Welcome back to another installment of Review Report. Last time I looked at 3 movies I’d seen recently in the cinema and wrote mini reviews about them. But this one’s a little bit different, this time I’m gonna be reviewing the 4 Lego Bionicle movies.
What is Bionicle?
For those who don’t know, Bionicle was an action figure line created and sold by Lego. They had instructions like other Lego sets, but while Lego sets up to that point had included mini figures and buildsing/vehicles, Bionicle was their first jab at the action figure genre. Released in 2001, it followed the story of 6 biomechanical warriors and their attempts to thwart a villain named Makuta. Bionicle soon exploded into a worldwide phenomenon and played a major part in saving lego from it’s financial crisis it had accumulated in the late 90s. There was a new set of Bionicles released annually up to 2010. After that they were replaced by Hero Factory, but received a reboot in 2015. Bionicle was loved not just for its toys, but it’s lore, story and characters. This is like Bloodborn for babies, every character had a unique story and abilities, and the setting had a mythos that spread across an entire universe. In case you haven’t gauged it yet, I was one of the biggest Bionicle fans out there. There wasn’t a year where I didn’t buy at least 3 Bionicles from a set, and to this day I keep all my favourites in close range and occasionally pose them as a pastime. But like any profitable toyline, it was only natural for movies to be made about them, and from this we got Bionicle: Mask of Light, Bionicle: 2 Legends of Metru Niu, Bionicle: 3 Web of Shadows and finally Bionicle The Legend Reborn. I own each of these movies on DVD and even own mask of light on VHS as well, it was in fact my first ever personal vhs tape. But nostalgia aside, let’s get these reviews done, do these movies hold up after all these years? Let’s find out.
Bionicle: Mask of Light
Released in 2003, Mask of Light was my introduction to the franchise, along with my first Bionicle toys. This movie is clearly made for a younger audience, but I do still have a soft spot for this movie for a few reasons.
- Story: 4/5 – This plot is a beat for beat rip off of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It takes all the main elements from those 3 movies and condenses those 11 hours of fantasy mastery into just over an hour. The story follows two little Bionicles called Takua and Jaller as they uncover a great Bionicle mask. All the while, a previously banished villain sends his servants to fetch the relic and bring it to him. You get the point, this is Lord of the Rings 100%. That being said, the plot is easy to follow and is always moving so you’re never left bored. That being said, while the plot is always moving it is still kinda random and a lot of the locations are throwaway and therefore we can’t be sucked into the world as much.
- Characters: 3/5 – Of all the things in this movie, the characters are perhaps its weakest quality. The main two are pretty dull and the main 6 Toa get very little screentime considering they are the main focus of the toy line story. Also with the exception of Toa Tahu (the red one), Gali (the blue one) and Kokpaka (the white one), the rest of the Toa are really dull and lack any real personality other than one clichéd trope. Makuta is a lot of fun however, his maniacal machinations are dripping with dread and atmosphere and the movie does a good job at expositing his backstory without forcing it.
- Presentation: 4/5 – I think for the time, this animation is pretty good. It is a bit floaty and the characters have very little weight, but it is still pretty fluid movement. The designs are a bit odd, certain body parts are fleshy and have spongy movement which looks a bit weird, but I guess they are biomechanical so I can excuse it. The actual designs are pretty good, you can identify who each character is and they do all have unique styles and mannerisms. Overall the movement and animation is really up there for a direct to video movie.
- Final Grade: 4/5 – I like this movie mainly because of nostalgic value, but I’m not gonna act like this movie is perfect. It’s plot lacks any real originality, the main characters are very dull and the characters we want to see don’t get enough screentime that’s of value. But overall, it’s a playful romp through the Bionicle Universe that die-hard fans will enjoy more.
Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui
Released in 2004, Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui is a follow-up to Mask of Light, but is in fact a prequel. It follows they characters known as Turaga from the first film and their adventures when they were once mighty Toa as well. At this point in the series, the Bionicle series was gearing towards a darker style, both in tone of story and design. This series that lasted from 2004 to 2005 was probably my favourite moment in the toy line history, largely due to the character designs and new structure they adopted after the 2003 line.
- Story: 4/5 – For the most part, the plot of this movie has good pacing. You get a clear indication that this is a world on the brink of turmoil, with the final guardian Toa dying at the hands of his hunters. 6 Matoran (the Bionicle equivalent of common folk) receive new powers that turn them into Toa. This movie is their coming of age story, discovering their powers and realising the limits of their new bodies. The main plot follows them attempting to rescue an ally all while avoiding the minions of a corrupt leader. The movie has some nice twists and moves at a decent rate through the narrative. This story holds up pretty well after 14 years. (I feel so old now I realise this movie is 14 years old…)
- Characters: 4/5 – These characters are actually pretty good to me. They all have decent chemistry, and many of them show development and growth as they realise their potential and power. My main gripe is that the 6 Toa spend most of the movie split into two trio’s, but when they do come together as one it is satisfying to see their camaraderie shine through. Vakama the protagonist, is quite interesting. He develops the most out of the group, struggling to become the leader he needs to be and realising his mistakes as he grows into a worthy Toa. The two villain Krekka and Nidhiki are also pretty fun, having the trope of the cunning one and the meathead, while not interesting they are serviceable villains. Turaga Dume is also a fun villain, his big twist is one that really comes out of nowhere and takes you by surprise, albeit they reveal it a bit too early. So overall, decent characters.
