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Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows DVD Review

Buy Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows from Amazon.com Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows
Movie & DVD Details

Directors: David Molina, Terry Shakespeare

Voice Cast: Kathleen Barr (Roodaka), Trevor Devall (Iruini), Paul Dobson (Sidorak), Brian Drummond (Matau), Christopher Gaze (Turaga Vakama), Alessandro Juliani (Vakama), Scott McNeil (Bomonga), Tabitha St. Germain (Nokama), French Tickner (Norik)

Running Time: 76 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), DTS 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: October 11, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Red Keepcase

Review by Aaron Wallace

Something about Lego being in the movie-making business just doesn't seem right. Nonetheless, the connectable toy-making giant has turned to direct-to-video features as a way to promote one popular line of their product and to Buena Vista Home Entertainment for their distribution.

The Bionicle toys are anthropomorphic figures comprised of what look like fragments of the traditional Lego. Like the heroes of "Captain Planet," each of the primary Bionicles are linked to a color and one of nature's elements (fire, water, etc... no heart, I'm afraid). The toy line launched in 2000 and within a few years made way for several series of books, comics, games, and movies, all aimed at lending the toys a storyline in the form of a saga.

2003 saw the direct-to-video premiere of the first Bionicle flick, Bionicle: Mask of Light. The next year brought a prequel titled Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru-Nui, which was followed by 2005's Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows, a sequel/prequel that takes place in between Metru-Nui and Mask of Light.

Supposedly, these Tao are more attractive here than in their cursed state of appearance. Showing off their cultural sensitivity skills, this scene is called "The Trail of Falling Tears."

Bionicle revels in minutiae, something that seems to be part of the appeal for its followers (sort of like Middle-Earth lore, though that comparison comes dangerously close to giving Lego too much credit). So dense are the many details that comprise the world of Bionicle that researching them for this review left me liking the series a whole lot less than I had after only viewing the third movie.
Chances are that if you care enough about Bionicle to indulge in its nuances, you already know all about them. For the purposes of this review, all you need to know is that Bionicle lore concerns the Matoran, a chosen race from which the heroic Toa Metru warriors arise. Members of the mysterious Brotherhood of Makuta are the villains, their aggressive approach to protecting the Matoran at odds with Toa tactics. In Web of Shadows, the Toa Matru are converted to Toa Hordika, beast-like versions of themselves, and seek to reverse their misfortune as they head toward the final battle for the city of Metru Nui.

For a franchise so attentive to detail, the movie is surprisingly skimpy on plot. Bionicle lore comes primarily from its other mediums, it seems. Admittedly, I hadn't seen the first two Bionicle movies prior to viewing this, so I felt a bit lost (that's testimony to the movie's inability to catch up those tuning in to the phenomenon for the first time), but it wasn't too big a burden as Web of Shadows is all about the spectacle.

Watching Web of Shadows feels quite a bit like watching an overly long Saturday morning cartoon. That means that plopping down in front of the television and taking in the action, thematically appropriate music, and (in this case) impressive graphics is pretty easy for those looking merely to zone out. It differs from, say, a "Batman" episode, however, in its loosely constructed and practically incoherent narrative. Lacking sophistication in its story, it limits its appeal to the action figure-obsessed demographic that it targets.

For a web of shadows, things look awfully bright. The Tao search for assistance in their quest.


Video is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen. As is expected from a new digital production, the quality is quite good. Occasionally one encounters very mild edge enhancement or running lines, but the transfer is mostly free from problems.

Though only Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound is listed on the packaging, the disc actually offers an additional 5.1 DTS track as well. The Dolby Digital experience is an acceptable one but the DTS track is considerably more dynamic. In it, channels are well-mixed and each speaker is active without overpowering the others. The only complaint is the bass track which in both the Dolby Digital and DTS routes is decent enough but not as powerful as one would hope.

Just look at this picture and play a rock album in the background and you've got a whole Bionicle bonus feature for free! A still from the short film that originated on Bionicle.com and is included on this DVD. The animated 16x9 main menu nicely conveys a spooky theme.


The bonus features, at first glance a full slate, are mostly brief and highly commercial, while those that aren't are just odd. "www.Bionicle.com" and "Bionicle Extras" (1:19) are simply commercials for the website and Bionicle products. "Explorer" provides five kinds of creatures from the Bionicle world, each of which receives a brief audio description when selected. "Bionicle Music" (3:39) curiously puts up a still screen with the Bionicle 3 logo as a rock song plays in its entirety. I'd call it an ad, but it doesn't even credit the song or provide directions for purchasing it. "Web Movie" (6:03) is a poorly-animated short that rehashes much of the same material covered in the movie and "Comic Book" (7:37) is pretty much the same, only while the former apparently originated at Bionicle.com, the latter seems to have been inspired by the Bionicle comic line.

The main menu is nicely-done. Fog billows as shadowy creatures scurry across the screen, all accented by an eery green tint and the movie score. Inside the case is a mini Bionicle product guide and a chapter listing card that advertises the first two Bionicle movies on the back.

The disc opens with previews for Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui, Chicken Little, and Sky High, while these additional previews can be retrieved from the main menu's Sneak Peeks page: Bionicle: Mask of Light, Spider-Man: The Venom Saga, Tarzan: "Special" Edition, Kronk's New Groove, and Toon Disney 's Jetix programming block.

Those Legoland creations ain't got nothin' on these Bionicle! Funny...my Legos always melted when I held them up to a lighter.


Bionicle 3 boasts impressive visuals for a production of its kind and the same can be said for its score. The story, however, leaves much to be desired. True Bionicle experts aside, the movie will only fully satisfy those looking for a good mind numbing that only flashy action can provide. Web of Shadows is at least watch-able for just about anyone and while the lightweight bonus features are obviously aimed at a younger (and more susceptible to advertising) group, the audio/video treatment should mostly please a home theater enthusiast. Still, chances are that if you've outgrown playing with Legos, you won't be too stimulated by watching them fight each other either.

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Reviewed June 2, 2006.