Feb 7, 2018

[Movies] The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017) Review

I don't think folks could have anticipated how hilarious The Lego Movie was going to be. But in fact it was and it was a brilliant moment in movie making with some very creative comedic storytelling at work. They followed-up with The Lego Batman Movie and that too felt like a wonderful celebration of the Batman franchise in a manner that was distinct and consistent with the growing Lego movie franchise thus far.

But then we got to The Lego Ninjago Movie and the end result was...less than favorable. In fact it was pretty disappointing given how the other two movies had turned out.

I didn't exactly have high hopes for this one as it wasn't a franchise that I was all that familiar with. The same could have been argued for the first movie and we saw how that had turned out. But I dunno, it didn't quite feel right and the early trailers were funny but also felt like they were trying a little too hard to be funny at the same time. The end result was...this.

Synopsis: The Lego Ninjago Movie is a computer-animated comedy movie directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan.

The movie is framed by a scene involving a young boy who enters a curio shop run my Mr. Liu (Jackie Chan). As is the way of such old shopkeepers, he proceeds to tell him a story in order to treach him a lesson. This story takes place in the land of Ninjago, a city that is constantly under threat from Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). But his efforts to conquer the city are thwarted by the secret ninja force led by the Green Ninja, who is also Lloyd (Dave Franco), Garmadon's son. The ninja team have some powerful vehicles at their command that they use to stop Lord Garmadon's forces under the guidance of Master Wu (Jackie Chan).

But things go wrong when Lloyd tries to use the fabled Ultimate Weapon to defeat Lord Garmado once and for all. The end result is that the secret ninja force loses their super vehicles and Lord Garmadon is finally able to take over the city of Ninjago. Now they must now seek out the Ultimate, Ultimate weaponto bring peace back to Ninjago.

What I Liked: The movie has some pretty clever moments that made a lot of sense in the trailer but got a little dry over time give enough repetition. The best jokes come early in the movie and are a great mix of sight gags, good timing and other things we've seen in prior Lego movies.

The vehicle designs were pretty awesome and I enjoyed the sheer variety of the mechs and even the silliness of Gardamon's later giant robot. It was a fun factor element that I had not been expecting but totally enjoyed even though the first act was all about taking those machines away from our ninjas in order for them to learn about their true powers.

What Could Have Been Better: Most of the jokes in this movie felt oddly forced, and thus many fell flat. Perhaps it's because there was seemingly no end to the punchlines - the movie tries to stay at a weird "high" energy level that you don't get a chance to breathe and just take things in. There's no rest and no time for the jokes to truly sink in and get maximum effect.

The story as a whole was just...sad. Or maybe the word "flat" best answers things again in this case. The story didn't feel all  that fulfilling despite the fact that there's a lot more to the Lego Ninjago universe as depicted in other media than what had been covered here. Just check out episodes of the TV show or look at the rich play set sold under the brand - what happened to that elevated Japanese feudal aesthetic? Why did we get another city largely indistinguishable from the setting of The Lego Movie?

TL;DR: The Lego Ninjago Movie fell very short of my hopes and expectations for this movie to be even decectly funny. It was very middle of the road and in that regard felt more like a failure to me as we know the folks behind this movie franchise have some really awesome ideas that somehow didn't show up in this movie. This it gets a fair 2 last minute use of new ninja magic powers out of a possible 5.

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