Bionicle: Mask of Light
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“In the time before time, the Great Spirit descended from the heavens, carrying we, the ones called the Matoran, to this paradise. We were separate and without purpose, so the Great Spirit illuminated us with the three virtues: Unity, Duty and Destiny. We embraced these gifts and, in gratitude, we named our island home Mata Nui.”
You might expect to read a statement like this while studying indigenous African tribes or ancient Middle Eastern religious texts. You certainly wouldn’t expect to find it in a movie inspired by a line of LEGO toys! But there it is in the opening moments of Bionicle: Mask of Light, a strikingly religious tale about two little Matorans: Jaller and Takua. One day they stumble upon a mysterious glowing mask and are told by their elders that it is the Mask of Light which will bring on the advent of the prophesied seventh Toa. (Toa are spirit guardians who protect the Matorans, and up until now there have only been six of them—the Toas of Fire, Water, Stone, Air, Earth and Ice.) Jaller and Takua are commissioned to go and find this seventh Toa, but the Matorans’ eternal foe, Makuta, isn’t going to make it easy for them. His brutish minions, the Rahkshi, are stalking their every move, just waiting for the right moment to pounce. Confused? Then you must not be eight, anymore.
Despite their polytheistic coating, the three virtues of Unity, Duty and Destiny are a fundamentally positive element of Bionicle’s video debut. The Matorans constantly protect their brethren, be it from natural disasters, the machinations of Makuta or internal doubts. Estranged characters are encouraged to be reconciled with one another and others provide encouragement to the downtrodden. A Toa reminds Takua and Jaller that “it’s what you do that makes you a hero.” Takua also learns that he must face his insecurities in order to deal with them. Some goods thoughts are couched in the film’s dubious theology (e.g. “We all have a duty to Mata Nui”), and if Christian parents decide to loose these mutant LEGOs on their kids, they can reign in some of the spiritual disorder by reminding them about the unity, duty and destiny believers have in Christ.
With one exception (that being the arty import Spirited Away), I have never seen a more profoundly spiritual cartoon than Bionicle: Mask of Light. Its bizarre amalgamation of polytheism and Eastern philosophy pops up in one way or another in nearly every scene. Classic mystical series such as He-Man and Thundercats don’t even compare. During an early expository scene, viewers learn that the Great Spirit’s evil brother, Makuta, magically cast him into a coma-like sleep and then unleashed his corrupting shadows upon the Matorans’ island home. During public gatherings, Matorans corporately praise the Great Spirit and beg for supernatural protection during attacks. An elder speaks of an ancient prophecy being fulfilled. The Toa of Water adopts the lotus position in order to “ponder the Great Thoughts.” Three Toa perform a healing ceremony to rid another of a poisonous infection. During a climactic battle, the Toa of Light and Makuta (who rules the darkness) fuse together, transforming into a separate creature greater than the sum of its parts.
Some of the movie’s violent moments are fairly mild. A cave-in and a rushing stream of molten lava put Takua in mortal danger, but he’s swiftly rescued by the Toa of Fire. Takua and Jaller play an intense sport similar to lacrosse. Later, a bear attacks the two, but they’re saved by the Toa of Air. Takua, Jaller and the Toa of Ice plummet down a snow-covered slope during a battle. A beam from the Mask of Light destroys a religious monument.
Others, though, are more intense and mostly come courtesy of slithery, screechy baddies called Rahkshi. They wrestle with various Toa and send out poison blasts (one Toa is infected, which leads to an intense healing scene that may frighten younger viewers). They also destroy a number of Matoran cities and suck the energy from defending Toa. The Toa of Ice puts the deep freeze on several during a skirmish, while another pins them with razor-sharp blades and the Toa of Fire quite literally “brings the heat.” Also, the Toa of Light and the Rahkshis’ master, Makuta, violently duel. [Spoiler Warning] Jaller is killed during an assault, then magically brought back to life.
Crude or Profane Language
No profanities. The worst expletive is a single use of the word “stupid.”
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
When I was a child the word LEGO sparked images of nubby, nearly indestructible plastic blocks that you could use to build anything your heart desired ... as long as it was roughly rectangular. How times change. Sleek and stylized, LEGO’s Bionicle figures are the new face of the company. More than just toys, though, Bionicle is a full-fledged media entity aimed square at the affections of the eight- to 12-year-old demographic.
Parents shouldn���t be terribly surprised when a franchise shifts its focus in order to lure in more young consumers. But what might take them aback is Bionicle’s surprisingly dense and sincere religious mythos. Kids may say they're not interested in this fantastical spiritual stew, favoring instead the larger-than-life action and razor-sharp computerized animations. But one comes with the other, and children have a tendency to absorb absolutely everything they see and hear, especially when they like what they see and hear. So Christian families are—once again—left looking for more orthodox entertainments.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
voices of Jason Michas as Takua; Andrew Francis as Jaller; Scott McNeil as Toa Tahu and Toa Onua; Kathleen Barr as Toa Gali; Dale Wilson as Toa Lewa; Michael Dobson as Toa Kopaka; Trevor Devall as Toa Pohatu
David Molina ( ), Terry Shakespeare ( )