Jump to content

blogs_blog_26

  • entries
    130
  • comments
    4,606
  • views
    372,615

Sizzle And Steak

Sign in to follow this  
GregF

5,782 views

I was looking through a topic on 2001-2003 vs. later years, and Lewathetoa made an excellent point about the appeal of the early years being the spectacle of advanced beings on a primitive island, and how much of that was lost in 2004 when we got to Metru Nui. I felt it worth reprinting my response to him here, as it is a very interesting topic from a literary point of view:

 

"What made 2001 work was the incongruity of advanced technological beings living on a tropical island with no tech at all, because that made no sense. The problem for us was, at some point you had to make it make sense, and once you did, you had to go high tech and the incongruity was lost. What you are saying completely makes sense -- I simply don't see a way around it beyond simply never explaining anything. And I wonder how many years BZP would have tolerated that before they started to think we didn't know how the Toa and Matoran got there.

 

I have probably brought this up before, but it comes back to Stephen King's 12-foot cockroach theory. King says you can write an entire story about something scratching at a door, and terrify your reader as they imagine what it might be. Once you open the door and reveal it's a 12-foot cockroach, everybody screams ... and then ten seconds later, they're saying, "Well, at least it's not a 20-foot cockroach." Once you open the door, you inevitably lose the audience's sense of wonder. But you HAVE to do it or the story is a cheat. Even films where they purposely leave ambiguity -- was it a ghost or was the woman just crazy? -- leave a lot of unsatisfied viewers because people expect the story to explain itself. This is why King's endings are uniformly lousy, because he knows it really doesn't matter what's behind the door, it will never be as scary as what the reader imagined. To put it another way, there's sizzle and there's steak -- the sizzle will hook the reader (see 2001), but at some point, you have to produce the steak (2004 and onward) or you have no story ... you just have a story hook."

 

 

Sign in to follow this  


25 Comments


Recommended Comments

Very well said! I miss the sense of wonder, but if we were still on Mata-Nui in 2010 I'm not sure I would still be a fan of BIONICLE.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Well put.

 

I still remember "freaking out" back in 2003 when Vakama said, "You are not the first Toa." I guess that's opening up the door being scratched at.

 

-CF

Share this comment


Link to comment

Respectfully, I'd like to throw another way of framing 2001-3 vs. the rest into consideration here, which is the reason that I have always liked the first three years the best: the balance between fantasy and science fiction.

 

2001 to 2003 maintained a perfect, equal balance between fantasy (the island of Mata Nui, the legends surrounding it, and the magic of the Kanohi and even the Toa's powers, for that matter) and sci-fi (the actual characters and some of the technology). It was unusual and brilliant, and, analyzing it in retrospect, I think that was why I loved it so much. The reason that I never liked the rest as much is that I felt that starting in 2004, the balance started shifting more and more toward an almost exclusively sci-fi story, which is where we are now. There's little sense of mysticism and wonderment left (which I think of as elements of the fantasy side). To take a prime example, Makuta went from being a dark, mysterious, spirit with powers whose limit no one really understood to a scientist with an enumerated list of powers whose job was to create Rahi. He used to be a quintessential mythological figure of evil, now he's become characterized as a sci-fi villain.

 

And, I mean, obviously we had to find things out about him, and the Brotherhood, as the story progressed, but I just feel like we found out too much when we didn't really need to. Especially in 2008, we found out so much so fast that the Makuta became really simple and everything about them was now out in the open.

 

Anyway. What all that goes to say is that, in general, I feel like the story lost the mystical, fantastical quality as it went along as a result of things being explained in too concrete terms. Like, we'd get a cold, specific, detailed answer for things that could have managed fine with a vaguer answer that still left room for mystery. It became all science and no fantasy. I recognize that the situation is much more complex than that generalization, as there has still been some mysticism, some things left unexplained, post-2004, but we're talking about general trends here and I feel like I've gone on long enough that more examples would really be more tedious than necessary.

