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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui
Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG // October 19, 2004
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted October 13, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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As a kid, I really loved to build stuff...and wreck it later, of course. But truth be told, I was never a Legomaniac (is that word still used?), as I much preferred the more geometric click-and-snap goodness of Construx. Still, the principle was the same: basically, I'd spend countless hours building robots, buildings, and whatever else I could dream up. At some point when I was entering the pre-teenage years, I decided that I'd outgrown the stuff and got rid of it.

While I don't trink Construx is still around these days, Lego is still going strong. Things are more complicated than the brightly colored blocks of yesteryear, but hey: kids are still building stuff, so it's all good. One such variety of Lego is the Bionicle Series, a line of robot-like action figures that come across as a combination of The Transformers and Yu-Gi-Oh. Naturally, a CGI movie based on the action figures was spawned---Bionicle: Mask of Light (2003)---a story about the crumbling islands of Mata Nui. The spirit that watched over the islands was put to sleep, and three of the locals had to use the Mask of Light to save their land (think The Lord of the Rings, but with robots). Legends of Metro Nui continues the series, although it's actually something of a prequel. The basic plot of the movie is similar: the city of Metru Nui has come under attack by mysterious dark forces, and six inhabitants are given the powers to save the land.

As much as I might have liked this as a kid, I've gotta get this out of the way: the plot and themes behind both Bionicle movies are way too generically overblown for their own good. Like most CGI-based projects, there's much more flash than actual substance. The story---for as simple as it is---will most likely entertain kids and most likely cause parents to roll their eyes. It borrows from countless other sources, most of which were able to tell the story using less eye candy. Compared to the best kid's entertainment, Bionicle falls short, but---believe it or not---it's not the worst example I've ever seen. Basically, you've got to take concepts like this with a grain of salt: like Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, and 95% of anything aimed at kids, it's designed to sell merchandise.

For this reason, you've got to look at Bionicle from a different perspective: entertainment and presentation. Kids will probably enjoy the action and scope of the movie, and anyone should be able to appreciate the fantastic visuals that Bionicle has to offer. Like Toy Story, Bionicle cleverly bases its story around action figures, so it's not a big deal that the movement is a little stiff (a problem which CGI is finally starting to overcome). The effects and backgrounds look like a million bucks, and even the music quality is pretty ambitious. The only real problem I can think of is the similarity of the character designs, but it's not too bad considering how many different ones are seen during the course of the movie. Overall, though, Bionicle succeeds greatly in this department---so if you're not too impressed with the story, at least your eyes will be entertained.

As far as the target audience goes (outside of those who have the action figures), I'd say that any kid interested in sci-fi adventure might really like Bionicle, though jumping right in to this second chapter wouldn't be a smart move. If you liked Mask of Light, chances are you'll dig this one too. As I mentioned earlier, though, parents (and everyone else) probably won't find much of interest outside of the visuals. Still, from a technical standpoint, Bionicle is pretty impressive, and the DVD ain't too shabby either. The audio and visual treatment are excellent, and the bonus features are short but decent. Overall, it's not too bad for a glorified commercial, but (like the toys) might get "outgrown" pretty fast. With that said, let's see how this disc stacks up, shall we?

Quality Control Department

Video Presentation:

Most CGI-filmed productions feature a great technical treatment, and Bionicle 2 was no exception. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen was obviously dirt and blemish free, and the colors were bold and bright. Image detail was also high, and the nicely-rendered backgrounds looked great too. Although the image did seem a little soft and slightly blurry at times---especially during action sequences---this looked to be the style of the artwork, not a problem with the digital transfer. Overall, this was a fine presentation that won't disappoint (and thumbs up for the widescreen too!).

Audio Presentation:

Even better is the audio presentation, available in your choice of English Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS mixes (a French Dolby Surround is also provided). I was extremely surprised to see such a quality presentation here, from the high dynamic range to the wonderful atmosphere and ambience. Dialogue and music also came through very clearly, rounding out a terrific presentation overall. English subtitles have also been provided for the hearing impaired.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:

The overall presentation here was another highlight, especially the anamorphically-enhanced menus. Featuring easy navigation and animated scenes from the movie (with sound, of course), the menu designs were as attractive as they were practical. The 75-minute film is divided into 11 chapters, and no layer change was detected during playback. Bonus features are presented in fullscreen and non-anamorphic widescreen formats. Housed in a standard black keepcase with a fold-out slipcover, the packaging job for Bionicle 2 is similar to most Disney 2-disc releases. A number of promotional inserts were also included for your buying convenience.

Bonus Features:

The brief set of included extras begins with a 10-minute Behind the Scenes featurette hosted by various members of the production team (seen below). I'll have to admit, Lego looks to be right up there with Pixar Studios as one of the most fun jobs to have, bar none. From a quick look at the production of the action figures to a peek at the art and music departments, this featurette offers a surprisingly comprehensive amount for its brief running time.

Next up is a semi-guided tour that details the characters and locations from the movie, entitled Metru Nui Explorer. It's a little confusing to navigate at first---and should probably include text with the narration---but it's nice inclusion for the target audience. There's also The Legend Revealed (5 minutes), a quick little question-and-answer session with the production team. Basically, it's some of the most frequently asked questions on the website. Lastly, there's a section labeled "Bionicle Extras" that features a Lego commercial and the Trailer for the movie. Overall, only the behind the scenes featurette was of any interest, but younger audiences might like the other stuff too.

Final Thoughts

Although the kid in me thinks this release is pretty cool, we all know what the purpose of Bionicle 2 really is: to sell Lego products. For that reason, it's not a concept that can really be taken on its own terms. Still, I'd have liked stuff like this when I was younger, and the terrific DVD presentation really makes Bionicle 2 a fairly solid DVD release. While I doubt that many adults will be interested, I'm sure the younger generation will find this to be worth checking out. Unless they're the ones buying it, though, the $30 price tag is a little too much for what's included here. Rent It.

Randy Miller III is an art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.
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