- Presentation: 4/5 – The presentation in this movie is a definite step up from the previous film. The characters look way more mechanical in this one, so there’s less awkward fleshy body parts, but you still get the biomechanical feel from them. The world melds better as well, the last film being very jarring in contrast to the design of the characters, but this film blends the characters and world well. The settings are interesting and the different items, objects and creatures are well designed. Some of the animation is a bit floaty, but once again you can’t really expect Pixar level quality from a direct-to-video film.
- Final Grade: 4/5 – Looking back on all these movies, this is probably the best one for me. It looks nice, has likable characters and has a nice story. It acts as a decent standalone film and didn’t really need a sequel. However…
Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows
The end of the original trilogy, and a direct sequel to Legends of Metru Nui, Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows is prehaps the darkest the movies went to. Not to the point of being inappropriate for children, but having the most sinister themes and characters. I remember this one being my least favourite of the movies, mainly because of Toa Vakama and his unexpected turn to evil, which always stood out to me as being really random, even as a dumb child.
- Story: 3/5 – The story is a bit dreary in places, but it is to some extent unique. It follows the Toa Metru from the last movie as they attempt to rescue their people. However, when the operation goes awry, they find themselves mutated into vicious beast like creatures called Hordika
- Characters: 3/5 – The characters in this movie are fine, but they’re dragged down by one glaring problem, Vakama. In this movie he does a complete 180 turn and becomes evil for the majority of the movie. Turning the protagonist evil is a bold move for a kids film, but it’s just random. We got no inkling of Vakama’s darker side in the last movie, and even with his new animatistic mind and body he’ swayed about as easily as a child. The other Toa don’t really have that much going for them either, their frustrations over their new bodies and powers don’t really go anywhere and the Rahaga characters are dull. The villains however are a ton of fun and are the highlight of the whole movie. Sidorak is a wonderfully lavish villain whose blissful unawareness is outclassed only by his charisma, and Roodaka is a great villain, with a sinister voice, sleek design and a wonderfully devilish personality. The voice acting on these two is great, you can tell they were having a blast with this one and it really raises them up for me.
- Presentation: 4/5 – This movies animation is about the same as its predecessor, same design style, same set design and an overall similar atmosphere. The Hordika look great, their bestial forms really lend themselves to the chaos that has enveloped their worlds. Not much to really say about this one, the presentations just good.
- Final Grade: 3/5 – This movie doesn’t hold up as well as it ought to. The story is pretty dreary to some extent, the evil Vakama plot line is unnecessary and this story didn’t really need to happen since Legends of Metru Nui had a closed ending it’s just a pleasant background movie.
Bionicle The Legend Reborn
Bionicle was soon ending its shelf life, but just before it did and was replaced by Hero Factory, we got Bionicle: The Legend Reborn. This movie followed the story of the Bionicle god Mata Nui and his journey through a world where his power has been stripped away and he must fight new foes and beings called Glatorians. This movie came out of nowhere for me, but at the time I honestly enjoyed it in the moment. It was intended to be the start of a new trilogy that followed Mata Nui, but due to the toy line ending soon the studio was forced to scrap this idea and the story was instead continued in web-comics.
- Story: 3/5 – This plot is fine, but it is very uneventful in my opinion. It follows a similar path to the ‘Fish out of Water’ plotline, but not in the traditional sense. Mata Nui has been stripped of his powers and must learn to survive in a new and baron world. he simply moves from location to location, nothing new really developing. That’s the best way to describe this movie, nothing really happens of consequence throughout the entire film. In fact the plot is so bare bones and uneventful i can’t really think of anything else to really say about it, it’s just that dreary.
- Characters: 3/5 – This cast has some really big names in it for a direct to video Lego toy film. It features Star Trek actor Micheal Dorm as Mata Nui and even Winnie the Pooh voice actor Jim Cummings as the fire Glatorian Ackar. However, these voices can only lend so much to characters such as these. Mata Nui isn’t that interesting, serving as a basic fish out of water who comes into his own at an alarming rate. The other characters are either basic or just plain boring, Ackar is a grizzled old guy with a good heart, the female lead Kiina is just a pretentious brat who doesn’t change at all throughout the narrative and even the villain is a complete bore, his motivation is both thin and barely explained. Sorry to the cast, who are quite an admirable bunch, but these characters are kinda weak.
- Presentation: 4/5 – This movie has the best presentation out of the movies. While the previous Bionicle movies only bore slight similarities with their respective toys, these characters actually look a lot like their toys. But not in a sense of looking like toys themselves, in fact they look pretty good and their faded colour schemes really lend themselves to the environment. While the world isn’t necessarily mechanical, it doesn’t clash with the Bionicles like the other movies since the characters look equally mucky. The movement is solid as well, with action that for the most part has good pacing. I’ll also give credit to the voice acting itself, it’s pretty good and realising Jim Cummings voices Ackar really makes you appreciate it more for some reason.
- Final Grade: 3/5 – Overall, this movie suffers with a dreary plot and lackluster characters. However it is visually impressive and a playful background movie you can put on for some mindless entertainment.
With that, my Bionicle reviews are done. It was a lot of fun revisiting these movies after so many years, and despite some of them being better than others, each one was a fun viewing experience. I may have been too generous with these scores to an extent, but this is attributed to nostalgia for the most part. I grew up with Bionicle and it was such a big part of my childhood that I can’t help but have fond memories of all these films regardless of quality. Bionicle is beginning to fall into obscurity again, with the newer sets and media not doing as well as they once did, but we’ll still have the old toys and the childlike fun we had with them.
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