Which character do you like best?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sokka A:TLA/ The Last Airbender

SHAMELESS PLUG: visit my other blog to follow my original work! My blog, Raw Eraser- Leave a comment, +1 it, or don't. It just wouldn't be fair to rip apart other people's work if I didn't give you the same option to rip apart mine.

Also, you will notice that there are fewer categories. I realized I end up saying the same thing in certain sections so I parsed down the number of them, to make it a little less repetitive. Hopefully.

Now to the good stuff:

I won't lie to you. I love the original television show by Nick. Favorite characters have a special place in everyone's heart. For me, this character is the self described personification of carnivore and sarcasm, Sokka.


Sokka also holds a special place because somehow he manages to be my most hated character in M Knight Sha-lame's adaption. Not one single catchphrase. The shame.

Seriously, if you take away the fun, meat and sarcasm from Sokka, what's left?
Oh right, there's always Puns. Now take away the puns. That is what was created when the role was destroyed by Jackson Rathboner. The man didn't even have the decency to make puns in Mr. Shllama's version-- though there are sources that indicate that much of Sokka's character was zapped- not by the director/writer, not even by the actor but by the producers.

Like I can't even start without adding a video clip of just how bad and I mean BAD his acting is in this. Like I've said before, I don't blame Nicola Peltz for her acting - she was young AND she's proved she has acting chops. Why people keep giving Jackson Rathbone parts is beyond me. This mess may not be entirely his fault but frankly I've never felt much of anything for the guy:
Like I actually CANNOT.

So... let's get on with it.


Aka: Soak-a -- get it? now it sound's like something to do with water. Yeah. I didn't either.

When Sokka starts out, he actually isn't hilariously funny (I know, I forgot too) and really, although he has his sarcasm, his time in the Southern Water Tribe makes him out to seem annoyed and a little harsh. But he still has his sarcasm. What I did not know is that initially Sokka was written out to be a serious character, NOT as a comic relief aid. It is actually thanks to his wonderful Nick actor, Jack DeSena, that the character became amusing, funny, and human. For many people starting out the series, they find Sokka to be a little off putting, starting eye rolls and exasperation. However, as the series grows the writers let Jack DeSena turn him into a much more likable character. Taken out of his place of trapped responsibility, being the oldest male still in the Southern Water Tribe, he becomes funny, goofy and likable. He becomes a quirky fun guy who actually seems to have some talent with ladies (albeit after learning to respect women - Thanks Suki!) This dynamic change causes him to grow from a child pretending to be a man into a fun young guy -- and his changes do not even stop there. He goes on to grow even more, maintaining his role as a comic relief character but adding new layers to himself by wanting to more responsibility. He wants to be more than just "that other guy who can't bend anything". He (and Suki) become important additions to the Gaang - he comes to represent the stregnth in the normal people, the people who are not born 'special'. His multilayered character acts his age and can be both serious and hilarious when he chooses to be.
Soaker is... well... hmm. Unlike Jack DeSena, Jackson Rathbone chose to play the character exactly how the director wanted him to. People should really stop taking acting notes from Llamas, they hardly know what they're talking about. Jackson's Sokka becomes the shows Sokka -- minus Fun, Character Growth, Puns, Catchphrazes, Sarcasm, Sex Appeal and the ability to speak without a monotone. 

A man true to his word ^

What's really left when you take out everything that makes Sokka, Sokka? Frankly, what you kindof end up with is the tv show's first episode Sokka, but even without the ability to create variation in pitch. There is a good reason the show scrapped whiny, annoyed, pessimistic Sokka so quickly in favor of loud funny Sokka, yet somehow that's what we end up with. It almost seems like Shyamalan and Rathbone had both never seen the show, read the wiki article together and then watched ONLY the first episode of the series in order to prepare the character. Another issue with Soaka is that his age is a complete mystery; Sokka, in the show, is a young teenager, and reacts early on like a child trying to play at being an adult. He grows and has moments that change him and make him into a man-- but it takes time! Rathboner's persona is set. His age is sortof undefined, and the best that can be said is that he is a morose, droopy guy in his late teens to early twenties. He never shows anything resembling emotion and in some ways you kindof wonder if he isnt a creeper. Speaking of which, he may be a psychotic, cause his loving relationship seems pretty... stark.  
Score: 9/10 .2/10

Over complicating everything, Not trusting enough, Cynicism (Though let's be honest, its really kindof a superpower for him.) Lack of faith in his own ideas -- which is a huge one. He wants to be this brave leader but for much of the show he is treated like a sidekick or underling. However, his ideas really do have merit - the Day of black sun proves to be a trying time for him but his plan was solid- it was well thought out, it just did not work as planned. He can be pig headed, and sometimes a little annoying. But he is hardworking and, while a bit of a dunder head at times, he is brave and strong. He learns from his mistakes, and he will not let the fact that he is a non-bender keep him from leadership. 
Meanwhile, king of the long closeup creeper stares is pretty much defined only by the fact that he is not a bender. Ignoring everything involving his fun personality traits being sapped away, the true crime of Rathbone's Sokka is both in its inclusion and exclusion of Sokka's ability to bend even the simplest things. 
Score: 9/10  0/10

