Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bionicle The Legend Reborn (2009) review: "reborn" or stillborn?

Overall verdict: 6/10

The Good: great animation, stellar acting, easy to follow story

The Bad: Might be too "kid friendly", Static directing style, newcomers to the bionicle franchice would be left lost.

Current Availability Status: DVD in MJ and Laser Flair stores now.
DVD features:
- Extended ending
- deleted scenes
- Character gallery
- trailers
- music video


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.

The story's premise takes a new twist on the classic "fall of a king" story coupled with an almost Greek epic styled hero's journey. Narrative is easy enough to follow, straightforward and with little twists. (there is actually only one twist, but one that does not come unexpectedly). The creative team manages to throw in an ideal mix of seriousness and fun adventure, 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, the bio-mechanical "bionicle" 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 main character Mata Nui head on, maintaining the regal tone befitting of a fallen king 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. One cannot help but be reminded of the robot designs in the live action Transformers movies(even though the Bionicle franchise came before the 2007 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 ever featured 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. Casual animation movie fans would be literally left hanging due to the lack of backstory or even an introduction to the world of bionicle. Is this supposed to be a sequel? or a prequel? Or maybe even a reboot of the franchise? 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, the fine looking CGI graphics feel 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; more like watching a documentary than 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 sounding 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 too. 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 characters should be 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 and a solid entry following the previous animated Bionicle movies. However, this movie might not be able to impress anyone but the kids and the hardcore Bionicle fans. Not to mention that there was hardly any publicity prior to this movie's release. Maybe it might also attract some Star Trek fans thanks to Michael Dorn's awesome performance.

An entertaining little family movie that could have been better overall.

Entertainment: B-
Story: B
Animation: A-
Acting(english): A+
Replay value: C
"Brains": C-

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