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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  • Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary - Terry Shakespeare and David Molina, the two directors
  • Featurette - Making of
  • TV spot - Several
  • Interviews - Sneak Peek
  • Storyboards
  • Interactive game - Explore Mata Nui
  • Trivia track - Wall of History

Bionicle - Mask of Light: The Movie

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 74 mins . PG . PAL


At least they’re honest.

Making a film from a series of toys about toys and using it to sell even more toys is usually hidden behind thin veils, but in this case, they’ve come straight up front with it and given us what they hope is a decent film. As far as the kids go, it probably is. I found it a bit over-simple with each character given their own short stint of screen time and a rather basic plot tying it all together.

Whilst the movie has been fairly well animated, it doesn’t look much better than a video game for the most part. The characters differ from the toy line also in that they have hands, which Bionicle® aficionados may find fault with, but without them the film wouldn’t be much. Toys are one thing, but animation is an entirely different kettle of fish.

"Play well!"

Bionicles® are basically robots with free will who believe in the all powerful Mata Nui; so much so that they named their island paradise after him. However, the Master of Shadows, Makuta (who is Mata Nui’s brother), has cast a spell on him and he is now asleep. Under Mata Nui are the Toas and each of the six have their own special elemental power (Fire, Ice, Water, etc.) and live in one of seven areas on the island with an entire village below them. The Toas are like the avatars of the island, defending it against the power of shadows.

As to the simple storyline, here it comes...

Captain of the Guard, Jaller, and his bestest Bionicle® pal, the Chronicler, Takua, discover a mask among the lava of their home town. They are told to let it lead them to the seventh Toa, one who might help shake the reign of Makuta for good. Makuta hears of the discovery of the Mask, and sends the Rahkshi after our heroes and this forms most of the story as they meet each Toa in turn on their way across the island. Upon arriving at the destination (and having learned invaluable lessons about friendship) sacrifices must be made as the Toas convene to beat Makuta once and for all.

Naturally, there are extreme sports and action thrown in at every opportunity, creating a film the little guys will no doubt go mental over. Obviously designed for them, the storyline has been kept simple so as not to overload them with needless story. Instead, let’s just chuck in tons of action and fighting with the elements of lava and ice and stuff. Neat.

Definitely one for the less hard-headed amongst us, this works well on the level it has been aimed at and looks pretty cool. There are some subtle references to films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings which are fun, plus there’s a hidden symbol exchange language to figure out (if you haven’t already figured it from the toys. Plus, watch for the 'hilarious' gag in the closing credits). The animation is mostly very competent with some very fancy modelling work having been utilised for the characters. For fans of the toys, this will no doubt be a major work, but as far as filmmaking goes there’s nothing more adventurous here than basing a film on a series of best selling toys.


Naturally, when using computer animation, the picture is going to be pretty clear. And it is. There’s nothing crowding the plate artefact-wise, the colours are sharp and well defined and blacks are true to ‘life’. Shadow detail is lacking in parts, and when the whole film spends a lot of time in less light, this is important. However, the movie is still watchable and those instances of deeper shadow do kinda add to the impact.

About my only two grievances with this were in the fact it looks a little stilted at times with the animation resembling stop motion, rather than the fluid motion of CG (that in itself though, is almost a plus). The other is in the compression or rendering of the scenes in which Makuta is speaking with his minions. The green mists that rise from the poisoned earth of his lair are badly compressed, turning the mist into obvious waves of gradient fill. Disappointing, particularly when these scenes add up to nearly two minutes of screen time.


Surprisingly, this is only delivered in English with English subtitles. Being an internationally successful series of toys, you’d think they’d have more than that. However, this is a strictly Region 4 disc, so no doubt other countries get theirs. Anyway, what we do get is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, which is nice and clean without any crap behind the soundscape. While the character voices are well spoken and clear, perhaps sometimes they’ve not been as dramatically delivered as they could have been. However, the sound effects are all fine and surround us every now and then, particularly when Toa Gali (without doubt the hottest of the Bionicles®!) is underwater for a bit and during some major battle scenes.

Musically, the score by Nathan Furst is suitable to the film’s epic atmosphere and while not always entirely appropriate to the scene in question, it is nevertheless well done and versatile.


A big booty here, although aimed at the kids, the sales pitch almost worked on me. Almost.

Firstly, enter the making of featurette. This runs for 9:29 at 1.78:1 without 16:9 enhancement and the supplementary number is six. This is basically a more focussed sales pitch and contains the same old exploration of the CG studio stuff we’ve seen before. There are some nice traditional illustrations shown, but not enough, and the whole thing is a bit of a wank.

The Mata Nui Explorer is a virtual tour of the island with seven destinations to explore. In choosing one we get a brief bio of the town and a description and bio of that town’s Toa and some villagers. Good for those not altogether sure of the complex workings of the Bionicle® world. The Wall of History is another descriptive feature, which runs through the film as a trivia track. This is easily read and is a good addition to the film’s second or third watching, when we are a little more familiar with the storyline.

The director’s commentary features both directors in Terry Shakespeare and David Molina and is a rather boring venture with plenty of techie stuff, but I doubt the kids could care a damn about that. These guys rarely even laugh, which is weird considering they’re animators. Interesting, but too serious.

The sneak peek into the next Bionicle® storyline is 42 seconds of crap and best ignored. The executive producer Bob Thompson speaks direct to camera (but direct to kids) about where we’re headed next and I didn’t understand a word of it.

Deleted scenes come with or without a commentary by our boring hosts (I left them out of it).These are fully rendered shots, although some have no sound. They all run together for 2:37 without context and are therefore pretty worthless and little more than disc filler.

The storyboard to film comparison is actually pretty good. It runs just long enough for the novelty to not wear off at 1:30 and features both storyboard and film running concurrently on screen. Good stuff.

Finally, the publicity and advertising bits are basically toy store trailers. These again all run together and show characters more resembling the toys, which leads me to suspect they are earlier adventures in advertising the toy line, rather than film related.

All up a packed bag - the case says ‘must-see DVD bonus features!’ - though I wouldn’t overhype them that much.


Transferred by Buena Vista, the picture calibre is superlative with audio following suit. The extras are plentiful if lacking quality-wise, but do hold some gems among the clutter. Little fellas are sure to enjoy the extras more than I, as I’ve seen all this stuff before whereas it may well be fresh to them. Also, when you’re a fan of something and it’s made into a movie, no doubt you wanna grab at everything you can, and in this regard the disc works just great.

Definitely one for the younger men in your life, this is still a fun film that doesn’t ask too much of us. Apart from suspending our disbelief for a little while before getting everyone off to the toy store, of course.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3278
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      And I quote...
    "At least they’re honest. Ka-ching!"
    - Jules Faber
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