 

(Though I should throw out that I have seen a lot of places where I felt like there was a mystical element waiting to be explored, and then the story just completely ignored that opportunity. For example, the wild regions of Voya Nui, the depths of the Pit, anywhere at all in Karda Nui – they were all introduced as the setting, yes, but then there was never any discussion about the environments of those stories after that introduction. And I feel like that was something 2001-3 did perfectly, reminding us constantly that there was a whole world to explore beyond just the action of the story.)

 

Wow. That was long. But I think you get my point. We could have avoided losing the sense of wonderment if the explanations given for the mysteries weren't always so detailed and non-mystical.

Share this comment


Link to comment

It was definitely the fantasy side (like the Kanohi and elemental powers, both of which I always felt were underused) that proved most interesting, I think, at least I think right now.

 

-CF

Share this comment


Link to comment

I kinda liked the Mystery. It left so much open to imagination. Where'd the Toa come from, what shaped their personalities in the past, who's the scary guy in the shadows and is it even a guy or just a dark force without a body, and where does the tech come from?

And that only was reinforced by MNOG...because I had an old Win 95 PC and it took about 2 hours to get from the beach to Ta-Koro and see Tahu blink through the ashes.

 

Same happened at the start of Metru Nui, mainly because of the City in the Promotion-Videos being practically empty. I mean, of course you can't have 300000 Matoran buzzing around in the background, but the way the Toa were all alone on that city gave it a mystic and unexplored feel that I liked.

 

And in 2001 that feeling simply lasted longer.

Share this comment


Link to comment
I dunno what planet you come from, but here on EWland, my mouth eats, not my brain. :P

 

~EW~

Odd, because it's my toes that eat... :P

 

Anyway, this is certainly a great blog entry. Yes, the old mystery was wonderful, but it could not last. And we have to understand that.

 

...And I find it very ironic that this blog entry is posted right after I go through my archive and find that back when I was a noob I made a post comlaining about the lack of mystique. XD

Share this comment


Link to comment

ToM - I see your point, but this was never a story about mysticism. It was science-fantasy, yes, but always planned to be about nanotech inside of a giant robot ... the explanations were never going to be mystical in nature. The whole point of 2001-2003 was that the Matoran were misremembering their origins. It is sort of ironic because a lot of the comments about people not liking what BIONICLE "turned into" are really complaints about what BIONICLE always was and was always meant to be.

 

As for the explanations being too detailed ... well, one man's meat is another man's poison. For every fan, like you, who didn't want all the detail there was another fan who did -- otherwise, my PM box would not have been filled these last seven years. So if we do it your way, we upset them, if we do it the other way, we upset you. It's a no-win situation.

Share this comment


Link to comment

It would have been cool if they had done some sort of Sixth Sense or Seven Pounds kind of explanation - you figure out how everything connects, and why it makes sense, but it's done in a way that doesn't drag on.

 

I mean, it's great that we understand the history of the technological beings, but why they had to go back to Metru Nui... or why the story had to focus on the explanation, rather than let it be in the background, is what I think the problem is among many nostalgic members. The 2001-2003 story was more than a hook... it was BIONICLE. The story was getting repetitive, yes... but the sudden shift to Metru Nui and all the tech threw lots of people off, and there hasn't been much time to recover, since we never went back to Mata Nui (except for a few brief moments). I think the evolution of the storyline could have been smoother, and not so dramatic.

 

Perhaps, after the "defeat" of Makuta by Takanuva, the Toa Nuva realize that there is definately more than just the island... and they know that the Turaga know. So there's tension between the Toa and the Turaga as the Turaga continue to conceal the secrets, but the Toa realize all the subtle clues revealed in past storyline that, piece by piece, tells them of the Turaga's story. All of this goes on while some new enemy threatens their safety, and at the final confrontation (every year has one :P ) the Turaga decide to stop denying everything and everyone flees to Metru Nui to escape this new threat. Then the rest of the storyline continues as usual, and the mysticism wasn't simply thrown aside.

