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Mata Nui, the great god of the Matorans has been betrayed and stripped
of his power. Cast out into the universe, the once powerful deity must
now fend for himself as a mere mortal in the barren lands of Bara
Magna. there he would face untold dangers, make new comrades, and
launch his quest to return to his homeworld and rescue his lost people.
I loved the premise. It is a classic "fall of a king" story coupled with an almost Greek epic styled hero's journey. The story is easy enough to follow, straightforward and with little twists. (there is actually only one twist, but it didn't really catch me by surprise). The creative team manages to throw in an ideal mix of seriousness and fun, with some really good comedy moments involving Mata Nui's inexperience in dealing with Bara Magna inhabitants and adjusting to his new life. A real treat for the whole family to enjoy.
Despite their rather inhuman appearance, I found the characters in this show very appealing and easy to relate to. Granted, some of them may come across as cardboard cutout stock characters from a Saturday morning cartoon, but the very professional level of the acting and a well written script makes up for the perceived lack of character development. Special mention goes to Star Trek: The Next Generation's Michael Dorn(Worf) who nails the role of Mata Nui head on, maintaining a regal air of importance while infusing realistic believability into every spoken line.
No complains as well about the overall look of the show. The character designs are intricately detailed and the movements are fluid. I could not help but be reminded of the robot designs in the live action Transformers movies(of course, Bionicle came before the Transformers movie.) Of course the quality of the CGI in this show is not up to Pixar's standards but it is easily one of the best i've seen in direct to DVD CGI animated movies. Even the gears and turning parts on each character are fully animated and everything is given a dirty gritty look.
Now Bionicle The Legend Reborn may attract viewers by its entertaining story, script, fabulous acting and great graphics, but it would be REALLY HARD for viewers to actually "jump in". For one thing, the movie seems to require some familiarity of the bionicle universe. For casual animation movie fans like me, there just wasn't enough backstory. Is this supposed to be a sequel? or a prequel? Or maybe even a reboot? A small booklet or featurette in the DVD to explain the Bionicle backstory would have benefited the majority of viewers who might not be familiar with the Bionicle brand.
Secondly, I have to sadly admit that the fine looking CGI graphics feel kinda wasted on some terrible scene directing; this is the part where this movie suffers the most. Mark Baldo(whose only other directing credit is a couple of episodes of a TV series called "Father of the Pride") is the director here and his camera work can only be described as "LAZY". Most of the fight scenes are unusually static, as if i'm watching a documentary and not a fight scene in a movie. There is hardly any dramatic effect or intensity conveyed with his lackluster "matter of fact" directing style which leads to some very boring action sequences.
Music was relatively mediocre; sounded like standard dramatic animation movie fare but there were a couple of themes that stood out. The opening theme in particular had just the right epic feel to go with the story. Sound effects could have also been better. Right now, the sound effects come across as too "light", giving a sense of weightlessness to the characters. Tech Specs on the Bionicle wikipedia says that the Bara Magna characters are around 7 feet tall. But those light sounding sound effects and lack of a heavier bass make them seem like only 7 inches tall. Swords clashing sound like toys hitting each other, rocks crumbling down a slope sound like pebbles; that sort of thing.
All in all, Bionicle The Legend Reborn is a valiant attempt at bringing Bionicle once again into the animation DVD market. However, i don't think that this movie would be able to impress anyone but the kids and the hardcore Bionicle fans. Whats more is that there was hardly any publicity about this show prior to its release. Maybe it might attract some Star Trek fans thanks to Michael Dorn's awesome performance. It would not impress and might not even win many new fans, but it sure as hell will be able to entertain. At least until the "hinted-at" sequel comes around.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, let me just get this out of the way first: "Bionicle" is the one
word that pretty much defines my childhood. I grew up with these
"some-assembly-required" action figures. Bionicle has been with me
since I was 6 years old, and even though Bionicle was ended a few years
back, I will always cherish the many memories this franchise has
brought me, and I will never forget. Heck, I still keep all the parts
and figures I've bought over the years, they're in a large box under my
bed, and hardly a week goes by without me taking it out and just
playing around with them again.
Anyway, let's get on with the review: I was really excited to see the recent Bara Magna storyline be wrapped up with a movie. It isn't the first time Bionicle has been brought to the big screen, but it will probably be the last.
The movie does a good job of portraying the characters and bringing them to life: Mata Nui acts appropriately out-of-place for a god that has been banished from his own universe, Ackar plays the "old sage" role well, Kiina is the cheerful and confident one, while Gresh is the inexperienced hothead. The characters are mostly well done, but I do have complaints: Tuma and the Skrall.
When Mata Nui And Tuma fight at what is supposedly the movie's climax, Tuman waltzes around and brags without paying attention, letting Mata Nui exploit a weakness that doesn't even make any sense.
Also, since when did the Skrall mysteriously lose the ability to talk? Not a single Skrall in the entire movie said a word, just grunts and growls, coming off like they were some sort of heavily confused Brakas monkeys(gotta love Bionicle references).
Voice acting, however, is well done: James Arnold Taylor I already know thanks to me being a huge fan of the Ratchet & Clank series of games, and he does a great job of making Berix the movie's source of comic relief. The rest of the cast is also great at their jobs.
The characters in the movie and the environments are well designed, they way the gears in the character's bodies swirl around is a nice touch of realism, and their designs stay true to their real-life toy counterparts.
The storyline is one of the weaker aspects, but Mata Nui manages to carve his own niche in the legacy of heroes that Bionicle has produced over the years, but aside from this the story is pretty weak.
For starters, it fails to stand on its own merits: In order to really understand what's going on you'll need some background, it's hard to get a grasp without an extensive knowledge of the Bionicle lore. Since I've been following Bionicle ever since its very beginning, I had no problems with this, but I came across many scenes in the movie where I only felt like I knew what was going on because I knew the backstory.
Second: The story is linear and predictable, even if you don't know the backstory. We Bionicle fans already knew Metus was a traitor beforehand, since it had been revealed in an earlier web-story, but I couldn't shake the feeling that even if I didn't know, I probably would've figured it out rather quickly.
Thirdly: The movie doesn't really feature a satisfying ending for casual movie fans. Granted, the story is continued on Bionicle's websites, but as a stand-alone story the ending leaves you with a lot of questions that will pretty much go unanswered.
As for the animation and camera work, action sequences and so on, I can only say one thing: "LAZY"
The movie's fight scenes usually just feature characters banging swords and shields for the most part, although the initial battle between Strakk and Ackar wasn't too shabby. The second Glatorian duel between Tarix and Vastus, on the other hand, is rather baffling, are they fighting or performing exceedingly violent aerobics?
The same goes for the huge battle at the movie's climax. According to pretty much every piece of Bionicle lore outside of the movie, the Skrall were supposed to be incredibly fierce warriors that were unbeatable in the arena, so why does it all of a sudden seem like they're a bunch of dimwitted grunts who hardly know how to swing a sword? This is the kind of stuff I'm left wondering about.
I had an easier time enjoying the movie because I was familiar with Bionicle, but that's cold comfort I suppose.
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