After the unexpected success of the first two films in the LEGO franchise, The LEGO Ninjago Movie had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, the lacklustre compilation of clichés could not quite compete. Perhaps the novel aspect of the beloved plastic toys having lives of their own contributed to the initial success of the franchise; alas, it is difficult to find anything original about the latest addition.
Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco) takes the lead role in what appears to be a pretty predictable ‘outsider’ storyline. Lloyd is bullied by his peers for his estranged father being the villain of the city. Little do they know that when disaster strikes, he and his fellow social outcasts, with the token female taking on the oh-so conventional ‘cool girl’ role, transform into ninjas who save the day.
The elongated scene flaunting each ninja’s individual weapon, including Lloyd (or the Green Ninja) parading a huge mechanical fire-breathing dragon, is nothing more than a blatant advertisement. Indeed, the scene is even repeated when Lloyd uses the machine a second time, a disappointing reminder of the fact these little plastic toys are simply little plastic toys, susceptible to cold corporate promotion.
Despite the quick-witted nature of the humour in previous LEGO films, the gags in this movie are drearily shallow. There is only a certain amount of time before the one-liner fighting talk becomes tedious.
Having said this, the film is not a complete disaster. Although the idea of the strained father-son relationship is somewhat overdone, when Jim Croce’s ‘I Got a Name’ provides the soundtrack for a montage of Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux’s classic masculine ‘baddie’) teaching his son to throw, an oddly heart-warming scene is the result. Perhaps the evident self-awareness of this often sickly-sweet sentimentality makes these scenes slightly more entertaining.
As in the iconic Gotham City of The LEGO Batman Movie, the city of Ninjago is visually detailed and complex, as shamelessly promoted in a sequence in which Lloyd free-runs over the buildings of the city. However, as a less known universe, the impact is not quite the same.
For what could have been a pretty cool martial arts movie, the LEGO Ninjago Movie falls short of its potential, leaving a sadly over-commercialised and shallow film.
Image: Warner Bros.