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Takametru007

"Why Hero Factory is better than Bionicle"

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Doesn't that topic title just make your blood boil?

 

The real question is: why? I honestly never got the hate that Hero Factory got. Aside from "not being Bionicle" it had a lot going for it - and, unlike Bionicle G2, it lasted 2 years longer than the traditional 3 years for a LEGO line, so obviously it was doing something right.

 

It had good sets, which got better as the theme went on (Breakout had my favorite sets of the theme), and had a few intriguing villains - Core Hunter and Witch Doctor come to mind. True, the target audience was apparently younger than Bionicle's, and had a much less serious atmosphere and a much looser canon, disconnected form year to year. But it could be argued that this was a strength compared to Bionicle G1, which had a very complicated canon that was inseparable from the long prior story.

 

For what it's worth, I didn't hate Hero Factory - in fact, I actually like the few HF sets I have better than the G2 Bionicles I have ("Blasphemy!"). And they weren't $20 each either.

 

So, besides "not being Bionicle" and being a kids toy marketed to kids, what exactly did Hero Factory do wrong to warrant such hate?

Edited by Takametru007
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Ah, the eternal debate of Bionicle vs. Hero Factory.

 

I personally don't think Bionicle G2 was any better than Hero Factory. G1, however, was vastly better. It's not that I really hate Hero Factory, it's just that I can't get behind the execution of its story, much like with Bionicle G2.

 

The flaw you mentioned about the disconnected story each year is perhaps one of the most glaring points to me, and one that Bionicle G2 also suffered from. I have a hard time appreciating a story that is full of inconsistencies and doesn't take itself seriously enough to at least maintain consistent characterization and important plot points. The same happened with Journey to One, which changed some personalities from last year and made the characters generally bland and uninteresting. This was Hero Factory's flaw too, and I didn't feel anything for the characters or their motivations. The premise of Hero Factory's story was also far less interesting than that of Bionicle, basically being about a factory that builds action figures. That was it. Locations were constantly changing, meaning that it was near impossible to properly establish a proper atmosphere in any of them. Constantly changing characters also meant lack of connection to any of them. Also, the lore was minimal - this was the total opposite in Bionicle G1, which had a rich lore and plenty of worldbuilding.

 

As for the sets, I cannot really say much about that since I don't own any Hero Factory sets. They look ok, but seem to have a lot of specialized and over-designed pieces. The Bionicle aesthetic appeals much more to me, though that's merely my opinion, and nothing else.

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So, besides "not being Bionicle" and being a kids toy marketed to kids, what exactly did Hero Factory do wrong to warrant such hate?

 

For some people, "not being Bionicle" or "it replaced Bionicle" was all that made it bad to them. Really dumb reasons to hate something, really.

 

I do sometimes wonder if any of them still think that though.


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Hero Factory definitely had its fair share of weaknesses, but then, so did Bionicle. While I don't want to ignore Hero Factory's faults, I do think that the amount of hate directed at Hero Factory right out of the gate was unfortunate, and I agree that most of that was due to it taking Bionicle's place and yet not being an exact copy of Bionicle.

 

It's hard to imagine there being nearly so much hate directed at it if the two themes had coexisted and neither was perceived as a threat or obstacle to the other. Sure, Hero Factory had a considerably different tone and storytelling strategy than Bionicle, but the same could be said of other themes like Throwbots/Slizer, Roboriders, Knights' Kingdom II, and Exo-Force which (from what I've seen) were never the target of nearly as much vitriol from Bionicle fans.

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I will admit to disliking Hero Factory initially, but that was mainly because it was taking the place of Bionicle, and it made no sense to me since they were so visually similar. I have since come to appreciate the sets and concept, though from what little I've actually viewed or read I must say it's execution is a tad lacking. Bionicle G2 is about the same in my opinion, and I half wonder if Hero Factory wasn't part of the reason it didn't do so well: either people got tired of the somewhat disjointed storyline after seven years of it, or Hero Factory fans felt the same about it as Bionicle G1 fans did about Hero Factory initially.


