Bionicle: Mask of Light (2003)

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Released 16-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers Commentary
Featurette-Making Of
Game-Mata Nui Explorer
Informational Subtitles-Wall Of History
Trailer-Sneak Peek Into The Next Bionicle Storyline
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Filmmakers Commentary
Storyboard Comparisons
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Bionicle: The Game
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 73:55 (Case: 72)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Molina
Terry Shakespeare
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Jason Michas
Andrew Francis
Scott McNeil
Lee Tockar
Christopher Gaze
Kathleen Barr
Dale Wilson
Michael Dobson
Trevor Devall
Lesley Ewen
Chiara Zanni
Doc Harris
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $36.95 Music Nathan Furst
Craig Russo
Kris Zimmerman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, The entire film is an annoying product placement
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The kid market has become one of the most aggressively campaigned slots available. Kids' influence on the purse strings of their parents is phenomenal, and no doubt plenty of Christmas stockings this year are going to be filled with this offering from the combined sources of Lego, Miramax and Buena Vista. With the rampancy of cross marketing there's an entire kid culture attached to this movie. The kids who want to watch it are already playing with the toys, so I asked along a co-reviewer to appraise this movie - a real expert. Take a bow DavidP (8 years of age), my step-grandson and temporary reviewer and Bionicle expert! David will assess the plot line and extras with me whilst I turn my attention to boring adult concerns with silly little things like technical presentation and appropriateness.

     The basic story is just that - basic. Essentially, it's a morality tale/quest play where the evil Makuta has threatened the Bionicles' existence through enchanting the great spirit, his brother, Mata Nui, and in the process, usurping their code of "unity, duty and destiny" and subduing their paradise with the unleashing of his evil shadows. With the discovery of a mask located perilously in their home's lava fields, our heroes, Jaller and Takua learn that this relic may be the answer to their liberty.

     But of course, as in all epic tales, nothing that is done is left unseen, and soon enough, Makuta discovers their find and unleashes the Rahkshi and any number of perilous trials against them. Our humble heroes must strive against these dark forces to gather each Toa (elemental sort of super bionicles) to rally in the final battle against Makuta. Secret symbols abound, and there is trouble at every turn. Villages are decimated. Dark perils prevail. Dialogue is desiccated. But will the Bionicle band triumph? Okay, so the battle is no Helm's Deep, but it's flashy and noisy and colourful.

     I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but once I got over the horribly awkward and stilted dialogue, the "mechanical" action (hey, I know they're tin-typed dudes, but there was something almost "wooden" about them ("first..we..must..be..united. Together..we..are..strong." It's all so deliberate and cheesy) I kind of got sucked into this.... a bit. DavidP sat transfixed throughout, eyes agog and mouth ajar.

     From a parental perspective, aside from the flagrant merchandising that is this film's entire raison d'etre - overall it's appropriate for the targeted demographic. The morality factor is high, high, high, and it's hard not to flinch at the jingoistic flavour, but unity, duty and destiny aren't bad principles for a kid to identify, and fortitude and courage are certainly emphasised, so all in all, it's not so bad.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     Computer animation is a beautiful thing as far as video quality transfer goes.

     The aspect ratio is 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and crisp as crisp as crisp. Shadow detail leaves something to be desired in a film with much darkness, but there's little low level noise to irritate one, giving a lustrous smooth tone to the brighter images. Overall sharp and clean, when it's bright it's brazen and holds well on fast pans and zooms. There were occasions where I found the reds a bit overpowering and a touch "bleedy" (for example, around the 38:54 mark), and that comment is probably true at other times, particularly where there is a predominance of one colour onscreen. To be fair, this is no Pixar production, and we're probably all horribly spoiled with products like Finding Nemo on offer, so when the rendering is a little on the compressed or blocky side I may be being a little picky.

     The colour is utterly intense - sometimes a little overwhelmingly so, but perhaps for its market this is not such a problem as for poor old Nannas with sensitive eyes!

     I didn't expect to see too many MPEG artefacts, and that's pretty much what I found. It was, with the exception of the points above, a good solid and clean piece, and I saw no film to video nasties either.

     Subtitles were clean, wobble free, burnt to video and an exact replica of what was being spoken. I was glad to finally turn them off as they only further emphasised the woodenness of the script!

