Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Lego Ninjago Movie

Fishing in the Discount Bin!  I watch one of my movies, and then blog about it, because I really need to get out more.  Today, I'm giving The Lego Ninjago Movie a spin.   This is in my notes at January 7, 2018. 

Well, Lego continues with their cinematic universe and The Lego Ninjago Movie.  For those who haven't wandered down the toy aisle in a while, Lego Ninjago is one of Lego's more popular in-house brands.  it's a mish-mash of kung fu, ninjas, giant robots, and everything that westerners think of when it comes to Asian pop culture.  It's already had a long life as a Saturday morning cartoon and a few straight-to-DVD features, and in fact, a feature film version was in development long before The Lego Movie was a huge hit.  But, everything changed with The Lego Movie.  The creators got the order that it had to have the same kind of wacky, irreverent, fourth-wall-breaking humour that made The Lego Movie such a hit. 

And that's probably why a lot of The Lego Ninjago Movie struck me as The Lego Movie lite.  A lot of the jokes and the kind of humour that made The Lego Movie so amazing does ring a little bit hollow.  That being said, it's got a surprising amount of heart and some genuine emotion as we deal with our hero's struggle. 

Our hero is Lloyd, a teenager with a huge heap of problems.  First up, his father is Garmadon, the warlord who keeps trying to conquer Ninjago City.  It's kind of tough being a regular teen when your dad keeps trying to destroy the city.  On top of that, Garmadon left when Lloyd was just a baby, making him an absentee father.  On top of this whole heap of daddy issues, Lloyd leads a double life as the Green Ninja, the leader of Ninjago, who pilot their mechs to stop Garmadon's constant attacks.  Yeah...Lloyd's got an awful lot going on for just a 16-year old. 

After receiving a pep talk from his ninja master, Master Wu, Lloyd discovers that Master Wu is in possession of the Ultimate Weapon.  During Garmadon's next attack, Lloyd figures he'll finish this once and for all by unleashing the Ultimate Weapon on Garmadon.  And this leads to, what I think, is the best "real world meets Lego world" gag to date in this Lego Cinematic Universe. 

The Ultimate Weapon is a laser pointer.  It unleashes the great beast Meowthra...who's just a regular old house cat.  But to a Lego figure, a regular old house cat is a monstrous beast.  And so Meowthra does what a cat does, just wanders around, knocking over the Lego buildings, and batting at the Lego people like the toys they are.  In the chaos, Garmadon is able to finally conquer Ninjago City, and the ninjas are broken and demoralized. 

In order to stop Meowthra, our heroes then go on a quest to find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon, and Garmadon follows to get the weapon for himself.  And along the way, Garmadon eventually joins forces with our heroes, and Lloyd and Garmadon begin working towards a father/son reconciliation. 

And that's where a lot of the heart comes from.  There's some surprisingly raw and honest emotion between Lloyd and Garmadon as they begin the healing process.  It's actually some pretty potent stuff. 

I know I'm only talking about Lloyd the Green Ninja when there are six ninjas in our super-team, and that's because...they don't do much.  The other five ninjas are Lloyd's friends...well, we barely get to know them as characters.  One is an android for some reason that's never explained.  And it's too bad, too, because they're all voiced by some truly amazing comedians. 

And I've also got to highlight Jackie Chan as Master Wu.  He comes across as really funny and really wacky as our kung fu master who trains our ninjas.  He's also really good in a live-action framing story that sets our plot in motion, where he manages to work in a classic Jackie Chan stunt. 

There's lots of great homages to classic kung fu films, like the retro-style opening logos.  The end credits were good, too, as they were inspired by vintage Lego instruction manuals. 

So, yeah.  The Lego Ninjago Movie.  It's good, but really does come across as a pale imitation of the Lego Movie.

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