There are definitely extremes on both sides of the argument. For the fun of it though: I’d like you to try this argument on for size. There’s a lot of subjectivity when it comes to the enjoyment of a franchise, as is true with G2 Bionicle. Sure, some people hate the sets, other people love them. I’m somewhere inbetween, personally. Some people think the story was simplistic and childish, and not very well thought out. I lean more towards the negative side, and honestly Ryder Windham’s tireless work trying to perform CPR on the series through the books and graphic novels are most of the reason why I’m not decided.
But let’s put all that aside, let’s look at a foundational element of this franchise’s premise.
The Golden Years of Bionicle G1 (01-03, in case you were wondering), are renowned among fans for their atmosphere and air of mystery. This is the era G2 was trying to emulate, and you’ll see why this is important once I finally reach the point. Some older fans go so far as to claiming that later years destroyed what had been perfectly good in the first place. I’m… undecided on this. I can definitely see where the argument is coming from, but I tend to counter with this: mystery is really a lot of questions. Bionicle asked a lot of them, it was a great appeal of the series, but as far as we can tell from every person who worked on it, from the very beginning those questions were always posed with the intention of answering them someday (answers that were actually planned ahead of time, unlike some people… ). Does this detract from the overall story? Perhaps. But that’s a whole other argument.
One of these fundamental questions is there from the moment you step into this world, even if you aren’t aware of it, or are just so familiar with Bionicle at this point that you don’t even think about it. The question being: why are they robots? (yes, I’m aware that they’re biomechanical, which actually adds further to the theme, but the point is they’re entirely synthetic and man-made - somebody clearly built them, they didn’t just pop into existence one day for no reason)
No, seriously, this is supposed to be a tropical island, and they’re living a tribal lifestyle, so, why are they robots? This question underpins the entire franchise and its whole premise: the natural and the artificial, the biological and the mechanical. The Toa, despite being robots, control the natural elements, shaping the world around them. Mata Nui, despite being a robot, is stricken with a sickness similar to that of a living creature.
This is intentional, this contrast was deliberate. It was designed from the very beginning to make you question everything you were being told. How did these robotic beings arrive here? Where did the scattered remnants of technology come from? Are these legends and tales that they believe the whole truth? As the hard work of Maku/the Shadow Emperor shows (as found here), there were likely several more plans to add layers of misdirection and intrigue into the story such as a possible creation myth involving the Toa.
Now, for a number of reasons the religious elements were toned down, but even what we did get, the legend of Mata Nui, was enough to serve the purpose of the story well enough as a half-true tale that the truly knowledgeable characters - the Turaga, could tell their followers for whatever reasons they had. It’s obviously easy to take this for granted: it’s Bionicle, of course they’re robots, but they were robots for a reason, a deliberate and specific reason that served the story that everyone in that wonderful team wanted to tell. It was a red flag cluing us in to what was really going on, that we weren’t being told the whole truth. That their lord and saviour Mata Nui was in fact not a formless spirit, but a giant robot that was made to fix a broken planet and also gather knowledge or something.
All this to say: what was the point of it in G2 then? What functional reason did having the Okotans, Toa, wildlife, Skull Raiders, Skull Spiders, etc. be robots (or at least very robot-like), serve? Well… it’s… Bionicle, they have to be robots! They just are! Stop questioning it! Don’t get me wrong, this is an easy trap to fall into. Pretty much every Bionicle project that reinvents the concept ends up doing it. Even the semi-living shamelessly plugged Bionicle Eternal project that I’m a part of is guilty of this oversight. But it’s there.
And I think it shows a lot about how G1 and G2 approached building their world. G1 was carefully plotted and planned (if rewritten half a dozen times in its subsequent 10 year run ) while G2 looked mostly at the surface level: trying to recapture that same magic without considering the deeper layers that made it so magical in the first place.
As a reminder, I’m not saying this to make you, or anyone, hate G2. All I’m doing is giving a point that has occurred to me on why it’s always felt so… off, to me personally. If you enjoy it, all the power to you - I just can’t. So who’s the real loser in this scenario anyway?