     This is a dual layered disc but I didn't find the layer change so it might have been neatly tucked between two scenes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     This film was presented in knock-your-socks-off Dolby Digital 5.1. David and I both jumped when the menu blasted off! There is an audio commentary presented in 2.0.

     Dialogue was clearly audible throughout and any inherent shrillness had more to do with the pitch of some of the characters' voices.

     The music featured was the kind of epic crash-boom-swell variety, but was ultimately forgettable to my tastes. It did its job then clocked off and went home.

     The surround speakers were working overtime, however. The sound welled and swelled and occasionally sprinted around the soundfield, and appeared to be relatively unscathed by any major nasties of the snap or pop variety.

     The subwoofer too worked hard for its keep, frequently providing much of the dramatic tension in a scene.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Extras aplenty - with an annoying amount of pretty shameless marketing. Several times the appealing eyes of DavidP looked up at me to be greeted with a firm Nanna look of NO!

Menu

     Animated, 16x9 and loud, loud, loud. This was easy to move around and find one's way.

Featurette: The Making of Bionicle Mask of Light (9:27)

     We're welcomed to the "astonishing world of the Bionicle Creative Team" when it would probably be more accurate to be welcomed into the astonishing world of the Bionicle marketing team. Mixed between 1.33:1 for the feature material and letterbox for the film material, there are some statements in there that are kind of laughable. Of particular hilarity to me was when one of the creators averred that the characters' accents weren't regionalised. Oh really?? Only if the only region in the world is America! There's some interesting "concept to reality" type scenes, interviews with the usual suspects and a plethora of vapid platitudes preached by the converted, but it's hard to know who this is pitched to really. The kids aren't interested, and the adults don't care. Ah well.

Mata Nui Explore

     Use your remote to tour the island and learn more about each location's inhabitants. David got through all of these once, but I'm unsure he'd bother again.

The Wall of History

     This provides a pop-up screen of background history and information snippets. As an aid to fleshing out the scenes and creating depth to the story line maybe it has its place. Personally, I just found it annoying.

Film Maker Commentary

     David Molina and Terry Shakespeare get terribly workmanlike and discuss this film with moribund seriousness. They're forthcoming and technical, and occasionally even semi-revealing, but let's face it, in spite of the name of one its erstwhile directors, Bionicle: Mask of Light is not Shakespeare, and it becomes a little twee listening to the undue reverence. Again, there's the question "why" coming to mind in watching this feature. Perhaps enthusiastic CGI students will have some interest in their discussions, but it's another case of questionable pitching. While I dutifully listened to Messrs. Molina and Shakespeare, David went outside to play with his toys. Perhaps that's the value of the commentary - something to get the kids away from the telly!

Sneak Peek Into The Next Bionicle Storyline (0:42)

     Wasn't that a no-brainer! Having managed to create a secondary market, you'd just have to re-exploit it. Well colour us crazy (number 32 in the deluxe Crayola box I think), but we thought we'd actually get a sneak PEEK. What we actually did get was Bob Thompson (Executive Producer) telling us something about clues - of which, we, by this time, had none. I looked at David, David looked at me, we shrugged, then we both reached for the remote. NEXT!

Cutting Room Floor (2.36)

     Some of these are blink and you'll miss them, some have sound, some don't. Optional commentary by Molina & Shakespeare available.

Storyboard To Film Comparison (1:30)

     David lost interest at about 0:27, but I thought it was okay - well presented and actually showed the transition from paper to CGI as split frames shown simultaneously.

Publicity And Advertising

     A series of trailers and teasers that are run consecutively. There is the inevitable plug for Lego and the even more inevitable plug for the PC game. David's eyes looked at me imploringly - I looked back determinedly in the negative. (Actually, it looks like a pretty cool game, but we Nannas can't look too soft a touch!)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

     Buy local. Go R4.

Summary

      This is a film pitched to a very specific audience, and within that context, it does its job more than adequately. The sound is as punchy as a Fenech upper cut, the vision is of solid and generally consistent quality, and the story, whilst not providing any serious competition for Tolkien and Lewis et al, is moralistic and earnest in its intent. I shall leave the final word to my guest reviewer.... DavidP ....take to the keyboard.

    "This movie is cool."

    Thank you, David. Now, go outside and play. And don't call your brother a "kohlii-head!"

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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