 

Of course, that'd be one way of making a smoother transition. The fact is, though, the story was written the way it was written. Some of us liked it. Others didn't. But to continue with the complaints about how the old days were better is useless, because the old days are gone, and if one wants to go back to the old days, fan fiction is a great place to travel. :) But I like the new beginning that has been introduced on Bara Magna. Once again, we have a mix of technology and a primitive, uncultured land that promises much more mystery and history to explore. KUTGW, Greg.

Share this comment


Link to comment
ToM - I see your point, but this was never a story about mysticism. It was science-fantasy, yes, but always planned to be about nanotech inside of a giant robot ... the explanations were never going to be mystical in nature. The whole point of 2001-2003 was that the Matoran were misremembering their origins. It is sort of ironic because a lot of the comments about people not liking what BIONICLE "turned into" are really complaints about what BIONICLE always was and was always meant to be.

 

As for the explanations being too detailed ... well, one man's meat is another man's poison. For every fan, like you, who didn't want all the detail there was another fan who did -- otherwise, my PM box would not have been filled these last seven years. So if we do it your way, we upset them, if we do it the other way, we upset you. It's a no-win situation.

I do understand that, which I guess makes me just surprised that a story set up with such a pervasive sense of mysticism would go on to so thoroughly demolish that when rather a lot of time and effort was spent to establish it. Thinking about it, I think what it is for me is that I both understand and don't understand why Bionicle started out as a mystical, mythological story if it was only going to turn into a decidedly sci-fi one. I understand because, well, if it was always planned that way, then, well, there's nothing to argue with.

 

But I don't understand because I guess I just feel kind of ... cheated, as a reader, to have been hooked into the story by an element that was always planned to be gotten rid of, and yet seemed to be the core of the story at the beginning. I can't really quantify it; it just seems ... unfair? Something like that.

Share this comment


Link to comment

 

Well, 2010's ending allows to explore the "advanced beings in a primitive island" thing to some extent. Maybe you could that, Greg, if only to give the diehard 2001 fans something else to complain about. :P

Share this comment


Link to comment

That's a very good way of putting it. One thing, though:

 

ToM - I see your point, but this was never a story about mysticism. It was science-fantasy, yes, but always planned to be about nanotech inside of a giant robot ... the explanations were never going to be mystical in nature. The whole point of 2001-2003 was that the Matoran were misremembering their origins. It is sort of ironic because a lot of the comments about people not liking what BIONICLE "turned into" are really complaints about what BIONICLE always was and was always meant to be.

 

I agree with you wholeheartedly on the need for explanation, but I believe the sense of awe and mystery could have been maintained a lot better, even in the explanations that came toward the end. Mata Nui's awakening was as dramatic and incredible as anything from 2001, for example-- Seeing all the various story threads come together doesn't have to be unsatisfying.

 

For a real-life example, think of the Earth itself. While the earlier debates on its nature may be over (flat vs. round, heliocentric vs. geocentric), has that in any way degraded its wonder? It's still awe-inspiring to really think about... The vastness of it all, the incredible age, the thought that all human history has taken place on one "pale blue dot..." It certainly makes you feel small. If anything, knowing the answers only makes it more impressive.

 

While Stephen King's theory applies to many stories, it isn't a universal rule... Honestly, I think an awful lot of the complaints come from the lack of wonder with which the story was told, rather than from the actual contents of the story. ToM described Makuta as a "scientist ... whose job was to create Rahi," which was unfortunately how the story was told. But now, try to think of him in terms that replicate his grandeur from the early years; isn't he also "a dark and powerful being, once tasked with the creation of life, before turning against his creators for his own greed and ambition?" I just made that up on the spot, so it may be a bit cheesy, but it's a lot more impressive than "a scientist." And the key is that it's the exact same thing when you get right down to it.

