So, as you probably know, a few days ago Bionicle: The Journey to One was released on Netflix. I, of course, watched it as soon as I had found out. The following hour or so was mostly filled with cringing at most points and laughing at how bad it was the rest of the time.
I’ll start this off by being positive. There were a few things I liked. I enjoyed the animation. It was an interesting blend of styles, or that’s what I thought anyway. There was a brief scene that had an Easter Island-y stone statue thing, which I thought gave off some nice G1 vibes. Umarak also has the power to teleport through shadows and create shadow semi-clones of himself, which is kinda cool, though they may have already told us that before somewhere else. There’s a massive (I say massive because it looks massive, but we don’t really spend much time with the Toa going through it) labyrinth island thing that Makuta’s mask is hidden in, which is (not very subtly) hinted at being connected to the Toa’s origins. I also liked that Umarak tried to take Makuta’s mask for himself but instead was taken over by Makuta. That part, I guess, was “the twist”, though it really wasn’t surprising whatsoever. Taking people over via mask is basically Makuta’s MO. Predictable, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
So there are some things I like about it, yeah. But there are far, far more many things I dislike about it.
One, the writing. The plot is very linear, we already knew about 75% of it, and anyone with a brain could’ve guessed the final 25%, so there really wasn’t much of any ground broken with the story. Shouldn’t the show tell us something new? Or at least add depth to what we already knew? I wouldn’t say this does either. But what’s even worse than that is the dialogue writing. Oh god, it’s bad. I mean, really freaking bad. Pointless one-liners, stupid one-liners, cliche one-liners, and that’s it. Besides monologues and the narration, I think one-liners are about the only speaking anyone does. (I’m exaggerating to some degree, yes, but one-liners are the majority of what’s said in the show.) But even the non-one-liner dialogue isn’t good by any standard.
Okay, but a good actor can take a crappy script and turn it into something good, right?
Well yeah they can, but these actors certainly didn’t. I really don’t have much to say about the voice acting, because it’s so darn forgettable. A lot of the characters sound mostly the same, and I swear the voice actor for Lewa and Umarak must be the same guy. But what makes the voices worse is this filter that, I guess, is supposed to make them sound sorta robotic. It’s mostly just irritating and makes it difficult to hear what they’re actually saying.
The characters are also flat-out stupid. Just… stupid. I know G1 characters weren’t too bright either, but wow, they look like geniuses compared to their G2 counterparts. Especially Pohatu, who apparently can’t see far enough past his “fear of scorpions” (aka, his terrible ailment of plot convenience) to realize he needs to work together with his Creature to, y’know, save all of Okoto. Not until his heart opens up to it for… some reason, once it’s too late and Umarak has Makuta’s mask anyway. This is just one of the many, many examples of their stupidity.
I think what upsets me most about it is that this is really the first big chance they had to build the world, story, characters, atmosphere, etc., and they pretty much just threw it away. And the first (and only, so far) game we’ve gotten is just a fighting game sorta thing. I’m just really not feeling the passion they had in G1. Yes, I know G1 got absurdly complicated and a bit too convoluted for its own good, which ended up making it harder for new fans to get into, but why does G2 need to go the exact opposite route and make it beyond simplistic? It’s roughly the same audience they’re targeted to. G1 wasn’t complicated and convoluted in the first few years, but it was still amazing. They made something that felt like far more than just a story dictated by the toys they were selling. They gave it atmosphere, they built the world, they built the plot and hinted at what was to come. But so far in G2… none of that, really. Sure, G1 had its share of not-great stuff too, but at least it had more than enough awesome stuff to make up for that.
I get that I’m being harsh. I get that it isn’t really the best to go around comparing G2 to G1, something that I’ve loved for over a decade now. So I’ll compare it to something else that was targeted to about the same audience, Avatar: The Last Airbender. That had a great story, characters, writing, music, and atmosphere. Point being, kids at the age of the target audience are capable of appreciating and understanding quality things. Why is that consistently done? I get that it’ll probably appeal to a lot of kids, but why can’t we infuse good taste into them instead of this? What is the fear of consequence connected to making something good?
Anyway, I think that’s about all I have to say on the matter. I was harsh and critical, yeah, but this is a review. (I also exaggerated for emphasis a few times, but that should be obvious.) There were a few things I enjoyed, but the rest was mostly a cringe-fest. And this is just my opinion. If you liked it, that’s fine. I’m personally biased towards G1, but that certainly wouldn’t stop me from enjoying this way more if it was just… better.
But maybe that doesn’t really matter to LEGO. After all, they did get me to watch the show.
P.S.: I actually watched this four days ago, so unfortunately I couldn’t point out many exact examples of how freaking stupid the dialogue and characters were. Sorry for that, but you’d probably thank me if you knew how bad they really were. If you’re a die-hard Bionicle fan like me, you’ll probably still want to watch it, and I know I’m going to watch any new episodes that come out. But that doesn’t make the show itself any better.