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Mata Nui

Bionicle Glatorian Legends
by Artemis

We were pretty impressed when we got Primus, a toy that comprised an entire planet. How do you beat that? How about one who's an entire universe?

Trapped on a strange world and stripped of his great powers, Mata Nui must unite a planet to save it from a great evil. Armed with a spiked Thornax launcher, scarab shield, and the powerful Mask of Life, Mata Nui leads the fight for freedom on Bara Magna!

I haven't touched the Bionicle storyline in years. You'll recall that back when OAFE started, Bionicle was one of our favorite lines. But it changed, and rather than be one of those fanboys who bitches about a toyline but still buys everything related to it, I stepped aside to let new fans enjoy the new toys. However, between Artemis reviewing a bunch of the new figures and me finding the old Mata Nui Online Game, that old spark is back. When I heard Mata Nui would be getting a figure as part of the Glatorian Legends set, I knew I'd have to get him.

It's unclear what separates Glatorian Legends from the normal Glatorians - Mad Max-style desert gladiators-for-hire - but Mata Nui definitely qualifies as a "legend." Remember, he's basically the God of Bionicles: the original island was named after him, and as the story went on, it was revealed that most of the other locations actually exist inside his body. Metru Nui is his brain, Karda Nui (and the Swamp of Secrets) is his heart, the Northern Continent is a lung or something... that sort of thing. The world of the Matorans was housed entirely within the body of Mata Nui - the edges of his body were the boundaries of their universe. Everything at all that they knew was inside this living colossus.

But technically, that body isn't this body. That body is 40 million feet tall, so it would be a bit unwieldy as a Bionicle set. Plus, at the end of the 2008 storyline, it was revealed that Mata Nui's conscience had been forced out of his body by Makuta [his name is Teridax now --ed.], and had taken refuge in the Ignika mask. Makuta spit the Ignika into space, where it eventually found its way to Bara Manga, the world of the Glatorians. Mata Nui made himself a new body, and that's what this is.

Honestly, Bionicle construction has only changed a bit since 2004. Toa Mata Nui (as he introduced himself) stands 8" tall, which is definitely larger than the old figures, but there's still separate pieces for the upper and lower torso, still thin bits with armor attached for the thighs and upper arms... there are differences, make no mistake, but this is obviously still related to my old favorites. The figure has balljoints at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, ankles, knees and hips; there's no kind of waist, but none of the Bionicles have had that, so he's not lacking.

Mata Nui is done all in yellow and black, which makes him look like a protoform Bumblebee or something. The figures actually have real hands now, rather than Technic connectors - a change Lego made so it was easier to do animation with the characters. His feet are large and flat, with spiked "toes," and there's armor on his the front ankles that changes position as you pose him. The lower legs are molded with distinct kneepads, and there's rounded armor on his hips. His arms are decorated with large curved spikes rising above his shoulders, and there's a yellow plate on his chest.

One flaw with the figure, though, is the proportions: Toa Mata Nui's forearms are made from the same pieces that were used for the Toa Metru's legs, and his upper arm blocks are longer than his thighs, which overall leaves him with ape-arms. I've triple-checked the instruction book, but yeah, that's how he was designed. There are also two odd knobs on the back of his legs - they're part of the pieces used to hold the armor on, but they look out of place.

The big guy has two weapons: a Thornax Launcher and a (the?) Scarab Shield. The launcher is a two-piece deal that uses friction to spit out its projectile, a Thornax berry. The "berry" is a rubbery golden ball with four spikes on each side and a hard black ring around the center. Pinch the Thornax between the two bits of the launcher (lined up with the black ring), and when you squeeze it, the ball shoots out a good five feet. The shield uses the same pieces as Mata Nui's shoulder armor, molded in grey and clutched in the hand so it looks like a single, solid item.

The reason Mata Nui needs a weapon and a shield is that since he'd never worn a Kanohi mask before, he doesn't actually know how to use its powers. The figure wears the Ignika, of course, the Mask of Life. It was designed to heal Mata Nui, or to destroy all the life within his universe/body. The head beneath the mask isn't the same as it used to be: no more generic grey face behind the masks. The Kanohi actually plugs into the top of the head, rather than the "mouth," so there's no backwards compatibility.

The head itself is translucent blue, with molded dips representing eyes, nostrils and a mouth. The Ignika has had a few differet designs, but this one has a particularly interesting design feature: while the body of the mask is a rounded dome with a few vanes over the top and indentations on the cheeks, the center of the mask has a depressed pattern that suggests the outline of Mata Nui's old body - sort of a Vitruvian Man version of the Matoran Universe.

Lego has introduced a new game element to the Bionicle line, as well: to aid that, there's a dial on his back with the numbers 1-5 and a skull symbol. Yes, a skull, despite the fact that nothing in the Bionicle world has a skull. The game isn't terribly complex - shoot your enemy, don't get shot - but it doesn't get in the way of the toy. What it does do, however, is make me miss Xevoz even more; probably an unintentional side effect.

Toa Mata Nui is one of the mid-year Bionicle canister sets, easily identified by the lid, which features some kind of crescent shape with a ribbed dome embedded in the center. Mata Nui's is yellow, of course. The character is also coming out later this year in a larger (read: more expensive) set, but that won't be available for a while yet. If you're a Bionicle fan from back in the day, you're going to want Mata Nui, the god of Bionicle.

-- 07/02/09

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