"Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    Christopher Gaze as TURAGA VAKAMA
    Brian Drummond as ONEWA and MATAU and SIDORAK
    Trevor Devall as NUJU
    Paul Dobson as WHENUA
    Tabitha St. Germain as NOKAMA
    Alessandro Juliani as VAKAMA

    Not Rated
    Studio: Miramax

    Directed by: Terry Shakespeare
    and David Molina
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I feel a strange sense of nostalgia whenever I watch a Bionicle movie. It’s not that I ever played with the Bionicle toys. They were far after my time. Rather, I long for times I didn’t have, for I know that if they were around when I was ten years old, I’d have the whole set.

The idea of a race of robots that go into battle and live regular lives intrigues me. Admittedly, the toys are really pretty cool. Sure, the rings they launch from their arms or back are a little cheesy, but the rest of them look really slick. If I had a pack of Bionicle toys, I’d probably hide them from my kids – not because they aren’t age appropriate, but rather because I’d want to play with them myself.

The Bionicle toys are the inspiration for a trilogy of movies, with the third installment available now on DVD. “Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows” follows the Toa warriors who were made to save the inhabitants of the beloved city of Metru Nui. (Bear in mind, there are a lot of strange names in this show, so you might want to take notes.)

The Toa return to Metru Nui after the events of the previous movie, “Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui.” However, when they return, they find the city overrun by a sinister race of spider-like robots called the Visorak. When the Visorak attack, they encase the Toa in their web, which infuses a poison in them that transforms them into new beings.

With their minds being changed as well, the new Toa Horidaka (which they are now called) struggle to free their beloved city from the tyrant leading the Visorak.

This wraps up the main story of the first Bionicle series. Of course, if it sees a decent sales record, I’m sure there will be plenty of other stories about the Toa to fill the Miramax shelves. Nothing can stop a successful series, especially when it’s sent directly to DVD.

The CGI animation of the robotic characters is actually pretty slick for a direct-to-video film. The production design of this film is much darker than “Bionicle 2,” and the story is actually a little easier to follow. There is some 2-dimensionality to the characters, however this film takes itself pretty seriously otherwise.

If I were a younger kid, I’d really enjoy this movie (and the previous Bionicle films as well). It’s got a great appeal to the boy crowd. After all, it is about robots. Also, plenty of wholesome themes are followed, including loyalty, respect and honor. When faced with difficult decisions, the characters might make bad ones, but they always have a chance to redeem themselves.

The DVD comes with a nice selection of special features, especially for what you might expect from a mid-list CGI animated direct-to-DVD. There’s a section which profiles all the characters and the different races as well as a screen that plays through several of the songs from the Bionicle universe.

The two coolest parts of the DVD include a simple animated web movie that recaps some of the movie and presents a short adventure. (Of course this ends in a cliffhanger, and you’re invited to visit the web site for more information.) There’s also an animated comic book from the Bionicle series, narrated with moving illustrations.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.78:1). English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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