Sokka in A:TLA was one of the most interesting characters in the show because he himself had no ability to bend. In the shadow of his sister, Katara, the avatar and later on metal bending master Toph, Sokka stood his own. He became the self proclaimed idea guy after a few disasterous attempts at simple brute force. His arch as a character was one of the very strongest because of his place in the world of bending. He begins as a grumpy ineffective guy who opens up and learns to deal with the cards he's been dealt. And not only does he have to over come his lack of bending ability, he also has to overcome true defeats of his own-- The Day of Black Sun became not just a learning experience by Sokka's greatest challenge to his self worth. He has learned how to wield a sword (a startlingly unrealistic expectation after one days worth of training) and has always had his boomerang at his side but he does not let this defeat him. He continues to laugh and joke and sarcasm and plan. Sokka's plan in the final episodes is one of few reasons that Saosin's comet (the plan, not the piece of ice in the sky) failed. BONUS: The boy has some crazy good art skillz.

So Soaka can... um... well he can stare a lot. Say things very loudly but also mumble them incoherently. Sometimes at the same time. He is in possession of a boomerang... one he doesn't really use. He seems to only get irritable when anyone bends nearby. No swords and most heinously, not even a simple plan. He has the ability to even look in pain when he's in love (though that may just be him questioning his life choices at falling in love with a pen!s haired lady (with a lovely voice that we actually get a chance to appreciate in Legend of Korra-- that's right, Pen!s head plays Asami). OH and of course I forgot the big one: THE POWER OF EXTRANEOUS EXPOSITION. Like his sister this superpower, gift of the gabage, serves pretty steadily to only tell the audience need to know information about strictly the plot. Because in this world, we don't need feelings. Or emotion. Or independent and subjective thought. A nice objective plot summary is much better.  
Score: 10/10 0/10


Sokka is a goofball in the show, but his character arch is still serious enough to provide him with a very human set of fears. Sokka is naturally cynical about things he does not understand. He is cautious, yet he does not seem outright fearful of anything at first glance. As the story progresses, we learn of Sokka's deep seated fear of letting people down and being useless. This comes in sharp contrast to his ability to formulate plans and act as the common sense of the Gaang, because he does not let this fear show. He is more than willing to rush fire nation soldiers and decapitate the vengeful melon-lord, but his fears are much more interior. What makes Sokka's fears all the more interesting is how the writers of the show made him both embrace his fear and lead anyway, then face his fear as his plan failed, and finally showed how he kept moving forward and eventually 'redeemed' himself in The Boiling Rock two-parter. His character significantly matures from the first season, and even when his fear occurs, he does not lose himself -- not like Aang, who's younger years force him into a frustrated spiral for a time in the third season. (not hating on Aang, just pointing out the shows integrity to age/maturity)
I suppose M. Night's Soaka is afraid of things too, although what might be his fearful look could, mistakenly, be just a bit of minor gas. He's afraid of water, as he is often being hit with badly rendered CGI puddles of it. I think Soaka might be afraid of character development. Really we should all be giving him a big round of applause for trying (weakly) to overcome that fear when he starts his relationship (offscreen) with Princess Yue. He was really stepping out of his bounderies as a brick wall of a person. Having his sister narrate his relationship, as opposed to letting us see it, was a bit odd though. Maybe he didn't know? Maybe Katara is a busy-body who thought she'd tell us the truth about the real Sokka, the one we don't see on the silver screen, the one who frolics in the snow with penis-hair women, one who stares dramatically into sunsets like he's a fully realized character. Maybe we are supposed to respect Soaka's privacy. He doesn't know us, he shouldn't have to share! YOU DON'T KNOW HIS LIFE! Either that or he just doesn't have any goddamn character development.

 Score: 9/10 1/10

Position of Power:
The best part of A:TLA is the character interaction. While we can say that Aang is the main character, in reality, the power shifts a lot throughout the show as a whole, on an episode by episode basis. Often times Aang takes the lead, but Katara, Sokka and later Toph, Zuko and Iroh, will take turns playing leader. The characters all have their trope parts - Sokka's being "the idea guy" but because they are fully rounded characters, they each take their turns. Sokka does not complain often about not being the leader (Although it does occur in the beginning of the series, when his "I'm the oldest" rhetoric is still very much alive) because the Gaang tends to make their decisions together. This is what allows the multi-plot ending to work - we have four characters who we believe are equally good leaders -- five if we count Suki and her timely rescue. Aang takes on the firelord, Katara and Zuko equally take the Fire Nation capital, and Sokka leads the assault on the airships (and Suki, when left on her own, saves Toph and Sokka from a rather tight spot -- she is the leader of the Kyoshi Warriors after all).
Soaka is the leader of the three avatar hereos. He is manly, and strong. And silent. Except when his sister hits him with water. and stuff. He is the oldest, the bravest, the whitest, the ONLY man in the south pole! He loves nothing and no one! Except that white haired chick at the end! he-- yeah ok enough is enough. Sadly though, you do have to wonder who is making the decisions in The Last Airbender's gaang. Because the majority of the film is exposition, you have to assume that the three characters made their decisions together, but there is never any indication that they even have a plan other than "fly to northern air temple". While, yes, that was the basic tennant of the show, the kids did make a lot of side trips just to see the world. Sokka, in the show, was the time keeper, never letting them stay in one place for too long. That doesn't seem to be the case here. It seems like Soaka has no power, and neither do Uung or Katara. The only character possessing power is clear to be the greatest villain of the movie: exposition man. These characters are boring because they have no apparent choice. They just do whatever exposition man tells them to, the suckers. All fear the mighty exposition! 