 

If the story had been told with a bit more of that romantic flair, there wouldn't be any problem in my eyes. But applying terms like "scientist" to Makuta or "giant robot" to a being as incredible as Mata Nui robs them of their wonder and make them seem commonplace. Overall, I'm very satisfied with the way the story itself has turned out in the end, but the general tone hasn't been quite as extraordinary as it was in its earlier years. Not that there haven't been any stand-out moments, though, by any means-- there have been some unbelievably good parts all the same.

Share this comment


Link to comment

The paradox of technology in fantasy was a huge part of what first drew me in, and I share ToM's nostalgia for the early years (who doesn't?). But another thing that pulled me in was the novelty - the way the idea seemed so new, the world seemed so new; how new developments just kept popping out, always changing the Bionicleverse.

 

I think there's value in that as well, the way bits and pieces of the Bionicleverse fall together as we get introduced to its nature little by little. In retrospect, looking back at Bionicle as a whole, it's easy to see it as Bionicle losing its romance, its flair, its fantastical nature. But back when we were being introduced to Metru Nui, to Voya Nui, to Mahri Nui, back when things were still changing, even if the universe was slowly losing its mystery as a result, there was still a sense of novelty about that, and I think that's also part of what made Bionicle so successful.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Bionicle is interesting in that it's what's known as a schizo-tech universe. Somewhere in the Bionicle universe, some guy is riding a crab to get around, somewhere else, a guy has a two headed creature pulling a chariot, and somewhere else someone's riding a hoversled. Bionicle really has a lot going on, and the mesh of technology in the story is really what drags people in. However, just leaving it as high-tech beings in a low-tech world, as you said, would've started getting on our nerves, as we would start to realize there is more to the universe than just this one island. Bionicle always planned to go to Metru Nui, and we had no clue that was the case, but when you put all the clues together, you see that Bionicle really begins to unravel as this massive story planned from the start. It didn't BECOME a massive story, it already WAS one, and I think that is really cool. Although the mystery begins to dissolve over time, as you reveal what was already planned, some of it always remains.

Share this comment


Link to comment

I do agree, the initial thing that brought be into BIONICLE was the whole tribal techno concept, the ambience of it. It held something unique, unseen before. But I wasn't at all disappointed by the shift in 2004, I grew even more entangled with the story. It's interesting to point out that I was never one of those people who wanted an explanation for the origin of the Toa and Matoran during 2001-2003. I guess I just never thought about it, I just had fun with the story and sets.

 

But I'd like to point out something else, if you take a look at each separate year of BIONICLE, you'll see that each one holds a very unique atmosphere to it, one that's almost non-present in the rest (save for maybe the first three years) and that's precisely what made the line so interesting, to me, anyway.

 

You gotta agree, BIONICLE isn't really about fantasy, or sci-fi, or mysticism... It's all of those things and none of them. BIONICLE is just its own thing. :)

 

EDIT: Oh, now that I read Wrinkledlion X's post, I'd definitely have to agree. Despite being such an awesome line, it sometimes feels like it deserved much better.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Ah... Add a teaspoon of sewage to a barrel-full of wine...

Audiences are so discontent.

:P

 

(This was a joke, by the way. I don't mean to offend anyone.)

Share this comment


Link to comment

Well said Greg. Well said.

 

I'm not really sure where I stand in the debate. I enjoyed the Mata Nui saga, but when we moved to Metru Nui, I enjoyed that even more. ToM raised a good point about the environments--they set us up, and then we never heard about them again. Wrinkeldon X's also raised a good point about the tone/diction used, and I agree with that too.

 

However, in the end, I'm enjoyed BIONICLE and I enjoyed how it ended. I enjoyed where it went, and I enjoyed where it came from...I never really disliked something. Yes it could have been better (what can't?) but it was an amazing ride the way it happened.

 

Thank you Greg.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Well said Greg. Well said.

 

I'm not really sure where I stand in the debate. I enjoyed the Mata Nui saga, but when we moved to Metru Nui, I enjoyed that even more. ToM raised a good point about the environments--they set us up, and then we never heard about them again. Wrinkeldon X's also raised a good point about the tone/diction used, and I agree with that too.

