Do you ever stand in front of a piece of art and wonder what it is? You look and look, waiting for it to evoke some sort of emotion, but in the end, it fails to do so. You leave worried that maybe you were looking at it wrong, and that maybe the problem isn’t the piece… it’s actually you. Well you don’t have to worry about that with the LEGO Ninjago Movie, because it is far from art.
Ninjago is a city of LEGO people constantly plagued by the evil Lord Garmadon. And while Garmadon lays waste to the city every time, he always seems to be incessantly thwarted by a group of ninja teens, one of them being Lloyd Garmadon who (you guessed it) is the son of the villain who terrorizes the city. Thus, the story begins as Lloyd struggles trying to live in a society that is tormented by his own father, while also attempting to cope with the constant feeling of abandonment.
This seems like a pretty decent way to start a film, right? The protagonist has to overcome several obstacles early on. Well unfortunately, the film’s three directors and six screenwriters (which should be a red flag already) botched a fairly simple story to tell. Pretty good animation aside, Ninjago had several issues that required proper attention.
Let’s take a look at the story itself. Like I said before, the concept is pretty good. Unfortunately though, there wasn’t enough incentive for the audience to actually care what happens to the characters on the screen. This is a problem that the first LEGO movie seemed to avoid. I think the best way to summarize where they went wrong in this area is that there were too many things going on. Within the first hour, we were given several different ways the film could go in regards to conflict. Was it Lloyd’s motivation to get over not feeling like he belongs? Was it to enter into reconciliation with his estranged father? Or was it to learn to work alongside his fellow ninjas so they could take Lord Garmadon down together? Having multiple obstacles is fine in a film, but you have to at least identify which ones are important and which ones are not.
Ninjago also had a lot of needless banter and one-liners that just fell flat with its audience. Not only were these lines pandering to the younger crowd, but they also lacked a tone that might have made them more effective. Don’t get me wrong; there were times where I cracked a smile. However, by and large, Ninjago had me rubbing my forehead in agony as though I were watching a stand-up comedian bomb on stage.
I will admit, the film picked up steam on the homestretch; however, it wouldn’t be enough to salvage this mess of a movie. What really kept me watching was the striking animation and occasionally impressive fight scenes (still nothing compared to Kung Fu Panda.) If I can walk away with any hope from Ninjago, it is that in its failure, major film companies will realize the flaws in banking on the name of the franchise rather than on the quality of narrative within the film.
3 of 10
Check out more of Luke’s reviews on Instagram