By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Just like my headline, the jokes in Ninjago try to be witty, but they just aren’t. What the heck is Ninjago and how do I pronounce it? That was my first question as I looked up Ninjago. Turns out it can go either way. It’s pronounced Nin-jaw-go when referring to Ninjago City, but pronounced Ninja-go when used in the battle cry, “Go Ninjago!” It’s confusing, but I’m sure kids do not care. In 2010, Lego developed a new line of Legos called Ninjago, which now has over 100 sets and their own TV show. Coming off the success of Lego Movie released in 2014, co-writers Dan and Kevin Hageman gave a shot at bringing the world of Ninjago to life. There was already a Lego Batman movie this year released only six months ago — its performance at the box office was mediocre. The original Lego Movie was innovative, fun, and really took advantage of the Lego World with witty humor and catchy one-liners. It was definitely fun for the whole family. However, Ninjago doesn’t offer anything new and seemed like quite a step down.
Ninjago doesn’t even start out as a Lego movie. In fact, the beginning is live action, as the audience sees a little kid walk into a Chinese store with ancient artifacts. Of course, the shopkeeper just so happens to be Jackie Chan, who plays Mr. Liu. The kid gets clumsy and accidentally knocks some cups into the air, just so Jackie Chan could show off some of his trademark reflexes. Nice! Mr. Liu brings out a Lego guy with a missing arm and transforms him into the Green Ninja. Then he begins to tell the story of Ninjago.
This mythical land is protected by Lloyd and his school friends, who all lead double lives as a secret ninja force, led by Master Wu. Lord Garmadon constantly attacks Ninjago City and is thwarted by Lloyd and his friends. Just about everyone in Lloyd’s life hates him because Lord Garmadon is his father. To defeat Garmadon, Master Wu tells Lloyd about an Ultimate Weapon, but forbids Lloyd to use it. Lloyd ends up finding the Ultimate Weapon and unleashes an evil monster. Now Lloyd must venture out to find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon to defeat the monster terrorizing the city. At this point, you probably feel like you’re watching Lego Power Rangers.
Jackie Chan helped choreograph the animated fight scenes, and they look great. I could feel Chan’s fighting technique gracefully incorporated into the Lego figures. Sadly, this is wasted talent on a movie with such a dull script. This was probably the only highlight of the film. The jokes generally fall flat and are not funny. Garmadon constantly calls his son Le-Loyd. That’s supposed to be a running joke, by pronouncing the two L’s in Lloyd’s name. You wonder if Garmadon will ever get his son’s name right.
Well, you will have to watch the movie to find out. I’ll save you the misery — the answer is no.
Garmadon and Lloyd end up joining forces, and the movie shoehorns in some father-son bonding time.
For example, Lloyd loses an arm, and Garmadon just so happens to have four arms. I thought, well that’s kind of touching if he gives his own arm to Lloyd. I know that’s a little dark, but at least it has some Lego creativity. Instead, what happens is Garadon finds Lloyd’s arm on the ground and pops it back into Lloyd. This film never really pushes the boundaries of the Lego World. A sequel to the original Lego Movie is planned for 2018, and hopefully it will be more entertaining.
This film is flopping at local theaters near you. If you absolutely must get your Lego fix, I suggest you skip this movie and take your family to BrickCon at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall this weekend instead.
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.