Like the first two LEGO films, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” was filled with clever use of unbendable bricks, human-world objects and hysterical humor. Some of the jokes were more original than others, but everything is funny when a quite real looking LEGO mini-figure says it.
The movie also, despite the majority of the film being plain fun, is able to pull off well-done moments of seriousness and appeal to emotions through incredible visual effects, touching father-son moments, and moving music. The LEGO film makes excellent use of the erhu, a Chinese two-stringed bowed musical instrument.
However, it lacked many of the qualities which made “The LEGO Movie” (2014) so enjoyable.
Back when “The LEGO Movie” was released, it was exciting to see the classic toy so many people grew up with on screen. It was the first time a film like it had been made, and it was filled with many classic LEGO sets. Since Will Arnett’s Batman character was so prominent in the film and well-liked by audiences, “The LEGO Batman Movie” at least had that going for it.
“The LEGO Ninjago Movie” did not have these factors, and thus had the worst opening weekend of all the films put out by the toy company, grossing only $21.2 million domestically and $31.7 million worldwide.
Since LEGO Ninjago began in 2011, it has always been pointed at younger kids. It’s not like the older themes “Creator” or “City” which someone above the age of 18 would feel attached to. The stereotypical Asian-style world didn’t appeal to many long time LEGO fans when the sets came out, or when the TV show on Cartoon Network came out the same year. The whole theme is for kids, and the nostalgic feeling of “I grew up with LEGO’s as a kid” is not enough to get someone to go see the new film.
So, is the movie worth seeing despite the theme it is based on?
Beware, some spoilers ahead!
The first scene takes place in the human world. While playing soccer with his friends in an alleyway, a boy notices an antique shop and walks inside. Looking around, he notices the place is filled with antiques of an Asian style. *Insert erhu magic here.*
The shopkeeper, played by Jackie Chan (of course), then begins to tell the kid “the legend behind the legend of Ninjago,” pulling out a Lloyd Garmadon (the green ninja) minifigure and a wooden minifigure of Master Wu. The boy takes notice of a cat sitting in the corner before the story begins.
We meet the Ninjas in their high school, and some overused themes begin to come into play, despite the fact that they are done well. The Ninjas are losers, and their classmates do not know they are the Ninjas who always save Ninjago city when the evil Lord Garmadon attacks. They are so unliked because the son of the evil Lord, Lloyd, is a member of their posse.
While the relationship between Lloyd and Garmadon was very well-done and their characters well-constructed, the movie for the most part lacked character build. It can be difficult to pack in all the details of characters built in a seven season TV show. At most, we know a sentence about all the other ninjas, which is spoon fed to the audience through a mock Good Morning America newscast featuring a hilarious LEGO minifigure of Michael Strahan.
One place where I’ll give grace to lack of character build is Master Wu, since the point of his character is that he is a ninja master, and that’s it. Wu disappears for a while, and the ninjas think he is dead. Once he returns, he states, “I’m a ninja master, if I died it would be to teach you a lesson.”
When Garmadon attacks the city, again, Lloyd screws up by misusing the Ultimate weapon, a laser pointer which attracts Meowthra, the cat from the shop. The cat destroys the ninja’s fighting mech suits, and they blame it all on Lloyd, and now he must regain their trust. Again, kind of an overused theme.
Later in the film, Garmadon has exiled most of his high generals, who form an alliance against him. So, Garmadon ends up working with the ninjas to beat his generals and defeat Meowthra. Along the way, Garmadon and Lloyd have many touching, yet humorous father-son moments, including Lloyd learning from his father how to throw a ball while he is fighting enemies.
Once the main conflict has been resolved at the end of film, Lloyd and his mom, Koko, are exchanging a long hug, and Garmadon attempts to join in, but is pushed away by Koko. It is explained in a grim, yet humorous way earlier in the film that Koko took Lloyd away from Garmadon since she didn’t want their son to be an evil overlord. At the end, she still feels contempt for her son’s father.
I understand movies where the parents don’t necessarily get back together just because they have decided to make an effort to be there for their kids, an example being “Mrs. Doubtfire.” However, I don’t think this should’ve been included in the film for the sole reason that it is a LEGO movie, which so far have been really light-hearted, and have had happy endings for every conflict.
Overall, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” was fun, hilarious, and a good movie to relax and sit through; however, it didn’t have the strength of “The LEGO Movie” through its lack of appeal to older audiences and originality.
So, if you have little kids, it’d be a perfect film for the family. If not, wait for Redbox.