By Alexia Evripidou
The Lego Ninjago Movie is the underwhelming latest installment of the Lego film franchise produced by the Warner Animation group and it is, at best, mediocre. Following the huge success of the first film (The Lego Movie), Ninjago fails to strike a similar note despite its rich computer-generated imagery. Ninjago bombards with a frenzy of constantly changing animated scenes with little sustenance to grab onto. It is a fast paced and chaotic animation that although offers several funny one liners, some of which are actually laugh out loud, is an overall forgettable experience.
The film is based on the popular Lego Ninjago TV show and toy line. It’s an action / comedy / martial arts animation that is realistically mostly suitable for children, which is a shame, as a good animation often entertains both young and older viewers alike. Ninjago is packed with action to such an extreme that at times it is difficult to see and understand what is happening to who and where. Although it also endeavours to address some deep issues including an absent father, rejection of peers and bullying etc it merely skims the surface as it whisks over matters of courage, acceptance and self empowerment.
The film opens and closes with a live-action bookend narrative structure, which just feels odd. It begins with Jackie Chan as a store owner telling the legend of Ninjago to an excitable child. It’s a non-descriptive beginning that struggles to start and continues to struggle even after the animation commences. It does however introduce the cat, which is a significant protagonist in the movie as the live action character Meowthra who was accidentally summoned by a red laser light and inadvertently helps destroy the city. Realistically, this was the highlight of the script, bar some dialogue sparring between the two leads.
The actual story is ultimately about daddy issues. The film is centred on the flimsy relationship between an absent father and his son who is desperate for his dad’s love, which he comically tries to garner under the guise of the notoriously evil Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux) and teenager Lloyd Garmadon, aka the Green Ninja (Dave Franco). With yet another new threat emerging to endanger his homeland and the ones he loves, Lloyd, in disguise as Green Ninja, along with his fellow five ninja friends from the Secret Ninja Warriors come face to face with Garmadon. The Ninja Warriors, led by the wise Master Wu, Garmadon’s brother (Jackie Chan) must work together to defeat Garmadon by developing their inner selves to unleash the power to overcome evil.
Although Lloyd has a loving mother and is part of the highly skilled Secret Ninja Warriors, he battles daily with rejection due to his father being a villainous warlord perpetually trying to take over the city of Ninjago (an understandable problem). While Lloyd struggles with personal issues, Garmadon (once he realises who the Green Ninja really is) tries to figure out how to be a real father and if indeed if he wants to be a father at all; the last time he saw Lloyd, Lloyd was a baby. The relationship between them is often very comical. Garmadon has a certain lovable rogue charm and excellent one liners including “this place is so unstable, I had to move to a volcano to feel safe” when referring to his homely family home and “do you fight here often? It was love at first fight” when he’s referring to Lloyd’s mother.
Unfortunately, however, there is no strong storyline in general nor between the other characters and there really could have been, as all the material was there. The other Ninja kids are pretty much one dimensional and underused, and although Lloyd’s mum has a fascinating back story, it’s barely touched upon. Like the rest of the film, the narrative and the characters are very much two dimensional.
There’s also underdeveloped connections between Master Yu and his nephew Lloyd and his brother Lord Garmadon. Although there are a few funny fight scenes between the brothers and a lovely moment when in search of the Ultimate weapon to get rid of Meowthra they seek Garmadon’s help which takes them back to the evil lord’s family home, where Lloyd discovers more about his family.
Ninjago is a standalone Lego movie and as long you know what Lego is, then that’s fine. Realistically, it’s probably a film that children will enjoy and adults will also derive a few laughs from; no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but a film nonetheless that helps to pass the time.
The Lego Ninjago Movie **
DIRECTED BY Chalie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan
STARRING THE VOICES OF Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux
US 2017 101 mins