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 October 24, 2004
BIONICLE 2: Legends of Metru Nui Review - Part III
Mark: Caution! Spoiler-filled analysis. You really should not be reading this until you have seen the movie for yourself.

First, the good news: I like BIONICLE® 2: Legends of Metru Nui more each time I watch it. The bad news: Mask of Light has the stronger screenplay.

I wrote in Part I that B2 is much more impressive visually than MoL, and I still believe that strongly. But I also believe B2 suffers from an inferior screenplay. Part of that belief may be due to my high expectations however.

Whereas Mask of Light was weighed down somewhat by all of the story that had transpired prior to its release, Legends of Metru Nui begins at the very beginning of the Metru Nui saga. To be certain, there is some intriguing mystery as to what transpired prior to this "beginning" (What happened to the Toa other than Toa Lhikan? Why does Nidhiki call Toa Lhikan "brother"? etc.), but that type of intiguing mystery can actually draw you into a story (much as the mystery of Mata Nui's origins fueled BIONICLE's popularity from 2000-2003). My point though is that here was an opportunity to target the uninitiated as well as the established BIONICLE fans.

Sadly, I can't possibly recommend B2 as an introduction to BIONICLE. The movie is just too confusing, especially at the beginning. Whereas Mask of Light ends too many times, Legends of Metru Nui begins too many times. It never really gets fully started until the Toa Metru enter the Coliseum to present the Great Disks to Turaga Dume nearly seventeen minutes into the film.

Why the confusion? First, I think that there were too many cooks stirring the pot, from its pantheon of producers to its three screenwriters. BIONICLE was born of story-by-committee, and that works to its advantage when you are creating a universe to play in, but storytelling often benefits from a strong single point-of-view.

B2 could have had that strong single point-of-view. One of its working titles was The Mask Maker. That mask maker is VAKAMA, and there are times in the movie when it is clear that this should have been VAKAMA's story, much as Mask of Light is TAKUA's story. Legends of Metru Nui works best when it is exploring VAKAMA's maturation from Matoran to, not just a Toa, but to a great leader of the Toa. That maturation process is almost completely lost in the story however, mostly due to a lack of an adequate introduction to VAKAMA as a Matoran.

VAKAMA is not the only one who lacks an adequate introduction. Almost every character is shortchanged in that department. With ten principal characters and only seventy-five minutes of movie, it is impossible to really develop any of them. At the conclusion of the movie, TOA LHIKAN and TOA MATAU were the only two characters I felt like I understood in even a cursory fashion.

The seventy-five minute duration of the movie is part of the second problem: market targeting. The preponderance and dominance of action sequences in an overstuffed, too-short movie practically screams out "8 - 12 year old male". Don't get me wrong, I think it is a miracle that Creative Capers can put out such a quantity of such quality work in essentially a year's time. I would much rather wait another year though for a two-hour movie when the material warrants it, and B2 most definitely warrants at least two hours.

The characters aren't the only ones who get short shrift in the movie. Add "The Great Disks" to that list. At no time are the Great Disks adequately explained. We never get a sense of what they are and why they are important. And why were all of those Matoran at the Coliseum? We see nothing of what is supposed to go on in the Coliseum (sport), only what happens to the Toa Metru. And the VAHKI? They don't need much in the way of character development, but they could have used a little more screen time, especially close-ups.

In summary, BIONICLE® 2: Legends of Metru Nui is too much movie stuffed into too little time. Ironically, its hyperkinetic style only slows down at the end for what should have been the exciting, climactic battle. Even the end titles are more dynamic and exciting.

My recommendation is to drop the pretense of making "movies" and instead make episodic television. I would be just as willing to pay $20 for four twenty-minute BIONICLE episodes as for a seventy-five minute movie, maybe even more so. Nobody expects much in terms of character development in a twenty-minute cartoon, and you could still keep the big story arc across the four episodes.

Barring that change, it would help to give the movies the extra time they need. That is, increase both the amount of time necessary to make them and the amount of time necessary to screen them.

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