BIONICLE: The Journey to One review

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LEGO has finally journeyed (pun intended) into digital streaming services with BIONICLE: The Journey to One, which launched today with its first two episodes: "Quest for Unity" and "Trials of the Toa", preceded by a 12-minute prologue told through the online animations released last year to start the reboot.

It's the first episodic BIONICLE series ever (but as far as film is concerned, there's been four!) and the first Netflix original developed by LEGO; in partnership with production company VOLTA.

It seems like some people are still clouded with nostalgia when comparing the BIONICLE of generation one (2001-10) to generation two (2015-present). But could this entry in the saga change opinions? In other words, is it worth the watch for old AND new fans? Read on to find out...

Storyline

From LEGO: "The new storyline takes place on the mythical island of Okoto, where the forces of darkness are on the move and the evil Makuta is working to cast the world into darkness. The desperate island inhabitants enlist six heroes - called the Toa - to help save their beloved island. Only when the heroes are united, will they be able to battle the forces of evil, defeat Makuta and save Okoto."

Now this is where nostalgia is going to take over people. Of course, BIONICLE generation one's story was magnificent, but overly-complicated. This show, as well as the reboot in general, takes the best parts of what made the original theme so beloved, while also "simplifying" it to fit today's standards for LEGO media-driven themes and actually making it actually understandable for kids.

I really can't complain too much; but then again, maybe there's something lacking that I can't quite put my finger on.

Score: 4.5/5

Animation and Visuals

I am not going to beat around the bush with this opinion: this is the best-looking LEGO animated series of all time. Now, you may argue that Ninjago has done better, but tell me that the at the top of this article doesn't look absolutely gorgeous. This is the most major reason people will want to watch this show, I'd imagine. On the other hand, the animation has a few little errors at times, but everything flows really well which makes it hard to notice without looking too closely.

CGI and 2D blend together perfectly to form a beautiful world and characters that are amazing to look at. It makes me want to explore even more. Even though the characters wear masks, their eyes and body movement convey enough emotion for us to know very well what they are feeling. The characters also match their LEGO set forms well while also looking very organic and alive.

I really can't detract any points. It's all SO superb.

Score: 5/5

Character Development, Voice Acting and Humor

Overall, this is the least impressive part of the show for me. Although the script is pretty smart at times, there is no denying that a lot of the dialogue is cheesy, and this makes sense; it's a show meant for kids, after all. However, this is made up for in some of the jokes, which are hilarious. There are plenty of great visual gags too, mostly involving Umarak's shadow traps.

And speaking of Umarak... his characterization is awesome, and I wish we got more of him. His shadow teleportation abilities are very cool. A important scene with him that concludes the second episode (involving Makuta and the Mask of Control, but I won't spoil it) is particularly fantastic and equally spine-chilling.

Lewa and Pohatu also steal the show, with particularly funny moments of Pohatu not getting along with his elemental creature Ketar, and Lewa talking to himself while searching for his creature, Uxar. Onua and Gali were also good characters, but neither too exciting. And hey, Gali finally has the voice of a woman!

Ekimu has my favorite voice of all of the characters, with Tahu having my least favorite voice. And Kopaka's voice isn't bad, but he has some weird out-of-character moments. Part of the problem with voices in this show is, even though most of them are good, there is this annoying modulation that makes them sound more robotic. I thought the biomechanical nature of the beings in this universe was already obvious, but nope, guess not.

Overall, this category goes pretty well for the show, but not the best, in my opinion. Some improvements could have been made.

Score: 4/5

Verdict

Despite its shortcomings, BIONICLE: The Journey to One is a real treat. For years, BIONICLE fans have been waiting for something for like this to happen, and here it is. I am not disappointed, no matter how much I could nitpick. I'm sure you won't be disappointed, either. If you are a constraction fan or have enjoyed LEGO's programming over the last few years, then I would not hesitate to watch.

One last thing: I do have to criticize the decision to put this show on Netflix. I assume a lot of the target audience doesn't have it, and LEGO hasn't done the best job at advertisement elsewhere, so I'm not sure if most of the target audience even knows that it exists. It seems a bit unfair. So if this is really a show intended mostly for the hardcore fans of the theme, then it gets the job done.

All in all, despite some problems here and there, it's quite a ride.

Final score: 13.5/15, A-

Now, join me later this weekend when I review the new Mixels special Every Knight Has Its Day. And don't forget to check out the next and last two episodes of BIONICLE: The Journey to One, coming in July to Netflix!

13 comments on this article

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By in United States,

Well done! I need to check out the series myself!

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By in United States,

That show needs to be on either Disney XD or NickToons instead of Netflix, cause Netflix sucks!

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By in United States,

Release it on DVD, already... some people don't have Netflix, or fast enough Internet for it to work.

Sounds good, though!

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By in United States,

I found the voice acting to be very lacking, as well as the characterization of the Toa (at least compared to the original). In the original , Pohatu was a nice, generally happy guy. Now, he's cold at best...

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By in United States,

It was nicely produced for a kids' show, though I think the vocabulary was simplified a bit awkwardly much at times, even for the target audience. The gravity of finishing the second episode ~40 minutes after opening the Netflix app left me feeling empty and lost. That's not much over 1/2 hour of content to 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 (the latter featuring 52 episodes of ~10 minutes each!). I also felt the creatures were underused in their solo forms considering that they constituted half of the toy line. All of the focus was on them merging with the Toa (and losing any individual identity in the process) around every turn.

The 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 canonical 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 them could fall to a simple Shadow Trap anyhow, so really nobody had any power at all.

Only through Unity (double purchases) can anyone overcome any obstacle or accomplish anything 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).

