The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017) – Film Review
The Lego Ninjago Movie starts in the city of Ninjago, located on Ninjago island, which is attacked seemingly on a daily basis by the villainous Garmadon who seeks to take control of the city for his own nefarious reasons with his army of sharkmen who live in a live volcano across the bay.
Standing in his way is a team of masked heroes – the Ninjago – a set of colour coded heroes with their own signature super-power, with secret identities as high school students.
There is a red ninja (fire), black ninja (earth), grey ninja (water), blue ninja (lightning), white ninja (ice), and a green ninja whose power is… “green” – a very Blackadder-ish joke.
They all have secret identities as high school students but the green ninja – Lloyd (played by Dave Franco) – is best known for being Garmadon’s estranged son who is hated by fellow students who don’t realise he is also the heroic green ninja – this is the source of major problems for Lloyd who is about to turn 16 and only wants to relate to his villainous dad but has to oppose him as the green ninja.
Their sensei – Master Wu – is played by Jackie Chan who gets to appear in person in live-action segments at the beginning and the end (including an mid credit out-takes sequence) is keen on having them learn for themselves how to be effective ninjas.
Obviously, it’s not very hard to guess where this plot is going but while the early set-up of this film is amusing the latter payoff is weak and formulaic and also appears to disregard the original Ninjago cartoons.
I saw some of the original Ninjago cartoon in passing after seeing The Lego Ninjago movie and one thing which immediately sprang to mind was the more serious storylines (for kids TV) in the animated cartoon along with the unavoidable fact that the movie chose to go with star names rather than stick with the existing voice cast which fans of the show would be familiar with.
Instead, the Lego Ninjago movie sticks with the tried and tested formula of lighthearted simplistic storyline with big name guest voices all emphasising the value of teamwork and family while slinging in funny skits which in the case of Ninjago begin to grate as as the plot lines wear out all too quickly.
Where the original Lego Movie was all new, and the Lego Batman movie was groaning under the sheer weight of funny puns and gags, Lego Ninjago seems to run out of steam towards the end despite introducing a rather novel super villain which is summoned by the (mis)use of an ultimate weapon.
The finale, while ok, is sadly forgettable and our heroes – a mashed-up rip off of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers which on the surface of it underserves female characters – there’s only one girl ninja and giving Lloyd’s mother a bit of a backstory doesn’t make up for the fact that there’s four other male ninja heroes aside from Lloyd including one robot.
I’d call it a missed opportunity, although it’s perfectly harmless fun for young kids who haven’t seen the TV cartoons though.
The Lego Ninjago Movie (U; mild comic violence, very mild bad language, rude humour; 101 minutes)
Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan
Cast Includes: Jackie Chan (voice), Dave Franco (voice), Fred Armisen (voice), Kumail Nanjiani (voice), Michael Peña (voice), Abbi Jacobson (voice)
Summary: THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE is an animated adventure in which a team of ninjas must team up with their nemesis in order to save their city.
Rating: *** (A retread of pre-existing ideas that may disappoint hardcore Ninjago fans)