Legend of Korra: Book 4 – Last Stand Frame Composition

My reflections on miscellaneous frames from the final episode of the Legend of Korra begin below!

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Our opening shot of the hero has her at the center of attention with both pairs of siblings together and directing their gaze to Korra.  The ladder above her fills that bland silver space of the column and directs your gaze back to Korra.  One could speculate it also indicates Korra’s path, straight to the top to fight Kuvira. It’s not obvious in this image, but the scene also had a red flashing light that was wonderfully depicted.

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After everyone splits up, Lin fights some of Kuvira’s men while her sister sabotages the robot’s weapon.  In this shot, the fight is framed by the two massive columns and “shot” looking upward to help provide a sense of place and scale for the fight.  It’s a giant colossus and not a cramped affair where the fight is taking place.  This helps heighten the risk of the fight.  The line of “X”s also help keep one’s attention in the center area where the fight is concentrated.  As an added note, a nice touch is Lin in the upper left watching from afar before darting away on her task.

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Suyin just destroyed the cartridge belt for the spirit cannon and has dove back into the connecting tunnel for safety.  The light shading of the wall helps focus your attention at Suyin’s head and she’s also centered by the large pipe/column behind her.  The circular shape of the pipe naturally guides our attention inward, too.

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The sisters continue their rampage through Kuvira’s super weapon.  Obi-wan Kenobi has nothing on them when it comes to destroying giant laser platforms from within.  This is a fun shot because of the symmetry with the frame being divisible in half with each woman on either side.  There are several parallel lines that draw your attention to each respective sister.

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Korra finds Kuvira!  This is Korra’s explosive arrival on the bridge of the Colossus where she immediately attacks Kuvira with a multi-element bending attack.  Our heroine is framed by the circular viewport in front of Kuvira, while Kuvira is centered by the displays (the giant eyes!) and the rest of the bridge.  It’s establishing our battle ground.

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Kuvira prepares to counter attack in this shot, lifting up the pieces of meteorite (formerly of Suyin’s collection) and gazes directly at Korra, or in this place, us.  Her head is centered in the frame and in front of that aforementioned circular viewing port, with all the lines of the window panes directing our gaze to her.  Her own body posture creates a triangle shape that neatly divides the square space formed by the windows behind Kuvira.

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Meanwhile, Mako and Bolin seek to destroy the power source of the colossus.  In this frame, Bolin is body checking one of her unfortunate soldiers with his forward (leftward?) momentum helpfully emphasized by the horizontal lines which match the horizontal nature of their movement.  To help include more lines, and clarify the action, the rolling clouds of smoke part away from both fighters, and of course, it’s framed for us by those two bars in the railing. (Yep, this is the giant spirit vine brain POV).

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Split-Frame HEAVEN! Split frames rarely make an appearance in the Avatar universe, so it’s always a surprise and delight to see them used.  Both brothers are preparing to pull the switches with hope that doing so will shut down the power source.  We have the horizontal lines drawing our gaze inward to either brother and both brothers exchange a glance at equal eye level while their backs help form a pleasing triangle space.

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The brothers bid farewell.  It’s a simple frame and symmetrical straight down the hand grasp of Mako and Bolin.  As you can see here, Mako is slightly taller, which shows that in the previous frame, there was a specific decision to keep their gaze level, where here it would actually curve downward.

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Mako’s lightning bending draws a straight “V” from one corner then back up to the next and in the process our eyes follow the path to Mako’s determined expression and to the brilliant white ball of electricity.  Note, they didn’t forget to add a shadow from the light created by the lightning, it’s right there on the floor behind him.  

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The Colossus is no more, but Kuvira refuses to surrender.  Here she stumbles into the nearby spirit wilds, emerging from behind a tree in the foreground which serves to frame one side of the space and in front of a brighter building that draws our gaze to the figure in the center.

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Rut roh, Kuvira prepares to pull back the trigger switch on the giant spirit cannon.  We have a dynamic view of her fist, which immediately catches our attention and we then quickly slide down her arm to her determined and desperate face.  Kuvira is framed between the cannon and the spirit vine to her left.  They didn’t have to use this angle, but because they did they emphasize what Kuvira is about to do, fire the cannon and it’s better for it.

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Korra’s in the crosshairs…of our vision!  She’s the smallest figure in the frame with the giant cannon pointed right at her (again, revealing rifling for a laser…I still don’t get it).  Even though Korra is the smallest subject, she’s also our center of attention with the lines of the ground leading to her.  Interestingly, she’s the only really vertical object with nearly everything else askew, creating the sensation that something is off and out of control.

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Korra just dodged the first blast of the cannon and is cooly silhouetted against the explosion in front of her.  She’s at the nexus of the lines, where the spirit laser blast hits the ground and the trees above her.

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Korra spirit energy bending.  There was some confusion when Korra first did this, when they rescued everyone from the spirit vine orb ball thingy from the spirit world side of it.  Some thought she was violating the rules of bending without being physically in the spirit world.  Not true, as we learned in that episode, Korra can bend spirit energy in spirit form, and here, obviously, we know she can do it in physical form.  It’s an incredible perspective, almost Kuvira’s, and our heroine is at the center of all the lines flowing away from the blast.  To replicate a true camera lens, Korra is in perfect focus while Kuvira, in the foreground (also directing our gaze to Korra by her body posture) is out of focus.

