NOTE: None of the images in this post are mine and this post only covers Seasons 1 and 2 of TLOK
So, what’s in choreography that makes it so important? And what kind of choreography am I talking about?
No, not dance choreography!
I’m talking about the order and sequence of a fight-scene. That kind of choreography. And, while this just may be my opinion, I believe that The Legend of Korra makes a few mistakes in this area.
What we want in every movie, TV show, or book series:
I think we can basically agree that when it comes to a good story, the plot steadily grows more intense. The struggles of the characters get bigger and bigger. The excitement increases. What great story has the climax right at the beginning? Wouldn’t the rest of the story be considered dull? What would readers or viewers have to look forward to, if all the excitement reaches its pinnacle too early, yet the story still goes on?
This is an immense blunder—or trap—that many great writers—whether it be of books, shows, or movies—fall into. Keeping your audience interested in your story, if you plan for your story to go on, is a big deal. Sometimes, we accidentally find ourselves making one arc of our story to be too epic, such that it overpowers the sense of intensity which should be present in another scene. We “de-climax” the true climax, or we falsely “pre-climax”—creating a climax before it should even happen.
That’s not what we want as readers or viewers, and we shouldn’t want to do that as writers. We know how it is. We want people to say “the story just gets better and better”. That’s only going to happen if everything is well-sequenced, and the power of every exciting moment within the story is checked so that the ultimate scene within the story is really the ultimate scene.
Keep the “max” in climax.
The choreography mistakes in The Legend of Korra
Just as a story isn’t good without proper “event choreography”, so too a fight-scene will lack the desired level of awesomeness if certain fight-scenes are more impressive than others…but not at the proper time, in accordance with the series.
Allow me to explain.
The choreography for the fight-scenes in The Legend of Korra, especially Season 2, are incredible. Yes, I said that. Don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not saying the choreography is poor in The Legend of Korra. I’m saying that the choreography, in all its greatness, isn’t sequenced in the right way throughout the series. The final battles in the seasons TLOK aren’t always as climatic as some of the fight-scenes earlier in the seasons. What’s the problem with that? Well, just as we discussed above, in which we discovered that the climax should truly be the climax, why should the ultimate battle be bereft of certain fight-moves or fight-scene-choreography, while other, less intense scenes be possessed of those glorious moments?
To a certain extent, there aren’t very many long or drawn out battles in Season 1. Don’t get me wrong; I like Season 1 of The Legend of Korra the best! It had a great sense of mystery and excitement, with cool villains and intriguing character developments. However, when it comes to fight-scenes, the longest, and in my opinion, the coolest battle in Season 1 is between Korra and Tarrlok, in Episode 8: “When Extremes Meet”.
Both Tarrlok and Korra are masters at bending. Korra is nimble, using the moves of a practiced gymnast (like back hand springs) and speed to evade Tarrlok’s attacks. But at the same time, she’s strong, using earthbending to level the playing field. It’s only when Tarrlok reveals that he is a bloodbender that Korra is finally defeated.
How awesome is this fight-scene? Pretty awesome.
There are other scenes of prominent choreography; for instance, all of the pro-bending matches in Season 1 possess cool, fancy footwork, spins, and bending tricks.
So what’s the problem with Season 1? When Korra confronts Amon, the antagonist of the season, the fight-scene is…well, not so impressive.
Now, I understand my personal opinion is coming into play here. The end of Season 1, or the finale of any series for that matter, doesn’t need to end in an epic battle. There doesn’t need to be the “ultimate unleash of power”, the coolest back-flip, or the fanciest moves. But Korra practically gets taken out, (e.g. loses her bending), and then manages to land a lucky blow on Amon to knock him out of the building and into the sea. And after Amon falls into the water…well, he gives up. Sure, his cover is blown. Yet, at the same time, he’s also a super powerful waterbender.
Did there need to be a long, drawn-out fight? No. But it wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped for, and in my opinion, it wasn’t as climatic or cool as skirmishes in previous episodes. Why not save the best for last? Why not change Korra’s fight with Tarrlok to her fight with Amon?
Korragraphy of Season 1.
The battles in Season 2 start out both creative and remarkable. In episode 4 of Season 2, “Civil Wars, Part 1”, Korra unveils a series of extremely agile moves against a team of kidnappers. The fight-scene lasts for only one minute, approximately. Throughout the course of this battle, however, Korra performs an intricate (and maybe unnecessary) corkscrew/flip after sliding down the railing of some stairs, two somersaults, two handsprings, and two airborne 360s. All of her moves are very cool and impressive, and evidently stylized with care.
What issue did I take with this season? Everything is so lax. There’s no slow motion to show that these are impressive moves, there no build-up with the music. Korra is kick-butt and there’s no reason to give it extra hype…or is there?
When it comes to Korra’s brawl with Unalaq, the “Dark Avatar”, everything is intense. The fighting is impressive. But once again, we’ve been seeing these same moves throughout the series. And there’s nothing that makes these moves appear epic, since the creators make them appear to be nothing out of the ordinary for Korra. Let’s not forget the flips, somersaults, and fast-paced hand-to-hand combat of Mako, Bolin, and Asami. It’s not just Korra with the battle-swag.
Season 2 did a better job with making the end of the season the climax. Korra becomes “de-Avatarized” by Unalaq, when Raava—the spirit of light that makes her the Avatar—is killed (yes, someone dies in Avatar!). It’s a riveting, shocking moment. All hope seems to be lost. But then what happens?
Completely out of nowhere, with hardly any description as to why this happens, Korra is able to unlock a certain power she possesses within herself, and she transforms into a spiritual entity in the form of a blue giant. Shooting blasts of…spiritual energy, I suppose, she defeats Unalaq using her own strength. This could’ve been something really epic, but, granted that there were almost no explanations for why Korra was able to transform, instead it was just confusing, taking away glory and awesomeness that the moment in the series deserved.
Once again, I am not saying in any way that The Legend of Korra, either Season 1 or Season 2, is a bad show. Both seasons are very well done, with impressive animation, visual effects, and action scenes. However, at least for me, I felt like the timing and “choreography” of events and fight scenes could’ve been done a little better. Perhaps this is something absolutely weird for someone to analyze, but…well, I just did.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know what you think about fight scene choreography and TLOK!