Hey, so Lego, they were fun toys, right? I remember I had all the original Bionicles and the two versions of the Harry Potter Castle as well as Hagrid’s Hut. I used to spend days deconstructing these sets and putting them back together, but it was also fun building other things with them like spaceships and weird buildings. When I got into film and animation I used to make little movies, bad ones, with them. Then Lego and Warner Brothers made The Lego Movie and put my grainy, jerky shorts to shame with its bright colours and subversive humour. Then Lego Batman showed me how to have fun with DC after Batman vs Superman. Now Lego Ninjago steps up to the plate to see whether it can match the nostalgic heights of the two previous films.
Lloyd Garmadon is bullied at school for being the son of Evil Lord Garmadon. However, he and his friends are ninjas who can summon the elemental power to protect their city of Ninjago from the Garmadon. In their latest fight when Lloyd in a fit of rage uses an ultimate weapon that calls a giant cat to the city, Lloyd, his fellow Ninja and Garmadon must work together to find the ultimate, ultimate weapon and save Ninjago from the feline menace.
The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie were surprise smash hits in my eyes, self-aware comedy classics that will perhaps be praised as much for their interesting plots as for their unique visual faux-stop-motion aesthetics. Because these two films were so good, I was a little concerned that the third and more recent attempt at the Lego Franchise, Ninjago, would signal a creep into lazy feature-length advertisements for lego products, especially seeing as the Ninjago is a line of Lego rather than a generic catch-all or DC property and I am afraid that I was sort of right.
That doesn’t mean that this movie is bad, it is definitely better than anything Illumination has put out or The Emoji Movie, however, it doesn’t reach the heights that its older siblings did. There are still some moments of humour and there is always a great sense of style in the animation (though there are more inclusions of non-lego elements into the world). But there is a sense that Lego Ninjago is more like a commercial for Lego sets with an emphasis on mechs that almost seemed to be reaching out and saying buy me for your child at Christmas. Aside from that, the film is just okay with nothing really to differentiate it from any other middle of the road animated kids film.
I mean, the story does have some critical points to make and could be quite poignant at times. It is dealing with issues of family and estranged fathers, but even though the plot had nine people working on it, and it wasn’t very interesting or particularly funny so it might have needed a couple of other drafts.
The cast similarly doesn’t really stand out despite some big names, like Dave Franco as Lloyd doing the standard Teenage thing, while Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods and Fred Armisen as the ninja friends are virtually indistinct from each other. It is only Jackie Chan as Master Wu that stands out, but because Jackie Chan already has such a distinctive voice. Justin Theroux as Lord Garmadon must also be mentioned, but that’s because he is the only one who seems to be trying in the booth.
It is so hard to say why The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie are better than The Lego Ninjago Movie. Maybe it’s because the ideas have run stale, maybe it’s because we are over the aesthetics, or maybe it is because we have seen it done before. Overall The Lego Ninjago Movie is a fine film to see over October half term, though it won’t click in place like The Lego Movie or The Lego Batman Movie did.
You can watch The Lego Ninjago Movie in cinemas now