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I don't hate Hero Factory, but I don't really like it that much either.  Mostly because of CCBS.  To me, the skeleton-plated-with-shells concept always looks... I don't know, tacky.  Hollow.  Plastered-on.  And I was a little annoyed how we had all the wonderfully detailed pieces from Bionicle, and then Hero Factory brought these simple polygonal shells as the new way of building.  The third and final nail in the coffin was the fact that the shells didn't use any Technic pin holes, they were all minifigure-sized.  You couldn't build off of them like the older Bionicle parts, you had to use add-ons to the shells, which made it look even more tacky than it was to begin with.

 

So because I didn't like CCBS, I didn't get many of the sets, and as such I never got into Hero Factory.  But I don't hate it, I'm just frustrated at it.


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I think it's fair to say that a significant amount of people who tried to get into Hero Factory were somewhat older Lego "veterans", who perhaps had been with the Bionicle story for several years. And compare Bionicle to Hero Factory: Bionicle had a complex and engaging storyline and relatively deep characters (for being aimed at kids, anyway). Hero Factory...well, didn't. The older audience that had came from Bionicle might've been expecting some of those things in a new line that had replaced the story that they had grown to love for the past 10 years.

 

So, there are plenty of reasons not to like Hero Factory. But one has to keep in mind that, at the end of the day, Lego is just a company with the aim to sell toys to kids. Bionicle was obviously flopping at the end, due to its overly convoluted story and sets that weren't selling as well, and it was greedy to expect Lego to continue with something that was clearly damaging to themselves. It's unfortunate that Lego and Hero Factory got so much unwarranted salt.

 

E: Wow, this is my first non-G&T post in over 2 months

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To me Hero Factory never really lived up to what it started as.  The first wave set it up as a fun, campy, tongue-in-cheek story about robotic superheroes.  The website had the user-generated news ticker, Hero Factory FM, notes about other teams' missions, and funny little lines in the character bios that made it clear that they were playing the clichés in a self-aware way.  It was a different flavor of theme than BIONICLE was, and I wish it had continued that way, rather than sliding back into a more generic heroes vs. villains story.

 

The sets were pretty great though, glad the CCBS got introduced and explored through the various waves.

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I don't hate Hero Factory, I just don't like it. The story didn't tick with me, and the sets were pretty weak save for a few gems. That said, the villains in its first year were pretty fantastic, and invasion from below might be the closest thing we get to my dream of a CCBS/System hybrid Exo-Force G2. However, Hero Factory happened back when CCBS was still relatively new and Lego didn't know how to unlock its true potential, like with Bionicle G2 and the Star Wars figures.
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I think the core of the divide is that, despite both being constraction lines, they sought to do very different things. BIONICLE liked to take itself seriously, almost to the point of conflicting with its original purpose as a toy line. It seems this toy vs. story conflict was the main reason G1 had to end, it got too complex for new, younger fans to jump in, and more and more older fans were still following the story but not buying the toys. It was an unsustainable business model.

 

Some companies, like Pixar, have learned to make products that appeal to both little kids and their adult fans. Finding Dory, for example, delivers to both kids who have never seen the original, and for fans expecting a follow-up to a nostalgic film. LEGO, until recently with The LEGO Movie, had trouble adjusting similarly. I feel like, at some point circa 2006, LEGO realized a lot of the people buying BIONICLE sets were the same people buying them in 2001, and panicked trying to adjust to that (leading to trainwrecks like the Piraka Rap). Eventually, LEGO's split customer base drove the line into unprofitability.

 

With Hero Factory, LEGO wanted to stop trying to appeal to its older fans and make something campier, more lighthearted, and more importantly, easier to follow. They went too far in the opposite direction, though. While even in the earlier years, like 2001-2003, the BIONICLE story always built on what had gone before, each year of Hero Factory was virtually unrelated to anything else. 2011 had two completely standalone arcs, Ordeal of Fire and Savage Planet. Even as children, we appreciated BIONICLE always being one story. What LEGO did not realize in making Hero Factory was that a story that is easy to jump into is just as easy to drop.