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Another awesome shot of Korra spirit energy bending, the lines of light and shadow focus our attention on Korra and Kuvira.  Again, the ground and everything is slightly askew to make the scene more dynamic.  

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A nifty view of the spirit energy expanding over the heart of Republic City, mirroring the opening of the famed anime manga/movie, Akira. Below is the scene from the Manga.

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The skewing of the frame is used again to provide a sense of chaos and loss of control with Asami dashing into a stairwell to escape the blast of spirit energy.  Even though it’s dark, all the lines focus our gaze on the purple square with Asami’s silhouette.  Sweet.  

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Just a neat framing of the forming spirit portal from the perspective of Kuvira’s mechanized troops.  It’s creatively filled with an out of focus mech suit in the foreground to the left, one in focus to the right in the middle ground and then the rest in the background, with their attention on the bright beam framed in the space between the buildings.

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A nice framing shot of Tenzin with the lines of the buildings pulling our gaze to the air bending master.  He’s again (this is starting to become a pattern) given almost a halo with the bright light in the clouds behind his head.  More likely, it could be seen to symbolize Tenzin’s enlightened perspective of what has just happened and identifying it correctly.

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Surprise, it’s Book 4 in its simplest form, the dynamic comparison of Kuvira as the alternative to Korra.  Spirit energy gone wrong is generally purple’ish in color.  A good example of this would be the spirits in Book 2, which were always a dark purple or red color when “bad” and generally a light color, like blue or green or yellow when they were pacified or in good terms.  Here the “Korra” who’s about to turn into Kuvira is purple, indicating that Kuvira’s spiritual being has gone astray, and the spiritually balanced (harmonized?) Korra in the blue to the right.  It’s a symmetrical scene and awesome.

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The spiritual state of our hero and her enemy is shown in this frame.  Korra, spiritually balanced and in tune with the spirit world, is at the center of the spirit portal (which also directs our attention to her, as she’s in the center of the beam), but Kuvira, who lost her way, is outside the spirit energy and left to stand with the jagged mountains of ice.  One could go out on a limb, argue that the yellow and green energy represents harmony and balance, and then look at where they come together – just above Korra, the Avatar.

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This scene helps establish the new dynamic between Korra and Kuvira.  She’s beaten and ready for Korra to unleash her punishment, perhaps her death.  Her submissive position is illustrated by her kneeling, bent over form before Korra, who fills the entire left side of the frame.

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This is just a cool scene of the spirits returning (GREAT TIMING GUYS – DON’T HELP OUT WITH DEFENDING YOUR NEW HOME).  The spirit portal is the center focal point of the frame with two of our youngest air benders to either side.  Noteworthy, the good guys and the bad guys are mixed up, no longer on opposite sides.  The conflict is over.  Also, everyone is grouped with their closest loved ones.

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Korra and Kuvira return from the spirit world, perfectly centered in the frame with the spirit portal drawing our attention to them.  The lines of the spirit vines also pull the gaze to the two women.  Contrast this scene from the last with those two and the relationship has changed again, with Korra assisting Kuvira, reflecting Korra’s own words to Kuvira in the spirit world.

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Group shot! Here are our heroes, minus the Beifong sisters (busy hauling Kuvira away).  Korra is the leader and hence, the center and again framed with the spirit portal (and hey, look where those two yellow and green beams meet at).  One foretelling design choice, notice the placement of Mako and Asami.  Mako is behind Korra, but the farthest in the back and Asami is in front of him, her hand either reaching out for Korra or resting on her arm.  This is one of those extremely subtle tells about their emerging relationship.

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It’s a wedding!  A happy ending always has a wedding and the couple is the focal point of the ceremony based on all the perspective lines, the rug, the aisle, the walls, etc.

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I love this shot of Air Temple island and how they transitioned from the magic hour of the wedding and then the night time reception.  In the transition, blue remains the means to identify the focus of attention, be it the wedding or the dance floor.  It makes sense given the Water Tribe connection of the married couple.  I love how the night time highlights different features, such as the court yard in the foreground.

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Simple frame.  It’s symmetrical with three lines (the pillars) framing Mako and Wu.  Notice our soon to abdicate Wu, standing upright with a confident air, a contrast to the flimsy Wu of the start of the season.

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Korra isn’t the focus of attention in the scene, but the lines make sure we notice her leaning against one of the pillars of the formal gate.  The ruined city is the real focus, with the new spirit portal being in the crossing point of all the lines implied by the mountains, the beam of light, the rug and steps.

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In the previous frame, the spirit portal was the
center of attention . Now it’s our two women, Korra and Asami, who are at the
nexus of all the lines in this scene (Even Naga’s sleepy gaze).

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Lines, lines, lines, and they all focus on the hands clasping each other.  Their placement in front of the spirit portal could imply that this relationship is one of harmony and balance, or rather, two complimentary individuals coming together to form something great.

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Our last frame.  The two women are perfectly framed in the center of the scene, bathed in light and thus, slightly silhouetted against the portal.  It makes sense that this is how we leave them, before an entry to a new world, a new journey and adventure, which perfectly mirrors their new relationship.

All images from cap-that.com.

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