The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review #illumedati


Hey everyone, it’s Whatever Wednesdays today. I had the opportunity to go watch The LEGO Ninjago Movie with my wife and kids this weekend. My daughter’s friend from daycare had a birthday party at the movie theatre with a Ninjago theme. It was really great. I don’t watch many movies in the theatres, so, I’ve decided to do my The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review.

LEGO The Ninjago Movie Review

From LEGO.com

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review:

But first a little background:

My kids have been watching the first two seasons of Ninjago. My daughter loves Nya whereas my son doesn’t seem to care about any particular character. The premise is pretty standard for a kid’s show although they do have a Luke Skywalker – Darth Vader kind of dynamic between Lloyd and Garamadon. There is also a healthy dose of LEGO-style comedy in each episode while still keeping an overarching plot.

Long story short, the kids like it and were very excited for the movie.


So how was it?

I wanted to like it. I really did.

But I dunno, it just kind of didn’t do what I expected or perhaps my expectations were too high.

I will try to review the movie without any spoilers, although they are all over the internet, and some of them even came out before the movie did.

Cinematography

The movie itself looks great. These kinds of movies are made for high-definition and a movie theatre.

It’s actually kind of interesting, if you go back and look at the animated movies prior to Blu-Ray (1080p) versus the movies of today, you will notice how much detail was lost. Here’s a good side-by-side comparison of DVD versus Blu-Ray. I wish they had included an animated film, but I think you can see the difference.

Tone

Unfortunately, The Lego Ninjago Movie runs into a familiar problem of many TV series which goes on to a stand-alone feature film. When you have a rich backstory of 7 seasons to pull from, it’s hard to make a stand-alone movie. You want the movie to appeal to everyone, but you also don’t want to disappoint the fans of the series.

Usually one of the two ends up getting the short end of the stick. As a fan of the series, if I had to choose, I would have preferred that they lean toward making the movie appeal to everyone. Throw in a few cameos and some lines that only the fans will understand as a nod to us, but that’s enough.

However, I think they tried to do too much of both here. The plot becomes convoluted as the movie tries to include too many aspects of the show, while making some changes that I don’t understand… why isn’t Jay a jokester? Then, if you throw in a motivationally weak “bad guy” and what happens is your audience loses interest midway through. My daughter is only 4, but she can watch a movie for up to 3 hours as long as it holds her interest. The problem was that she didn’t really care about “the bad guy” or the complex relationship between Garamadon and Lloyd. The rest of the 5 year olds at the party were similar, some starting to run around the theatre and others singing in their seats.

Don’t get me wrong. The movie has its funny moments and some of the action sequences are just great. However, as a whole, the movie itself just doesn’t stand up. At the end, the kids (and I) just didn’t really care about the “bad guy” being “defeated”. It feels very anti-climactic.

Music and Sound

Honestly, the music and sound were decidedly average. I can’t think of any particular good thing or a bad thing that struck me.

However, in my family my wife and kids are definitely more musically inclined than me, so I wouldn’t really trust my opinion here.

Acting

The voice acting was pretty good overall. However, I’m not really sure why they didn’t just keep the voice actors from the TV series, since I think they did a great job.

There is actually a good youtube video on this, for those interested:


What do you think would have worked better?

Look, I’m not a script writer nor a great director. However, I do have two kids and I’d like to think I know what they like. There is a fine line between making a plot too simple for kids and then making it too convoluted. I think two good examples of walking this line are Zootopia and Moana.

In Zootopia, there is an underlying feeling that “something is wrong” and “who is the bad guy”. While there are complex themes of prejudice and racism, the plot still revolves around a central bad guy. While that central bad guy is also complex, the actual story isn’t that hard to follow.

In Moana, the problem is pretty simple. They need to return the Heart of Te Fiti in order to save everyone from ruin. Once again, there are complex themes with Maui’s abandonment as well as with Moana’s self-discovery. However, the overarching plot isn’t difficult to follow.

Unfortunately for The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the overarching plot is weak.

You should care that this big bad guy is destroying the city… but you don’t. I do understand that the “bad guy” was supposed to be funny and light-hearted, but I think that isn’t as important for kids. It’s kind of difficult for them to consider “the bad guy” as bad. This is very confusing, and you lose their attention mid way through with the lack of urgency to “save the city”.

If they really wanted to keep this funny light-hearted “bad guy”, then I really think they should have gone that extra mile to turn the bad guy completely bad. For example, they could have introduced some kind of corruption element that turned the bad guy more bad. I think children would have understood this corruption and then been more behind the Ninjas to find a “cure” in the race to save the city.

Any suggestions?

I think going a little more simple, and slightly cliche would have helped. Off the top of my head, something like the “ooze” from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would have worked well as a plot device. Instead of ooze, we’ll call it the “Black Goo” which turned the “bad guy” to the dark side who needs to be saved. So the Ninjas have to set off to find the “cure” which is Goo-Gone or something from the Temple of Ultimate Ultimate Cleanliness or something. They then need to go get new mechs and retrofit them with the Goo Gone to clean the “bad guy” and save the city. The Garmadon/Lloyd dynamic would still fit in, but the bad guy is “badder”.

This would also allow a dynamic way to show off the new mechs. Their “old mechs” would get destroyed when the “bad guy” first arrives and then they journey off to secure new mechs and the Goo-Gone. Throw in a nice scene showcasing the Destiny’s Bounty retrofitting the new mechs with Goo-Gone weapons (specific to each mech) and you’ve got a nice showcase of most of the new Legos in the The LEGO Ninjago Movie line.

All the while make sure you remind the audience that the city is still in trouble. This allows you to work in scenes of all the mini-figs from the blind bags. Then, you have the ultimate showdown between the Ninjas and the Badder Bad Guy in their new mechs. After turning the Badder Bad Guy into just “bad guy”, you can still utilize a similar ending. However, the story itself would be much easier to follow and I think would hold the attention of the audience better.


But hasn’t that all been done before?

Creating an interesting (and unique) plot for a movie is no small feat, especially for kids. However, I think that a strong “bad guy” is necessary in order to hold their attention.

Another great example of this is the Harry Potter series. While the series itself can become very complex, there is never any doubt who the “bad guy” is.

When the bad guy’s other name is” He Who Must Not Be Named”, that’s a pretty strong connotation.


The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review Verdict?

It’s not bad… but it’s not really good either.

On an A-F scale, it probably gets a C+ or a 6.7 on a 1-10 scale.

My review in a nutshell is:

“Despite its great looks and some funny dialogue, the charm of Ninjago is lost in a weak “bad guy” that ends up forgotten.”

Rent it. Maybe buy it on Blu-Ray when it drops in price.


TL;DR

The LEGO Ninjago Movie wasn’t bad… but wasn’t really good either. I give it a C+ or 6.7/10.

“Despite its great looks and some funny dialogue, the charm of Ninjago is lost in a weak “bad guy” that ends up forgotten.”

I think a badder bad guy would have helped to develop a stronger plot.

Rent it. Maybe buy it on Blu-Ray when it drops in price.

Whatever Wednesdays Sensei

-Sensei

Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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About Sensei

A young attending physician trying to navigate the mine field that is life after medical school…

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