 

I don't follow Ninjago, but it seems that LEGO has learned how to properly balance these two audiences. The LEGO Movie is a perfect example of appealing to both audiences fully and equally.

 

(Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but is Hero Factory LEGO's third longest-running IP, after BIONICLE and Ninjago?)


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(Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but is Hero Factory LEGO's third longest-running IP, after BIONICLE and Ninjago?)

City is in its thirteenth year, and while it's not nearly as story-driven as these other examples, I'd still consider it an IP on account of its webisodes, video game, and picture books. Fabuland, a preschool theme from the 80s with its own picture books and animated series on videocassette, ran continuously from 1979–1989, rivaling Bionicle in its longevity. Friends is slightly ahead of Hero Factory (it's in its sixth year) and shows no signs of stopping.

 

Hero Factory's four-and-a-half year run is still nothing to sneeze at, though. And I wouldn't try to ascribe Hero Factory's shorter lifespan than Bionicle to any sort of fatal flaw.

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(Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but is Hero Factory LEGO's third longest-running IP, after BIONICLE and Ninjago?)

City is in its thirteenth year, and while it's not nearly as story-driven as these other examples, I'd still consider it an IP on account of its webisodes, video game, and picture books. Fabuland, a preschool theme from the 80s with its own picture books and animated series on videocassette, ran continuously from 1979–1989, rivaling Bionicle in its longevity. Friends is slightly ahead of Hero Factory (it's in its sixth year) and shows no signs of stopping.

 

Hero Factory's four-and-a-half year run is still nothing to sneeze at, though. And I wouldn't try to ascribe Hero Factory's shorter lifespan than Bionicle to any sort of fatal flaw.

Oh, thank you. Why do you think HF didn't last as long? I'd be inclined to say poor marketing and story execution squandered its potential.

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(Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but is Hero Factory LEGO's third longest-running IP, after BIONICLE and Ninjago?)

City is in its thirteenth year, and while it's not nearly as story-driven as these other examples, I'd still consider it an IP on account of its webisodes, video game, and picture books. Fabuland, a preschool theme from the 80s with its own picture books and animated series on videocassette, ran continuously from 1979–1989, rivaling Bionicle in its longevity. Friends is slightly ahead of Hero Factory (it's in its sixth year) and shows no signs of stopping.

 

Hero Factory's four-and-a-half year run is still nothing to sneeze at, though. And I wouldn't try to ascribe Hero Factory's shorter lifespan than Bionicle to any sort of fatal flaw.

 

Oh, thank you. Why do you think HF didn't last as long? I'd be inclined to say poor marketing and story execution squandered its potential.

 

I think it's hard to really know for sure how much of that potential could have been realized in the first place. Hero Factory was a highly experimental theme, particularly towards the beginning. A lot of the initiatives tied to it were user engagement strategies that LEGO had never tried before, several of which didn't end up panning out like they intended. In the theme's first year, it had the call center and the Hero Factory FM podcast, but since both of these things were discontinued after one year it's likely that they weren't generating the kind of engagement (calls/downloads) that LEGO had hoped for.

 

In its second year, the Hero Recon Team service was introduced as a spin-off of the then-ongoing Design byME service. This was the sort of thing that sounds like a dream come true on paper — a service to design and order your own buildable action figures! Just imagine how psyched Bionicle fans would have been if such a service had existed during Bionicle G1. And based on some concept art we've seen as well as the "We Build Heroes" tagline, the idea of selling custom-designed sets might very well have been a major tent-pole for the theme's overall strategy. But unfortunately neither Hero Recon Team nor Design byME as a whole ended up viable in the long term. Packing sets individually on-demand just wasn't cost effective, and confusing elements of the co-creation process discouraged users of the design platform from taking the next step and making actual purchases.

