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 The Legend of BIONICLE Returns 2015

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The Spectral Mask
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PostSubject: The Legend of BIONICLE Returns 2015   Mon Oct 13, 2014 2:54 pm

My girlfriend brought me with her to New York Comic Con, her family quite generously paying for my ticket. I remember feeling that I wasn't going to see anything exceptionally exciting, since most of my interests were obscure even within geekdom, and either didn't have enough money to get a booth on the show floor, or had already come and gone a long time ago, like Myst or even BIONICLE. I figured I'd get a few rare minifgures and maybe some polyhedral dice, but that I'd mostly be there to support my favorite cosplayer. The poor thing took the SATs the day before, after all, and had to rush to finish her costume that afternoon! I found a lucky penny on the floor, though, so maybe something incredible would drop into my lap.

Then, I saw a giant sign that read BIONICLE, and my whole body tensed. What was this, a nostalgia trap? Were they going to charge me to walk through a little booth with all the sets that I already own in glass cases, and say "Look how great this thing we did years ago was. Don't you wish you could fall in love with this world all over again?"

But I noticed blue, Chima-like highlights in the cracks and crevices of those familiar golden letters. They looked thicker, a little blockier...

I saw a giant mask, constructed out of yellow LEGO bricks, but that I didn't recognize. That wasn't the Mask of Life, was it? I didn't know, but it was fantastically designed. Not one of those post-2005 doohickeys, this reminded me of one of the pre-2001 prototypes. It was detailed, but in a blocky, stylized way, that was as playful and colorful as it was regal and intimidating.

Above this giant mask was an array of nine or so tv screens. Precisely when I walked into the booth, it began to play.


I was speechless for several minutes. If this had happened in 2010 I would probably have flipped out, but having waited so long I find myself ready to lick LEGO's boots clean in exchange even for another chance at 2005 or 2008. And yet, here is 2001, back in its full glory, or close to it. I don't just find the changes forgivable, I find them exciting, even more exciting than witnessing the fall of Mata Nui for the first time. Makuta is in an endless sleep, too! Mata Nui isn't a giant robot, but he and his brother were mask-makers! And this Ekimu character, knocking Makuta's mask off... it couldn't mean...

Now, I don't want to get any of my fellow gear-function-mask-knocking-2001 fans excited, but I will say this. The new Toa Mata, Toa Otaku or whatever you want to call them, they have gears on their backs. And who knows how those masks are fastened to their faces...

I will be buying all of these sets over again. I might go a lot further than that, actually. Expect more material from me than usual on this site and elsewhere.

Gathered friends, listen again ( Happy Dance ) to our legend of the BIONICLE...

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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of BIONICLE Returns 2015   Mon Oct 13, 2014 3:26 pm

I laughed so hard at "Toa Otaku", you have no idea. The island is Okoto, and "otaku"... well...

Anyway, I had meant to post a topic of this sort, and thank you for doing it. But I think this reboot will put us right back in our old roles, Spectral. :P You're enthusiastically excited and I'm cynically disappointed.

Most disappointing other than the new mask designs (yes) is the backstory change. The bios for the Toa are dumbed-down; Kopaka and Onua are 70% less cool. Worst for me is the assignment of the Mask of Creation to Mata Nui - the Kanohi of Creation was what you saw, Spectral. When I first found out (months ago?) that the central mask in the new canon was set to be the Mask of Creation, I was excited for the reboot - I thought that we were being pushed back to an earlier time in the BIONICLE universe, because the original owner of the Mask of Creation was Artakha.

But it turned out that it was much more of a total reboot than I thought; the two brothers of Okoto were not the creator of the present and the foreseer of the future, Artakha and Karzahni, but right back to Makuta and "Ekimu", i.e. Mata Nui. The skull-spiders that battle the Toa look straight out of Hero Factory. It's not what I was hoping for at all, really...

Oh, just to recap the changes - there's no longer a "Mata Nui" floating around: the island is Okoto and the "good" brother is Ekimu. The Turaga are apparently different. And Ekimu has the Kanohi of Creation, whereas Makuta's mask has been changed to the Kanohi of Control.



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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of BIONICLE Returns 2015   Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:59 pm

It's good to be discussing BIONICLE... going through your post point by point, paragraph by paragraph... shame we're both busy, I could do this all day. Spectral

The Toa's personalities, and those of their Master counterparts, are a funny thing. I don't think that they're dumbed down so much as cartoonized. The original Matoran were a little cartoony to begin with, but that's because the story I think LEGO was supervising the closest was the Mata Nui Online Game. The Matoran had to be likeable and sympathetic from the perspectives of the target audience; the Toa could afford to be distant, imposing heroes. The Toa were who we wanted to be; the Matoran were who we were, but they were a close second, regardless.

But it's fairly likely we're going to get a cartoon this time around, and the Toa will be, and in a way, have to be, the main characters. MNOLG was essentially Myst with transformers instead of D'ni, so having to learn about characters by exploring the environment, collecting clues, and catching fleeting glimpses in a Myst-esque fashion made a lot of sense. I don't think LEGO could have gotten away with a cartoon where the Guardians were the main characters and only saw the main characters (coincidentally, also the bigger, more expensive sets) every once and a while. I still think that we'll have some of those chilling moments, like meeting Kapura in the Charred Forest, or breaking through to the surface of Le-Koro. Children's animation can do incredible things, and a lot of the Ninjago stuff was pretty good. We just have to be prepared to see some slapstick at Kopoka's expense this time around.

