Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

Back in 2014 we got an animated movie based on the world famous building bricks for children, Lego. Now I'm willing to admit that when I first heard about this movie I scoffed at it and brushed it aside as a mere gimmick. I'm sure many folk did the same upon hearing the news of a Lego movie. But low and behold that movie turned out to be something special and did very well. Before we all knew what had hit us Lego movies were suddenly a thing, something big, something to anticipate.

Then in 2017 along came Lego Batman and once again, despite the first movies success I doubted it. I thought it was just gonna be a cheap spin-off, a tacky cash-in. Again I was wrong as Lego Batman kicked ass, although not as much ass as the original movie. And now we have the third Lego movie, the second of 2017! Should I have the same concern? Are they now pumping out too many Lego movies? What exactly is Ninjago anyway?

So what the flip is Lego Ninjago? Well basically its an old Lego ninja line from the late 90's which was somewhat based around feudal Japan. This line was simply spruced up with lots of new modern elements to appeal to modern kids. These elements included things like modern/futuristic technology, vehicles, actual characters etc...whilst retaining a mystical supernatural element at the same time. This was all wrapped around a kind of Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles type of vibe. A group of young crime fighters fighting evil with fantasy elements.

So what's the plot all about? Well its Power Rangers and...that's pretty much it. All these Lego folk live on an island apparently called Ninjago (Ninjago?). The evil Lord Garmadon constantly attacks the island because he wants to rule over it. Garmadon being a sort of supernatural samurai warrior type bloke. But Ninjago island has a counter to these attacks, an anonymous team of ninjas warriors that always mange to defeat Garmadon. This small team of ninjas is led by Lloyd Garmadon, son of Lord Garmadon. Everyone on Ninjago knows Lloyd is Garmadon's son and they hate him for it, but they don't know he's the leader of this special ninja defense force.



So one day Garmadon successfully takes control of Ninjago which forces Lloyd to use the secret ultimate weapon that is guarded by their Master Wu (Jackie Chan). The ultimate weapon that Master Wu said specifically not to use. So Lloyd uses it and brings forth a giant live action cat. Yes that's right, the evil force in this movie is actually a part CGI, part live action cat which then proceeds to destroy Ninjago island. Now they must all work together to stop this destruction. Can you sense the family angst and woe!

So firstly the cat, yep I hated that, truly. The finale in the original movie which exposes the Lego world to merely be a kids imagination was brave and I appreciated that, but I still didn't like it all that much. But this really turned me off, having an actual live action cat be the deadly force that is destroying the city. Twas like watching something outta South Park or Monty Python. It doesn't look tacky or anything, it just seemed like a lazy and shit idea. To top that the main (supposed) villain of Lord Garmadon is utterly pointless really. There's no point in this character at all except for some gags. There doesn't really seem to be any reason for him wanting to take over Ninjago, other than he just can. And his dastardly evil lair is a volcano island which sits virtually right next to Ninjago. Its almost like they're not even trying anymore.

I think the main issue with this movie is originality and lack of it. The young team of ninjas are obviously something of a send-up on things like the Power Rangers; but they're still just as corny and clearly trying to actually be them to appeal to that specific audience base. You still get all this naff stuff like their names 'ninja of ice', and having their own individual giant mechs, everything being colour-coded, and of course all the hokey martial arts tomfoolery that's just been done to death oh my God!!! There are just cliches upon cliches in here and I know its deliberate but that's not really an excuse because even that angle has been done to death. How many parodies of the same shit can you possibly do??



Of course the visuals are a treat with these Lego movies (or any animated movies these days). Part of the fun for someone of my age is seeing all the retro Lego pieces popping up. But ultimately the visuals are terrific, full of life and tiny details (I like how almost every part has the Lego stamp on it, or a part/piece code). I also have to give kudos to the imagination on display despite it all being unoriginal overall. They have both captured and ripped-off many genres very well, or however you wanna look at it. The only issue being (as with the other Lego movies), its very hard to watch action sequences because its so in your face and hectic. It just becomes a blur of colourful CGI flying about the place, kinda like the Transformers movies. I mainly refer to the large mechs here.

Yes there is a lot of humour in here, some of it childish naturally, some of it for folks of my age...appreciated. I admit to liking the little swipes at popular pop culture, the little parodies of other movies, the odd bit of crude toilet humour, and simply mocking genres. I liked how Garmadon explains his origins, being bitten by a snake that had in turn been bitten by a spider, hence his four arms. The team attempting to hide in the bamboo forest was a nice little giggle. And I also liked Garmadon's henchmen/women were all simply regular people but in different silly outfits eg. shark, octopus etc...Not sure why they were all ocean lifeform based but whatever. But there does come a point where you feel, like everything else, you've seen and heard it all before. There is only so much you can do before it just becomes mundane.

The Lego Batman flick had a shit-tonne of movie parodies and send-ups which was cool, but you can't keep just doing that. And this is the real problem with many movies these days. The Lego movie was an original concept that worked brilliantly at first, but they're milking the feck out of it and bottom line, its showing. These movies are now fast becoming a highlight reel of mini parody sketches, and nothing much else. That would be fine for freebies on You-Tube or whatever, but you can't keep doing movies like this. Bottom line all the cliches in the book were mocked, mocked good...again; but that in itself is still cliche. There's nothing new in this, time to move on.

6.5/10