Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bionicle: An Explanation

Because, frankly there needs to be one.

For those of who you knew me growing up, you may have known that there were two things I was always interested in above all else: Dinosaurs and Bionicle. Yes, believe it or not, cinema, art, literature, video games, alcohol, women, still dinosaurs, batman, and more alcohol did not cover the bases until I was older and more developed. For most of my life, it was dinosaurs and Bionicle. And Yu-Gi-Oh (but the less said about that the better). That's because when one is into Bionicle, one is often not into other things, up to and including conversing with human beings.
The reason I bring this up is because everyone had that one thing they were really nerdy about as kids. I mean we all loved Harry Potter and stuff, but everyone had that one thing that they were absolutely obsessed with. For most normal people (or, normal nerds), it was Star Trek, or superheroes, neither of which I showed much interest in until I was older. For me, it was Bionicle. It was a magic thing for me, and like most things that are magic to children; it accomplished this with a focused combination of genius and absolute stupidity, one of which became more and more apparent over the years.
Yes, there was a movie at one point. I watched it more than I went to church.

An Overview

"Bionicles" were those lego things kids bought and assembled in their homes. They had masks and swords and moving parts that you could choke on if you were too young. So, naturally, they were considered the coolest things in the world for like a week in 2003. I don't want to be completely assholeish, there is something undeniably neat about an action figure you can create, and customize, at your will. It built upon a children's imagination, and their need to buy more things to satiate their imagination. Your kid becomes smarter, and they make money off of it, great!

But here's where it got interesting: there was a story to it. A story that you had to read books and watch movies and go online to follow. Every toy had a character and a purpose. It started off small, a bunch of villagers (all available in canisters for about $5.99) lived on a racially segregated island. The white guys live in the mountains and are quiet, the black guys live underground, the brown ones are jocks, the red guys are assholes, the green guys never shut up, and the blue guys are women (if it seems like I'm above all of it, keep in mind, I know all of their names). But there's a big evil guy who wants to take over the whole island, and the good warrior guys (the primary sets) have to learn the value of teamwork and come together to stop him and his army of bigger, more expensive sets.
Because if your parents did not give you Dark Lord Teridax, your parents did not love you.

And it carried on like that for a while, and it was actually pretty badass. They even made a movie, and it was my favorite thing ever as a kid.

But then it got weird

The problem with Bionicle is that it relied on the story too heavily, a story that involved an almost obsessive compulsive level of consistency with each year being the same. So, they decided to pull a George Lucas, and make a prequel. In 2004 and 2005, we found out that the little villager guys on the island used to live on a completely different island.......way underground. And it was a futuristic city. Being attacked by plants. So the idea was to tell a story about how these weird little robot dudes lost their memories and ended up on a tropical island.....all while trying to sell a bunch of toys to little kids.
The job fell on the shoulders of Mr. Greg Farshtey.

Now Greg was the head writer of the Bionicle books and comics and shit. It was his job to build the universe based on the toy models from the boys upstairs. Problem was, the story started making less and less sense. The guys from Lego would come to Greg with toy models and be like "okay next year they're all going to be underwater, so find a way to make that work" and then the year after be like "okay now they're all airplanes, they have like fuckin' wings sticking out of their ass, because Jim did too much coke on a plane." And he couldn't explain to them that that doesn't make any sense because I just had them underwater, how can they just turn into planes?

This is your fault Jim!

Then it got really weird

When 2006 hit, the boys in the office came out with new set designs featuring Bionicles that had big ugly thuggish grills, and carried guns. Well not guns, they were called something else, but they were guns. There was a rap video released starring the characters, and it became pretty obvious they were trying to corner a certain market. It was their most successful year.

                                                        Bionicle: Straight Outta Compton

But the story continued to get weirder and weirder. By this point we found out that all the villager dudes and warrior dudes and big evil guys are all robots living on a bunch of different islands inside a really really big robot who is in a coma and underwater. Before long, Greg would have to run Q and A blogs on a major fan website just to help people understand what the shit was going on. By this point, the fanbase and the universe it loved was the saddest thing in the world. A bunch of people who knew everything about a story, but nothing else. It's like what Star Trek used to be, but it never really caught up to that level of mainstream popularity because....

And now

Now it's over. A few years ago Lego got sick of the story because they couldn't get anyone new involved, so they moved the entire story to a completely different location. A distant planet where little robot villager dudes and big robot warrior dudes lived. So, in other words, nothing changed. The line ended about a year later.

By this point, I was still paying close attention, but I was only one of about five fans left in the whole world, and I'm pretty sure the other four were Danish. To put the point home, Greg said he would keep adding story chapters online, but he stopped when he realized nobody was paying attention anymore, which is literally the most depressing thing that can happen to an expanded universe.

In the end, it's just this weird thing that happened. I'm pretty glad it did, for the most part. It made me want to tell stories, and it was a lot of fun for me as a kid. It's ridiculous in the sense that it's an amazingly complex and creative world that nobody really knows about, and they probably never will, because for all its more interesting facets, it was meant to sell toys. But a product that makes money off of your imagination is a step in the right direction. Also it got replaced by this.

New from Lego: Totally not Power Rangers, we swear.

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