All of the lore has been changed around, yes. Some part of that is probably the lingering Maori controversy, and the concerns expressed by pious parents; Mata Nui, aka the Great Eye, was a little to close to a deity. Now Ekimu is a mask-maker, which means that the focus on masks is still present, if not moreso. Odd that they didn't keep the old mask powers, though. At first I thought they wanted the Masters to be regular old Guardians who happened to find masks of elemental power, but I'm pretty sure that the Masters fall from the sky like the Toa did anyway, unless my brochure is misinformed.

But since the first thing I saw was that animation, I knew Artakha wouldn't be present, and that this was a whole new start. I think I was present for a little less of the hype, which probably means that my expectations are lower. We'll see how low they must fall. :P

The Skull Spiders are another thing I'm willing to excuse - all of the sets in the Winter wave are good guys except for one boss, Lord of the Skull Spiders. But we need someone for the heroes to fight until the real fun starts in August, and I think these little buggers were a good idea. I always liked the playset visorak, and I adored the Fikou spider. These critters are somewhere in-between, and while the mask isn't great from above, they're quite menacing and skeletal on ground-level with the pincers. I didn't think Hero Factory when I first saw them, though; first the third year of Exo-Force sprang to mind, and shortly thereafter, Chima. I see what you mean, though.

Still, I'd say that LEGO has learned some things from Hero Factory, from Ninjago, and from Chima. One of those things seems to be that they were doing much better with BIONICLE. :P Personally, I'm glad that they got all of that practice in beforehand; they have experience running tv shows, they've done some research on integrating other cultures, and they clearly have some talent on board that knows the key components: heroes with strong personalities collecting masks on a foreign island with spiritual ties and atmosphere, exploring ancient ruins and fighting ferocious monsters.

The Lord of the Skull Spiders may be the lame villain to start with, but who can guess what's coming in August? Rahi? Bohrok? Rahkshi? Something entirely new?

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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of BIONICLE Returns 2015   Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:33 pm

It's exactly that cartoonized nature that irks me, and may drive me away from the reboot story for good. Even the original Matoran weren't portrayed like this. Maybe more importantly was that the original was represented by sharp graphics that showed a mysterious wildland of an island, with images (and the MNOLG of course) that looked fairly realistic and heightened a sense of the unknown. The new cartoons lack that subtlety.

I don't think "pious parents" are a problem for elements of the story; maybe more so from the Maori controversy. It's the success of Ninjago, Hero Factory, and Chima (like you mention) that's obviously influenced this reboot far more. Unfortunately that means that some of the over-the-top cartoonish goofiness of the former and latter (not so much Hero Factory) is probably going to spill over into BIONICLE, and I think the damage is already done for my opinion.

Honestly, what with having the Visorak, the bar was already set for any BIONICLE spiders that LEGO cared to introduce. The "skull spiders" don't reach that bar, let alone pass it. Obviously they couldn't even come up with an interesting name.

Part of the problem is that I never had any real interest in the themes that cropped up since BIONICLE's waning 2 years. I didn't learn to accept Ninjago or Hero Factory, let alone the interloper Chima; my lack of interest is only my fault, but just like this BIONICLE reboot, those 3 themes were cartoonish in nature. The lack of mystique, darkness, mystery in a brand with its own universe is enough to lose my attention nowadays; I hope that the reboot of BIONICLE won't be so bad but, ironically, I think it may be the only thing that can make me distance myself from BIONICLE for good.



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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of BIONICLE Returns 2015   Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:19 pm

I think that we can expect some mystery, even in this cartoonish style. The concept art I've seen so far, plus the stills of actual animated scenes, gives the whole reboot an Indiana Jones-meets-Myst feel to the whole setting. There are more temples and ruined dungeons than fully realized villages, and I do fear that we're going to lose some of the depth and world-building, but the sense of discovery seems very present to me. It will be a shame if there is no adventure game, because this year seems like it would have been best suited for it.

I merely meant that Mata-Nui as a Great Spirit was probably a little too religious to enter the mainstream, and while LEGO's changing things up, I think re-imagining the legend of the two brothers was fair game. Anyway, we wouldn't want to tell the same story twice.

The creators are very aware of how crowded the Matoran universe got, and I agree that there's room for refining. There's a reason why we don't have Matoran, but villagers, and don't have Kanohi, but masks. The vast majority of BIONICLE fans didn't get into the story. All of the boys at my elementary school bought the sets and knew the names, but every single one of them would have said that Metru Nui was the old island in the future, and that's no fault of their own. (More machines, metal, and industry in the past?) BIONICLE proved that story sells to some kids, but Ninjago proved that simple stories sell to even more kids, and I'm game for the minimalist style that the art direction is shooting for. Less is more; we don't need a fully-detailed topographic map of the whole universe to limit our imaginations. Far better to have a rough idea and let the kids' imaginations go from there.

Similarly, the Skull Spiders are called that because everything new is as straightforward and easy to understand as possible. It's not that they couldn't have come up with a better name; someone probably did, and it was left out to push that minimum age down - but note that they still have words like Toa and names like Onua floating around. The most essential lore is still here.

But all of that need not, and I daresay will not, come at the expense of sophistication. Sophistication is not complexity; in fact, encyclopedias' worth of lore was limiting the potency of the story, not adding to it. Er, in my opinion, at least.

I got around to liking Ninjago and Chima far too late, and watching every episode now would take hours. At some point I'd still like to play catchup and watch all of both of them, because what I have seen is actually very good. Yet, when the BIONICLE animations do come out, they won't be too much like those two, and I think that this is for the better. There's one voice actor, maybe a dozen ninety-second videos, and the return of the books. No encyclopedias, no web serials, no alternate universes and continuities, no need to be familiar with the old canon. And if they're handling the story that delicately, I find it hard to imagine that they can really insult what came before.

I don't think that simple means goofy, dumbed down, or superficial. It might be any or all of those things, but the creative team seems fun, energetic, and respectful. My hopes are high. Spectral

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