The early 2000s were simpler times. Mobile Phones didn’t have the strangle hold they have on us today, Star Wars wasn’t good quality but we still watched it anyway and male kids played with some of the greatest toy lines in history. Beyblades, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, Action Man and so many more controlled our lives. But one of the most prominent ones were the multi-coloured Lego warriors of Bionicle. The Bionicles were a staple of every childhood on the early 2000s and it was bliss. Colourful heroes you could disassemble create weapons or animals that were far more frightening that the actual toys themselves. Then in September of 2003, the Bionicle franchise followed in the footsteps of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and Action Man and released a movie based on the toys. Bionicle: the Mask of Light is the film that I will be ReReviewing…get ready to have your childhood ruined.
The film opens with the biggest movie cliché ever in the history of movies. Narration. What’s worse is the narration comes from discount Morgan Freeman. It’s really off-putting as the guy is trying really hard to sound old and wise but he really doesn’t. Not James Earl Jones then goes on to say “gather round and let us learn the story of the Bionicle again.” Implying that the babies who this film is aimed at would rematch this film multiple times. Which as a kid I know I did. The narrator then talks of how everything came to be and it gives off really weird religious undertones. Because Lego couldn’t think of anything original for the basis of their robot warrior franchise so they basically just made their
whole inception religious, what with their god or “Great Spirit” Mata Nui “came from the heavens.” The narration then ends with the most ambiguous ending to a narration in the history of anything: “Makuta unleashed his shadows, and unleash them, he did.” Um…Are you not going to tell us what his shadows are? Or what they did? Or how he ‘unleashed them? This is the ambiguous start to one of the most ambiguous films of all time.
We then move on to the city of the fire Bionicles and we notice that it’s basically a castle surrounded by lava. This is fine but the art style is completely and utterly wrong. The Bionicles look somewhat how they are meant to look, but compare that with the world around them, which is a poorly rendered generic CGI world with basic looking castles and trees and rocks and what not. There were map paintings in early movies that honestly look more appealing. The CGI really doesn’t hold up today. The movie honestly looks cheap but then was essentially a cash grab to milk the Bionicle fad back in the day before it died. What made me laugh was that the writer and producers of this film both had the surname: “Shakespeare.” This movie was far from Shakespearean. If these people were relations of the bard, he’d probably be turning in his grave like a kebab.
So we are introduced to our two heroes: Takua and Jaller. Or as I often referred to them both whilst watching this: the blue one and the yellow one. We learn that the blue one role is chronicler for his city, only thanks to one of the clunkiest exposition drops in movie history with our hero jumping stones over a lava river to reach a mysterious totem. With every step he pants “That’s. Why. They Call me. The Chronicler.” Wow. I mean I know this film is basically for babies but the exposition in this movie is basically just characters talking to the audience rather than embedding into engaging dialogue, just so that the young audience can understand what is going on.
Upon the pair’s events in the lava river, they, alongside Toa Tahu, the fire Toa, discover that the totem is actually a great Kanohi mask for the seventh Toa. What I take issue with is that this totem has been sat under the city in an easily accessible tunnel. The path down to which is seen in the opening pan as Jaller tries to find Takua. Anyone could have found this totem. But now because the movie has to happen they trio find the McGuffin.
So now that they have found the McGuffin this is all forgotten for a few minutes so we can have an intense game of Kohlii. Kohlii is basically a combination of and Irish sport called Hurling, Hockey and Football but it is played with three players at once inside a Colosseum. Or as I see it, an exciting few moments to drop more exposition to keep the babies informed of the film’s plot as well as well as keeping them entertained with the ‘exciting and fast paced’ sport of Kohlii. The sport is never explained and the audience
have no idea what is going on. All we learn from these few minutes is that Toa Tahu is a bit of a dick as he argues with the blue Bionicle over something that we don’t know about, that the Toa have been battling the Makuta and have had “recent victories” although these are never expanded upon nor shown and that Jaller is mistaken for the Mask of Light’s Herald when we all know it is actually Takua. The game ends with Takua missing his “new move” which the red one responds to a blue one with “nice move, for a Ga-Matoran.” That line kept making me wonder – was that racist?
Moving on, we find out that the coming of the next Toa through the new mask is “fulfilling the prophecy.” Brilliant not only does this movie have a prophecy in it like every poorly written film featuring one but also we are never actually told what the prophecy is, just that when events happen that are related to it, a character will exclaim “AH! something related to a very vague prophecy I know about but the audience don’t.” Our protagonists are sent on a journey to find the seventh Toa and are transported by their really annoying baby-noise making crab who is essentially the Jar Jar Binks character in this. Sigh.
This film is basically the Lord of the Rings for babies. Think about it. A mystical McGuffin being transported to a place by our tiny heroes who are chased by relentless evil people. This film is the Lord of the Rings and you cannot deny it.