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By in United States,

Having attended the reveal of the rebooted Bionicle back in October 2014 (Thanks Brickiest!) I'm curious to why they didn't use those beautiful graphs they had shown for use on the website.

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By in Australia,

I don't think I'll ever get past the new aesthetic. The first generation had a great biomechanical thing going, but this really dropped the mechanical part.

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By in Netherlands,

I don't have Netflix :(
I don't think it's worth getting just for this either. But I want to see it so badly!

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By in United States,

Yeah I wasn't to impressed by "Journey to One." The animation and voice acting were okay; and the music was fun, but the dialogue... The dialogue was terrible!

I know some people will tell me that "it's okay it is so simplistic, it is only a kids show;" but I disagree with that view point. Kid shows can have insanely good story when it's creators work hard; "Samurai Jack" and "Animaniacs/Pinky and the Brain" come to mind from my childhood, they are shows that are still fun for adults to watch.

Journey to one's dialogue though... Did nothing. The only character development we saw in the entire 1 hour and 12 minutes was; "Pohatu hates Scorpions." A lot of the dialogue was cheesy one liners... And even the "silent" Onua spent half the story talking to himself. Or look at Ekimu, his dialogue makes him look like a total workaholic jerk "Begone Toa I have masks to make!!"

The plot and pacing didn't help either... It seemed like an old video game from 2003. The first fight with the Skull Warriors felt like a "tutorial" so the Toa learned their powers. After a few small missions, the Toa got to the last level were they took eons to figure out that by standing on certain spots on the floor they could finish their mission. Then they had a final boss battle. :( Exactly the plot of a kid's video game back in the day.

There were a few saving graces... Umarak and Makuta's scenes were normally fun (the last one especially!) But they weren't enough to save the show.

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By in United States,

I've seen criticisms about putting the show on Netflix, and while I agree there are a lot of fans who might not have Netflix, I don't think it's fair to say LEGO hasn't been advertising it well enough. So far it's been advertised on both the LEGO and LEGO Bionicle Facebook pages and the LEGO Club Magazine, which is nearly as much advertising as LEGO often tends to provide other series like Legends of Chima and Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu for their TV premieres. The one thing it hasn't really gotten so far is TV advertising.

Overall, I enjoyed the series, though I felt the sound design a bit lacking, with several moments where I felt like the musical score, sound effects, and voices could have been balanced better. There were also some awkward line deliveries and a few moments where the animation felt pretty awkward (namely when Tahu is flying with Ikir and crashes into the rock column in episode two). I do, however, love the visual style, which beautifully blends detailed CGI character models and more stylized backgrounds and elemental effects. I'm glad that the characters' masks can emote, since that expressiveness is one of the things that I quite liked about last year's webisodes. Their body language was also strong.

I felt characterization was strong for the most part, although some of the characters' personalities didn't really shine as well as they did in last year's webisodes. Truly Kopaka felt very multi-dimensional in last year's webisodes, which played up the contrast between his goal of appearing faultless and his clumsiness and poor sense of direction. We got a bit of that pridefulness in this year's webisodes (with Kopaka's insecure boast about how he could fly like Lewa too, he just... chooses not to), but not to the same extent. Perhaps if his lines had been delivered a bit better there might've been a better sense of this.

Umarak was characterized very well, I think. His voice suited him a lot better than I think a lot of people expected from the trailers, yet he wasn't too talkative. He felt like a very competent foe, and his powers and demeanor alike made him feel very formidable. One nice bonus I was not expecting was getting to see a unique design for ice region shadow traps, since there are none in the sets. I half expected that if they did show up, it'd merely be as a recolor of another style of shadow trap.

One major writing flub is that the creatures are not referred to by name throughout most of the episodes, but then suddenly in the second episode Ketar is referred to by name. A person who isn't familiar with the sets and characters and doesn't know Ketar is the creature of stone (Pohatu's scorpion partner) might easily feel a bit confused at that point. But the humor was generally on-point, which is good because a lot of Bionicle's best writing has been when it doesn't take itself too seriously.

In general I feel like the webisodes DID make the Toa feel powerful, contrary to theJANG's claim, particularly when they were searching for and/or fighting with the creatures. I do not think having them an even match for the creatures diminishes their sense of power, because the creatures are presented as an ancient force of nature, not to mention the first foes the Toa have faced who have elemental powers like their own. I also think the Toa and Creatures did feel significantly enhanced when united. Even though the creatures did not get to do much fighting evil on their own, I do not think this robbed them of agency.

The prologue, giving a quick overview of last year's story using footage from those webisodes, was a nice surprise. Overall, it was a fun experience that has me looking forward to the next two episodes this summer!

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By in Australia,

Oh, actually looking at some more screenshots, it looks like they actually got the bionicle aesthetic right in the show. Too bad the same can't be said for the sets, but now I've gotta go check this show out

I still don't like it as much as the old generation though, and I'm *really* not liking the parts which look like amateur flash animations.

I also feel like, if I went back and watched Mask of Light, the writing would be much better. I get that this is written for kids, but Mask of Light was too, why can't we have kids shows with that quality of writing anymore?

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By in United States,

I understand that it's supposed to be a kid's show. I get it. I just wish it took itself far more seriously. A lot of G1 Bionicle had an air of darkness to it - accompanied by serious dialogue and plot points. Think back to the animations done for the Toa Mahri and the Barraki. I really wish they'd go back to the tone of those, or at least something similar. I don't get why everything has to be so dumbed down, campy, and light. Having humorous elements is fine, but I'm pretty sure kids today can handle a serious & complex story.

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By in United States,

How do you know the next episodes will come out in July?

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