 

However, in the end, I'm enjoyed BIONICLE and I enjoyed how it ended. I enjoyed where it went, and I enjoyed where it came from...I never really disliked something. Yes it could have been better (what can't?) but it was an amazing ride the way it happened.

 

Thank you Greg.

 

Wow. We have a lot in common. I, too, feel exactly that way. If I just didn't read every single post and just zipped down to the bottom, you would have ended up with exactly the same message.

Share this comment


Link to comment

See, I was just as hooked by 2001 as you guys were. But I found writing on Mata Nui to be very confining, because none of the answers to any of the mysteries were there. So if we had stayed there, we would still be telling the "Toa fight something, go underground, defeat it, and basically learn nothing. Rinse and repeat" story in 2009.

 

What I probably would have changed is 2005. In retrospect, I would have had 2004 be maybe half a year, dropped '05, and then gone right to the '06 story. We stayed on Metru Nui in 2005 largely because a lot of time and expense had gone into designing Metru Nui and it seemed wasteful to abandon it after just one year. But the '04 story was designed to leave it after one year, which is why '05 was so confusing in terms of continuity.

 

Could the transition from 2003 to 2004 been handled differently/better? Sure, if this were JUST a story. But I had Metru Nui sets coming out in January that I had to promote. I didn't have time to do, "Ongoing tension between the Toa Nuva and Turaga and the truth comes out in dribs and drabs" -- I had to promote the new sets, and the new sets were from the flashback story, so it had to start abruptly in January, 2004.

 

A LOT of the criticisms I see on here of the story are dead on the money -- but they miss the point that the story had to promote toy sales. So the option to do a lot of the things you guys suggest simply did not exist. It wasn't a case of the story team saying, "Should we approach it this way or that way? How can we build up to this slowly?" We had toys to sell in January and July, and story had to mold itself to fit that. If you are looking at it as story and nothing else, it is easy to find fault. But it was never story by itself, guys, it was part of the overall marketing plan. So if you want to rip current story for some of these things, go right ahead, because now it is a story on its own -- but it never was before, and so some criticisms of it are just off-base without taking the context of the work into account.

Share this comment


Link to comment

So you basically, had to bond the story with the sets. And now Lego doesn't give money for a dead line. (30 Names for the next year, New World cancellation.) Which is logical. Toy line Stories will always have problems. Because the goal is to sell the sets, not to produce and flesh out well the story. That's what the Books do.

 

 

As for the explanations being too detailed ... well, one man's meat is another man's poison. For every fan, like you, who didn't want all the detail there was another fan who did -- otherwise, my PM box would not have been filled these last seven years. So if we do it your way, we upset them, if we do it the other way, we upset you. It's a no-win situation.

 

That's a good example of me who I personally like things to be explained.

 

 

Also, after the mystery is gone, you could also chose to explain everything has left slowly so the fan stays focused until all of the story is fleshed out. That is what I would do. And mostly do to my stories.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Your completely right. I liked 01-03 because of the general randomness in the plot. Element-wielding robots that wear magical masks seeking to defeat a spirit of darkness in order save a tropical island. If you try to analyze it, it makes no sense, but if you simply follow the plot, it does.

 

For me, 04 and onwards is a love-hate relationship. I for one never really cared about why exactly the Matoran were on the island, but I did want to know about the secrets of the Turaga (they knew way too much). Also, by 03, I was really getting tired of one mystery after another was beginning to show up.

Share this comment


Link to comment

I think another reason people are so nostalgic about '01-'03 is those were the years that they first joined into the Bionicle fanbase. Now, while I've been a fan since the very beginning, I have still enjoyed the newer story arcs ('06 being a shining jewel).

 

However, there is one point that I have to disagree with here: How are King's endings lousy? I've been reading his work since, well, practically my whole life, so maybe I'm a little based here, but I fail to see how his endings weren't good.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...