Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie unfolds how the exhilarating idea of presenting a pop-culture-laden animation based on brick toys could falter quickly. It’s only been three years since Chris Miller and Phil Lord first spawned The LEGO Movie in 2014; but, this third film in LEGO franchise shows that the formula starts getting worn off.
It still offers electric bantz, refreshing gags and zillion references to pop culture—making it an enjoyable joyride. However, Ninjago’s lack of innovative formula starts showing the symptoms when it is often caught playing and recycling ideas used in LEGO Movie and LEGO Batman Movie to use in a different terrain. You’re not wrong when you think you have a déjà vu while watching this.
Ninjago’s plot isn’t quite different from LEGO Movie with only substitution to the setting and characters’ role. An evil warlord, Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), is in constant quest to reign over the city of Ninjago, where 6 vigilant robot-wielding ninjas led by Lloyd (Dave Franco) reside. Guided by Master Wu (Jackie Chan), Lloyd and his crew fight to get rid of the evil warlord. The plot might sound familiar; but, there’s a familiar twist (an old one actually) on this story, too. It’s a kind of Empire Strikes Back one (no, this isn’t a spoiler).
Details in the plot, sometimes, feel been-there-done-that, only with different scale. For instance, there’s a kaiju subplot in the story, which borrows the LEGO Movie’s mega-twist; only, it’s treated like a mundane plot point. In crafting ‘innovation’, Ninjago devises exuberant use of CGI to create a more vibrant atmosphere than its predecessors. While the water seems photo-realistic, but it feels like it doesn’t belong to the world of LEGO. You might compare it to the brick-water in the first two films.
While the story, which often delve into daddy issue drama, can sometimes be moving, it often plunges to common territory which we probably have seen better in other film (LEGO Batman for example). It’s also difficult to find ‘direct’ correlation between the Ninjago world and the prologue-epilogue world, where Jackie Chan makes a real-life cameo. In terms of storyline, it falls flat in depth and emotional drive compared to the predecessors.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie might recycle the LEGO formula creatively, especially during exchange of banters and puns; but, inside, it works better as a reminder that the creative team behind LEGO franchise should come up with fresher ideas soon, or the whole franchise will sink quicker than it became a hit.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)