If you’re like me, hours were spent creating new inventive setups with the various LEGO sets—a huge childhood staple. The LEGO Movie captured the creative feel perfectly, then it soon turned into a hilarious satire on the Batman franchise. Now, the unimaginative third installment uses a cinematic adaptation of a dull Cartoon Network series to cash in on the Ninjago franchise. Seriously, I forced myself to laugh most of the runtime, since the comic timing here never took a breather.
Instead of a hilarious nostalgic satire, The LEGO Ninjago Movie offers nothing besides messy ship designs in a world seemingly unconnected to the previous installments. Not everything is crafted out of bricks, rather, half the objects, such as the water and smoke, lean more toward the photorealistic side. Honestly, no reason exists for Ninjago to be a giant LEGO set—make it live action and the story remains the same.
Also unlike the previous visually pleasing installments, Ninjago’s super close action creates a sore for the eyes. So many fast objects fly across the screen at once, you would wonder if these animators went to the Michael Bay School of box office success.
From a storyteller’s perspective, Ninjago’s bookends seem a bit similar to The LEGO Movie, except far less necessary to the plot. In the beginning, a live action boy enters a shop filled with Japanese souvenirs, where Jackie Chan, the shop owner, tells him a story to motivate him against bullies; in the end, we see whether if this story taught the boy anything.
These scenes should have been more prevalent throughout the story in order to be necessary. In fact, it hurt the experience more, due to the child actor’s terrible, terrible performance. Although Jackie Chan, on the other hand, really became the best part about this vomit-colored commercial. He introduces himself by catching china cups in midair, as expected from his stunt work, then he goes on to voice the most fun of the LEGO figures with his magical staff/flute. He teaches the hero about reliance on inner peace, which is actually a fine moral takeaway for the needy kids.
The protagonist was written out as a publicly hated high school student who can never celebrate his birthday without everyone forgetting, so these writers deserve credit for speaking to kids’ needs and desires. Several enjoyable vocal performances, including enemy sharks who sporadically say “nom-nom” over and over, deserve a praise as well. The parents may even find a light chuckle here and there in the situations, and the setup might also ignite interest in studying Japanese culture.
Yet similar to how Big Hero 6 combined Tokyo and San Francisco, the sense of Japan’s culture here gets thrown out, leaving in the Americanized “cool” and “hip” parts which rely on old ninja stereotypes, ones no true Japanese person can relate to. Perhaps some research put into the ninjas’ depiction could help the parents tolerate the energy a bit more?
I realize boys find the concept of supreme fighters appealing, but these characters’ personalities are too shallow to keep kids entertained in the long run—even the hero himself never meets resolution with his need for public respect. In fact, Ninjago goes against the LEGO enterprise’s recent gender neutral efforts, including the film industry’s rise of strong female leads. Exactly two females contribute to the plot: one an unimportant girl ninja, the other a severely underused mom. While we’re at it, I should mention how the hero speaks of wanting a good fatherly bond, but we never hear him want a good motherly bond—so now it appears we now took a massive step backwards in the media’s gender portrayals.
Yeah, it presses positive morals: father and son must work together, believe in yourself, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, the writers and producers clearly don’t care about these messages, just about pushing rebellion against the restrictive, uninspired real world. You can tell because whenever the evil father and his ninja son interact, it almost always composes of rambling on in an endless joke.
I fail to understand why the once innocent LEGO branding has come to this; hopefully those responsible can soon return to their senses.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Beyer, Monica. “LEGO wrote this amazing letter to parents all the way back in the 1970s.” SheKnows. 24 Nov 2014. Web. <http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1058477/legos-amazing-gender-equality-note-to-parents-in-the-70s>.
“Building Sets & LEGOs for Girls.” Toys R Us. Geoffrey, LLC. Web. <https://www.toysrus.com/products/building-sets-and-lego-sets-for-girls.jsp>.
Busch, Jenna. “The LEGO Ninjago Movie Character Posters and Featurettes.” Digital image. Superhero Hype. Crave Online, 8 Sept 2017. Web. <http://www.superherohype.com/news/404237-the-lego-ninjago-movie-character-posters-and-featurettes#/slide/1>.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Warner Bros. Web. <http://www.legoninjagomovie.com/>.
UltraNinjagoFan950 - Ninjago News and More. “Ninjago Episode 57 Clip - Escape From Kryptarium Prison (By CrazyWarriorsOfTheLight).” Video. YouTube, 9 Jan 2016. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqfQTiVa9eU>.