 

LEGO also had a temporary in-store promotion along with Hero Recon Team's launch, putting constraction parts on Pick-A-Brick walls for individual purchase. But generally, average Pick-A-Brick buyers did not understand what to do with the parts, so didn't buy them. As such that experiment was a bust. The same eventually happened for constraction parts on the online Pick-A-Brick service. Again, this is something that to constraction fans seemed like a great opportunity. But any promise it might have had was lost on the wider LEGO community, which generally favors parts with more obvious functions like windows, flowers, and basic bricks. Just look at the general tameness of the parts AFOL communities selected as "fan favorites" in a poll towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year. It's generally extremely basic stuff, with maybe a handful of plants. And many buyers outside of online LEGO fan communities tend to be just as conservative in their preferences if not more so.

 

These experimental aspects of the theme's original market strategy weren't things that would have necessarily been more successful if they were handled better. The obstacles that did them in were more logistical than anything else, the sorts of obstacles that the best story or TV series in the world couldn't be expected to overcome (after all, it's not like LEGO has made any attempt to re-apply these strategies to their more successful themes like Friends or Ninjago). That said, I can't fault LEGO for using Hero Factory as a testing ground for these strategic initiatives. A brand that doesn't innovate tends to stagnate, and you can't innovate without taking these kinds of measured risks.

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Hero factory was a simple story that kids could get into. They were robots and that was just that. It leaves plenty of room for creativity and mixing universes with normal Lego. The Lego company tried to replicate that in G2 and it clearly didn't work. The new sets are intricate, sure, but still not very accessible. The hero characters towered over the few enemies that there were. The story was too simple for its own good, basically just like a hero factory level story with the bionicle name slapped on. When I was a child the intricasies of bionicle enticed me to play and follow the story. The atmosphere was perfect, they provided you an entire online story adventure that gave you mythical robot creatures and tribes in a natural island setting, and still provided mysteries of the story which were kept hidden away for the next few years to lead up in a mind blowing twist which left you feeling multiple feels. Bionicle could never be replicated, not in the way They tried with G2

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There were two things I hated about Hero Factory: the moral message, and unifying hero symbol. Let me explain...

 

Hero Factory's moral message to kids is that heroes are literally made in a factory, and the journeys of the heroes in the story were not executed well enough to act as a criticism of that idea. Instead, the story served as propaganda, with the heroes being a pure policing force and there not being a redeemable strand in the villains' bodies. And tying ever villain's backstory back to Ivan Storm or whatever doesn't count as deep or interesting. The story definitely wasn't even clever or worthwhile enough to even be malicious or funny-bad though, so ultimately it wasn't an atrocity against man, just surface level enough to where it could possibly be offensive to someone if that someone tried hard enough.

 

The unifying hero symbol sucked because it was engraved into every hero's chest piece so that the "H" would still be seen even if you took out the hero core. It's not bad to have a unifying symbol for your heroes if that's what you're going for, but constraction is all about a representation of the individual and when I was younger I found it frustratingly hard to customize heroes to be something other than a part of Hero Factory without making them look horribly crude. The first wave had seriously specialized parts and all the ones following used the new CCBS which attached parts in ways that (at the time) made it difficult to mix with older Bionicle parts.

 

Hero Factory was surely nothing to cry about, but even though Bionicle was first and foremost a kids toy line, it had a story that at least at moments went above its medium and could appeal to anyone who liked a decent story. Hero Factory was just a nothing theme that always was a kids toy line and rarely tried to at least pretend it could be edgy. There was a moment or two in the short lived comic run that proved to me there were people (likely who worked on Bionicle) who tried to make it interesting but I think HF signed a moment in LEGO's story telling history where something like Bionicle could not be possible again, not because Bionicle was "beautiful accident," but because LEGO didn't want it. LEGO likes to keep things absurdly, and almost grossly simple, and that's fine, whatever. If it works for them, so be it. I'm not going to pretend that Bionicle was some work of literary genius, but it gave me quite a few moments in my childhood, and in a world that's always speeding up, attention spans being forced down by absurd competition, something that felt genuine and didn't act solely as a marketing ploy, well, it felt nice. Hero Factory just wasn't that, and it wasn't enough for it to be just passable.

