Friday, March 4, 2016
Quick thoughts on Bionicle: The Journey to One
I've gotten many requests to do a "video review" of the new Bionicle animated series once it came out on Netflix, but I really have no interest in producing that sort of content. However, Brickset just published their review, prompting me to start a reader comment that quickly grew into something I thought some of my own viewers would want to see. So, here it is, fleshed out a bit.
I feel Bionicle: The Journey to One was nicely produced for a kids' show. The graphics were primarily 3D rendered with a conservative application of cel shading that fit nicely between the 2015 comics and the old movies' more realistic style. The voice acting was a non-issue for me; everybody did fine, and nobody annoyed me. I did feel the vocabulary was simplified a bit awkwardly much at times, though, even for the target audience.
The Creatures seemed badly underused in their solo forms considering that they constituted half of the physical toy line. All of the focus was on them merging with the Toa around every turn, losing any individual identity in the process. That process wasn't even special -- no "I... have... the power!" sequences. I know the intent was to motivate kids to want more product$ to make their Toa more awesome, but the execution severely diminished the intrinsic value of the main characters themselves. Though upgraded with all-new bodies, the Uniters are significantly weaker than they had become as Masters last season. They could not even defeat "Creatures" in one-on-one combat! Think about that. A $15-$20 Toa alone is no stronger than a generic, unnamed $10 Creature? I suppose there's an angle of bringing parity to the underdogs, but any one of said protago-beasts could fall to a 10-piece Shadow Trap anyhow, so really nobody had any power at all. Only through Unity (double purchase$) can anyone overcome any obstacle or accomplish any task this season, is what the show told us. I am glad many kids will ignore this message and direct their own battles as they see fit, but I feel bad for those who won't (and for their parents).
Today's release was also quite short and the gravity of finishing the second episode roughly 40 minutes after opening the Netflix app left me feeling a bit empty and lost. That's less than 3/4ths of a single hour of content, to carry & cover an entire season of the toys & story. Perhaps my own self-generated hype was just too high, biased by the likes of Ninjago, Nexo Knights, and Playmobil's Super 4.
I do very strongly recommend that any current or potential Bionicle fan watch The Journey to One in its entirety. After all, it won't take much of your time to finish ;) All cynicism aside, it was an enjoyable bit of entertainment that brought a lot of life to the toys and the characters they represent. Just don't expect it to be an emotionally moving establishment of the second glory era of Bionicle.