and Suki are competent at taking out airships, and I have no intention of wiping out the furries.  So Aang wins the title of Avatar and leads the N'avi to victory.  Zuko personally takes down Azula, Ty Lee joins the good guys, Neytiri hits on Zuko and makes Mai jealous, and Aang and Katara have an inappropriate makeout scene.  The end.

Snuffles:  Not a chance.  While your Avatars are squabbling over who's the real deal, Azula and Quaritch are coming down on you like a freight train comin' your way, and they'll waste everybody.  I mean they'll totally waste friggin' everybody.  You've seen them individually, now witness their unstoppable power when they're teamed up!  That's two mostly crazy super-violent hard-to-kill villains in one place!  Working together!  Picture Azula piloting a mech!  Picture Quaritch just being himself!  Think of the one-liners they'll spew!  And Quaritch is so awesome, he'll probably still be sipping coffee through half the battle!  Pandora and its resources are ours!  I'm going to go turn on my new Fire Nation-made Unobtanium conductor right now!

Lucky:  You guys are both like so totally wrong!  With his toughened N'avi body, Jake can take anything a little kid can dish out.  He'll give Aang noogies until Aang gives up, and then he'll lead the N'avi to victory just like last time, and then Jake and Neytiri will have the inappropriate makeout scene!  So there!

D.G.D.:  You're wrong!

Lucky:  No, you're wrong!


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