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Hero Factory was surely nothing to cry about, but even though Bionicle was first and foremost a kids toy line, it had a story that at least at moments went above its medium and could appeal to anyone who liked a decent story. Hero Factory was just a nothing theme that always was a kids toy line and rarely tried to at least pretend it could be edgy. There was a moment or two in the short lived comic run that proved to me there were people (likely who worked on Bionicle) who tried to make it interesting but I think HF signed a moment in LEGO's story telling history where something like Bionicle could not be possible again, not because Bionicle was "beautiful accident," but because LEGO didn't want it. LEGO likes to keep things absurdly, and almost grossly simple, and that's fine, whatever. If it works for them, so be it. I'm not going to pretend that Bionicle was some work of literary genius, but it gave me quite a few moments in my childhood, and in a world that's always speeding up, attention spans being forced down by absurd competition, something that felt genuine and didn't act solely as a marketing ploy, well, it felt nice. Hero Factory just wasn't that, and it wasn't enough for it to be just passable.

 

I can't really agree with the notion that LEGO will never again have a theme like Bionicle, considering that shortly after Hero Factory began we also got Ninjago. That's about as elaborate as Bionicle, albeit a lot more linear with its consistent focus on the same team of characters and no multi-year flashback arcs. There's also The LEGO Movie, which rivals Bionicle G1 in depth if not length, and was far more universal in its appeal than Bionicle G1 could ever hope to be. And it's not like super-elaborate stories were the norm before or during Bionicle G1, either. Bionicle G1's immediate predecessor, Roboriders, had a paper-thin story that makes Hero Factory look like an epic saga by comparison. Do you really think that the LEGO Group of those days was somehow MORE able and willing to create something huge and sophisticated than the LEGO Group of the 2010s and beyond?

 

Overall, I feel like the general trend among LEGO themes has been towards more elaborate stories, not less. Bionicle G1 was definitely an outlier for its time, but not to the extent that no subsequent themes could ever begin to approach it. Frankly, I think it's only a matter of time before we have LEGO themes that not only meet but surpass the benchmark Bionicle G1 set, if they haven't already.

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Hero Factory was surely nothing to cry about, but even though Bionicle was first and foremost a kids toy line, it had a story that at least at moments went above its medium and could appeal to anyone who liked a decent story. Hero Factory was just a nothing theme that always was a kids toy line and rarely tried to at least pretend it could be edgy. There was a moment or two in the short lived comic run that proved to me there were people (likely who worked on Bionicle) who tried to make it interesting but I think HF signed a moment in LEGO's story telling history where something like Bionicle could not be possible again, not because Bionicle was "beautiful accident," but because LEGO didn't want it. LEGO likes to keep things absurdly, and almost grossly simple, and that's fine, whatever. If it works for them, so be it. I'm not going to pretend that Bionicle was some work of literary genius, but it gave me quite a few moments in my childhood, and in a world that's always speeding up, attention spans being forced down by absurd competition, something that felt genuine and didn't act solely as a marketing ploy, well, it felt nice. Hero Factory just wasn't that, and it wasn't enough for it to be just passable.

 

I can't really agree with the notion that LEGO will never again have a theme like Bionicle, considering that shortly after Hero Factory began we also got Ninjago. That's about as elaborate as Bionicle, albeit a lot more linear with its consistent focus on the same team of characters and no multi-year flashback arcs. There's also The LEGO Movie, which rivals Bionicle G1 in depth if not length, and was far more universal in its appeal than Bionicle G1 could ever hope to be. And it's not like super-elaborate stories were the norm before or during Bionicle G1, either. Bionicle G1's immediate predecessor, Roboriders, had a paper-thin story that makes Hero Factory look like an epic saga by comparison. Do you really think that the LEGO Group of those days was somehow MORE able and willing to create something huge and sophisticated than the LEGO Group of the 2010s and beyond?