It was even released around the time of LotR: Return of the King in 2003. Except in this film, the Ringwraiths (Nazgûl) are replaced by the ‘terrifying’ Rahkshi.
I placed the word terrifying in speech marks of course because frankly, they are not. The Rahkshi might scare a 2-year-old before his bed time but certainly not anyone else. Their powers are not explained. They never hurt anyone. When they destroy the lava Bionicle world they simply just walk around a bit, knock over a wall then make the most miniscule cut in the red Bionicle’s mask and which poisons him to become a bit more of a dick. That’s it. They share the same colour palate as the Toas and nether sets of people have their powers explained. They just shout random tosh and their subsequent powers just do as the script demands. The colours are simply there for stereotypes for tiny babies. Red means fire. Blue means water. Green means marijuana I mean um, jungle and air. The only two difficult to disseminate between is the black one and the brown one, because they are essentially the same thing.
So as the pair journey through the lands and meet the green Bionicle, the white one (not racist) and the brown and black one, we find out that their home town was destroyed as the evil sons of Makuta are after the mask, when in actual fact that are after the true herald Takua. The only reason why we see the characters go on such a long journey, is to shoe horn in every possible Bionicle product. We have to meet every single Toa before the end of the movie and when we do meet them, the pair announce who they are so the babies watching this trash are aware which one they want their mummy to buy them next.
We also see some frozen Bohrok, which were evil Bionicles that were released some time before this film was. They are in the movie to symbolize the Makuta’s previous attempt to take over the island. At least, I think they were. Their purpose here isn’t explained nor expanded upon so they’re probably just here to remind the babies to buy more Legos.
So the movie’s climax is basically the Toa need to combine their powers and put their differences aside in order to defeat the Rahkshi. Which they do. What? Were you expecting some kind of deeper and more complex story? I know I wasn’t…But at the last second one of the Rahkshi kills Jaller, leaving to Takua put on the McGuffin mask to reveal he was the Toa of Light all along. Spoilers.
The Rahkshi are defeated and they then create this machine to travel down to Makuta’s lair which is essentially another product for the Lego company to sell to the audience. But what’s weird is that the characters decide to essentially stick the mask (or face as I saw it)of the dead yellow one, and put it on the front of the flying machine like some kind of morbid hood ornament. It’s honestly the weirdest thing in this movie, I cannot describe how much it bothered me.
The Toa of light then faces the ‘evil’ Makuta in a game of Kohlii. What the crap? That annoying game at the start of the movie, is how the two sides decide to fight it out at the end? Sure, whatever. Can’t be as bad as the Suicide Squad ending am I right?
The pair then become entwined (oh matron) and end up falling into some pool, which is filled with…something magical, which combines the pair into some joint monstrosity which essentially is what most children who play Bionicle do with the toy, rather than create what the instructions say to do. The abomination then revives the dead yellow one. Yay. He wasn’t in any way annoying. It then holds the door open to Mata Nui’s chamber but the door then crushes it and the mask then skids across the floor at the feet of Jaller. So we never see a body of the behemoth nor do we see a body of Mata Nui. I know he is referred to as “the great spirit” but seriously it’s just the same shape that the pool of water was in back in the previous room. Lazy animators are lazy.
So to finalize, Mata Nui is “awakened” although this does nothing to the plot as we never see him awaken nor does anything else of value occur because of this. The Toa of light is resurrected, because no one ever dies in a kids movie and they really cannot make a toy about a guy who is alive for around 4 minutes of the entire movie. And then the sequel is set up as Takanuva, Toa of light points out the direction of the Matoran’s island home. What did you forget where it was? You’re an advanced race who can build castles on lava with collapsible rock drawbridges but you can’t build boats to find your “lost island home?” Sigh…I give up with this movie.
This movie wasn’t all bad. I wanted to pick something from my childhood that I remember fondly whilst also actually being terrible. Now. This movie wasn’t entirely terrible. It had a clear arc. The structure was borrowed from the Lord of the Rings but it was a simplistic, adventure story that young minds could understand, enjoy and want to rewatch all at the same time. This movie wasn’t good compared to other childhood classics. But at the same time it wasn’t bad. I’ll use the same phrase that I used to describe Marvel’s Doctor Strange: an adequate affair. Now that isn’t to say though that this movie is on par with Doctor Strange. Oh no, no, no. But it was a fairly enjoyable movie for what it was despite its poor editing (and I mean really poor editing), crappy CGI, weirdly contrasting landscapes between characters and the worlds they live in and of course, the yellow one who should just have stayed dead as his voice is so annoying.
It was nice to relive my childhood and to reminisce about a time where everything was more colourful, more fun and certainly very simpler. Compared to its much crappier sequels, which in future I may decide to ReReview, it was a competent movie and an enjoyable experience. I will never forget this movie, and I certainly won’t be forgetting rewatching it as an adult either.