The LEGO Marvel theme offers a path for BIONICLE’s return

Recent developments in the LEGO Marvel theme suggest a BIONICLE revival is still on the cards.

Despite not being LEGO in the conventional sense, BIONICLE has been a popular theme amongst LEGO fans of the new millennium. Originally an offshoot of the LEGO Technic theme, BIONICLE offered a range of buildable action figures using a variety of bespoke elements. Hallmarks of the theme included a biomechanical design aesthetic, various collectible elements (like masks and discs) and a complex supplementary storyline.

The theme (which originally ran from 2001 to 2010) went on to inspire similar product lines such as Hero Factory and Ben 10: Alien Force. Other themes like Legend of Chima, Star Wars and DC Comics Super Heroes have also offered their own ‘Constraction’ figures for a brief period. BIONICLE itself even enjoyed a brief revival in 2015, though it ended just a year later.

Since then, BIONICLE-esque figures have disappeared from LEGO’s product lineup. But some upcoming LEGO Marvel sets suggest a possible avenue for the theme to make a comeback.

LEGO.com has recently unveiled three new brick-built action figures in the LEGO Marvel line. These recreate Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, Miles Morales’ Spider-Man and Venom at a larger scale than normal. Each one uses standard LEGO elements and boasts a high degree of articulation, making them impressive standalone LEGO models.

The form factor (including ball-and-socket joints, hinged limbs and a mask-like visage) is, in some respects, a re-imagining of the BIONICLE body design – and the appearance of multiple characters is par for the course when it comes to BIONICLE. Most characters in the BIONICLE theme were humanoid in appearance, with the basic design seeing more and more refinement as the theme progressed. As such, a question presents itself: could this form factor be used in a BIONICLE revival?

It’s certainly true that the LEGO Group is aware of BIONICLE fandom, and has incorporated it into a variety of conventional LEGO sets. A map of Mata Nui (a key BIONICLE location) can be found in 70657 NINJAGO City Docks, while 70436 Phantom Fire Truck 3000 features a Kanohi mask on one side. It’s also featured a tiny, brick-built Tahu in 11021 90 Years of Play, and offered the theme as a potential source of inspiration for a standalone 90th anniversary LEGO set.

The company also responds positively to BIONICLE mentions on social media. A recent response to a tweet suggests a Mata Nui Vocational Technical Institute is opening soon, though the LEGO Group’s tweet is obviously in jest.

So could this translate into a BIONICLE theme? Possibly, but it could simply be a savvy bit of marketing for existing LEGO products. The LEGO Group isn’t shy about referencing its past in LEGO sets for the nostalgia dollar; 10273 Haunted House is ample evidence of that.

However, the vast majority of these references don’t translate into direct product revivals. We haven’t gotten a large-scale recreation of web browser game hero Junkbot, for example. The closest we’ve gotten to this kind of thing is arguably 60298 Rocket Stunt Bike, which takes some cues from the video game series LEGO Racers.

While BIONICLE remains popular amongst older LEGO fans, it’s likely younger ones have no meaningful knowledge of it – something a recent contest may have borne out. And since they would be the primary audience for any BIONICLE revival, it’s possible the LEGO Group isn’t willing to reboot it a second time. Particularly since the second version ran into many of the issues (like needless product repetition) that the original did.

As such, all the pieces may be in place for BIONICLE to grace store shelves again. But for now, it’s up to the LEGO Group to put them together. It seems unlikely that they will, but the constant drumbeat of BIONICLE references (and this new product line) means we’re reluctant to rule it out.

If you’d rather enjoy the new generation of LEGO action figures, 76225 Miles Morales Figure, 76226 Spider-Man Figure and 76230 Venom Figure are available at LEGO.com from September 1.

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