 

Overall, I feel like the general trend among LEGO themes has been towards more elaborate stories, not less. Bionicle G1 was definitely an outlier for its time, but not to the extent that no subsequent themes could ever begin to approach it. Frankly, I think it's only a matter of time before we have LEGO themes that not only meet but surpass the benchmark Bionicle G1 set, if they haven't already.

 

 

Maybe, Ninjago surely is LEGO's only theme that's managed to have a more or less consistently engaging story. I haven't kept up with the show after I think season 5? So I can't judge and say if it's really taking risks anymore story-wise.

 

The LEGO Movie though isn't a story theme made directly by LEGO. It had a script penned by two brilliant comedic writers with an amazing track record and standing in Hollywood. The theme revolved around a movie which I'm sure LEGO had tons of creative involvement in, but ultimately feels like it was left in the hands of the actual storytellers.

 

So, I don't really agree or disagree with you. Ninjago may or may not be an outlier, but what I will say is that in some ways maybe LEGO was more willing to throw anything at the wall to see what stuck. Nowadays, even when LEGO puts something out of real quality there seems to be a level of cheese-factor, and I guess the problem isn't them, but me. I've had enough time to ruminate and realize my expectations for LEGO story themes don't match up with what LEGO is looking for. Even though Ninjago is a fine show, I found it hard to watch, and I think that's my own desire for more of mature or developed stories. Maybe LEGO will put something out on the scale of Bionicle, but if it does I'm not sure I'd take it the same way G1 touched me. If any theme was gonna do it, it was G2, and that theme clearly didn't stick for quite a number of reasons.

 

I guess the moral of the story is that we shouldn't look to LEGO for stories, just toys, since that's what they're focused on. The Bionicle fandom has always been anomalous to the rest of the LEGO community, which seems to be focused much more on sets and MOC's. Soo.... :shrugs:

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There's also The LEGO Movie, which rivals Bionicle G1 in depth if not length

 

In what way did The LEGO Movie have depth?

 

 

Bionicle [...] gave me quite a few moments in my childhood, and in a world that's always speeding up, attention spans being forced down by absurd competition, something that felt genuine and didn't act solely as a marketing ploy, well, it felt nice

 

I second this. The G1 story was more than just marketing the toys - instead, it went hand-in-hand with the sets. It was even written in the style guide how the sets, story and marketing were all on an equal level, and connected. The creators of G1 also made clear on numerous occasions that they were deliberately creating a rich story and lore, and that sales would follow from that naturally.

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There's also The LEGO Movie, which rivals Bionicle G1 in depth if not length

 

In what way did The LEGO Movie have depth?

 

If you can't figure it out on your own then I have a feeling nothing I say will convince you, but it was a story with many different layers of meaning. It is packed with themes about teamwork, business, government, society, family, storytelling, childhood, creativity, self-confidence, and more. Just as Bionicle had the Matoran Universe which was at once both a fully populated world and an analogue for a single living organism, The LEGO Movie's world was both a fully realized society and an analogue to Finn's strained relationship with his father and childlike understanding of the world around him.

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There's also The LEGO Movie, which rivals Bionicle G1 in depth if not length

 

In what way did The LEGO Movie have depth?

 

If you can't figure it out on your own then I have a feeling nothing I say will convince you, but it was a story with many different layers of meaning. It is packed with themes about teamwork, business, government, society, family, storytelling, childhood, creativity, self-confidence, and more. Just as Bionicle had the Matoran Universe which was at once both a fully populated world and an analogue for a single living organism, The LEGO Movie's world was both a fully realized society and an analogue to Finn's strained relationship with his father and childlike understanding of the world around him.

 

 

I guess you have a point. It's just that the execution of those layers you mentioned felt half-hearted to me in the movie, and didn't really make the impact I would've expected. Granted, the meaning may have been there, regardless of how they were executed.

 

Though I'll admit that my not-so-positive opinion on the movie overall may influence my thinking on this. :notsure:

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