Score: 7.5/10 0/10

Love Plots:

Sokka and Yue:
      In the show Yue was not the strongest character - in many ways, we get to know her about as well as we get to know most other minor characters, such as Haru. Even Jet and Smeller Bee end up having more character development than Yue - odd considering her sacrifice is the big end of the season finisher. But that's for another post. Yue and Sokka's relationship, while not the greatest romance in the history of television, also wasn't the worst. It was hella rushed though; The introduction was a bit clunky, and the love at first sight nonsense seems to be a bit at odds with the shows usual success with slowly developing relationships (both romantic and non-romantic). However, I wonder now how unrealistic this first relationship (yes he met Suki first but they didn't date until later) really is. The two characters are young - 15 at most, and their entire world seems to be in danger. Combine the emotional trainwreck that is puberty with the abominations of war and a little off the cuff romance no longer seems so far fetched. That being said, the show almost did a reverse of the film: their relationship had very little exposition or scenic development, and the confusing and meaningless addition of Yue being already engaged turned this possibly bittersweet romance into a melodrama. No, I suppose when we first met Yue we had no idea that by the end of the arc she was going to kick the big one -- I mean "turn into the moon spirit", but did we really need the love triangle melodrama? Instead we could have really met Yue and come to know her personality. As it is, we know nothing about their relationship except Yue is pretty and, oh yeah, a zombie. They just kindof slapped a tragic backstory on her and were done with it. It was sad, but not nearly as sad as it should've been, considering she was supposed to be a lead character's girlfriend. She ranks right up there with Sam's Jessica on Supernatural, or anyone Selena Gomez dates in Wizards Of Waverly Place. Yeah, I watched it. Come at me. bro. 
so so pretty!
Sokka and Suki: 
     This is where the real relationship begins. Sokka and Suki meet well before Sokka even has a relationship with Yue. At first she seems like the stereotypical one episode dream girlfriend, as she really does only have that one appearance in the first season. However, word around the internet is that her character was so well liked by fans and staff that she was given a bigger role in seasons two and three to eventually become a member of the gaang. Considering their brief meeting, Suki and Sokka engaged in a very flirty, quite organic relationship that only grew when they reintroduced her again in the second season. Sokka and Suki don't start off right away dating, and it really is not until later that their romance grows - and before that could happen, Suki and Sokka had to have it out because Sokka was being far too over protective of her, thanks to his recent experience losing Yue. As characters their interactions are well justified. And hella cute. Seriously, this is adorable: 
Not to mention that these are the only two characters who's relationship fits their age: sex. Lets actually bring it up for a sec. In the series these are the only two characters we really see sneaking around at night- it's pretty obvious from the room Sokka sets up (that is found by Zuko for the lols ((and the squeels of the Zokka shippers))) that he is expecting some pretty exciting romance from Suki that night. Whether parents want to think about it or not, these two have a normal functioning relationship that does not feel forced, unlike the strictly "romantic" relationship between Aang and Katara or Zuko and Mai.
I dunno, I don't see the romance... but still more plausible (and less disturbing) than happy Zuko and Mai:

 As for Mr. Soaka... Surprisingly, probably the relationship with Yue was the best part of Sokka's entire portrayal. Even without the backstory to back it up, this pairing somehow went far beyond the character development of any of the lead roles (excepting maybe Dev Patel's Zuko... but only maybe) For the first time we can kindof see these characters behaving like people. Unfortunately, even this attempt falls wicked flat. Thanks to our good old friend Exposition-man, their relationship is still reduced to a series of longing stares with Katara, of all people, describing its romance. Oddly, the love triangle between Sokka, Yue and her fiance was cut entirely from the film, a place where, ironically, it would have served to bring more depth of character to one of our main heroes. The relationship is further simplified as Sokka is now not trying to win the love of the daughter of the head of the northern water tribe, but with the actual head of the northern water tribe, who can do as she damn well pleases. 
 As for the Suki love interest... while the character was originally marketed to appear in the film, it is reported that M. Night believed the film to be too much about the Kyoshi Warriors and instead cut them from the film entirely. Despite her involvement in the first season being so minimal, her part was cut entirely so she did not steal the show. Perhaps it is for the best. Who knows how her character might have been portrayed. Points off for cutting Suki.

Score: 10/10 1/10

Time to tally them scores! 

Overall Complexity:                   9.08 TV

Overall complexity:                    0.37 FILM

Amazingly, Sokka is both the highest ranking and lowest ranking character so far. 
over and out.