Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan

Stars: Jackie Chan, Justin Theroux, Dave Franco

This review is written from the perspective of my addled mind.

The LEGO what Movie?

Hang on a sec, let me Google this thing.

Nin-ja-go. Ninja-go? Let’s see what the website has to say….

Well… okay. So it’s like an Asian-inspired catch-all of martial arts and mechas? Looks a bit tweenage. And I haven’t really heard much about this one. Unlike LEGO Batman which hit market saturation a good few months before being released. That doesn’t bode well…

Hmm… Oh, its on? There are previews before it’s release on Friday? Well, why not?

“Doop-de-doop-de-doo. One for The LEGO Ninjago Movie please,” (actually three; I took some friends), “What’s that? No, I don’t think we’ll need paper hats, thank you.” Uh-oh. Paper hats? This is definitely a little kids’ LEGO movie. Oh, well, too late now, these tickets are non-refundable. Hope it’s good. My expectations? I don’t really have any. I don’t even know what this is, but the brand has worked gangbusters to give me good faith. In 2014 nobody expected anything of The LEGO Movie and it thoroughly charmed and surprised with its mix of quick wit and surprising depth (come the third act, anyway). So who knows? Maybe they can do it again? Good opportunity to see a couple of friends I don’t see enough.

Cut to a few hours later; we take our seats.

Think I’ll just have a look around. Oh. Lots of parents with little kids here. Are we the only adults here by ourselves? Looks like it. I’m worried again. And the trailers before the movie? I know they have to stick to the age rating of the main feature, but a My Little Pony Movie? Guess that’s gonna attract a whole different adult audience. Yikes. Oh, okay, it’s starting. Here we go.

Live action? Well, that’s an established thing in the LCU (LEGO Cinematic Universe? Is that a thing already?) Hey look, Jackie Chan! Cool. So he’s an old shop owner who’s about to tell this kid a story, huh? That’ll work as a framing device. Little simple, but why over-complicate it? Ah, here we go. LEGOland. LEGO Ninjagoland.

Woah. Info dump! I guess this is necessary, I mean I don’t know what’s going on. Okay, so there’s a bunch of high school kids and they’re secretly these ninjas who have giant mechanical monsters that they ride in and they each have a special power that’s in some way elemental (fire, water, lightning etc) except for their leader who is a green one called Lloyd (Dave Franco). And they all live in this one city and repeatedly battle this bad dude called Garmadon (Justin Theroux) who looks like a sort of demon ant…man and comes at them with his own giant mechas and they fight and its total chaos. And the green one, Lloyd, he’s Garmadon’s son and he’s pretty emo about it and this is all fairly standard I guess. I can put up with this for 90 more minutes or so, sure.

Heh.

Heh heh.

Hahahahaha!

Oh, jeez, that thing fires sharks! And when it does the sharks go “nom nom nom nom nom”. That’s hilarious. I am giggling. Ha! There’s a whole lift full of sharks! That’s really comical. Can you imagine? These action scenes with these elaborate mecha-builds are pretty frantic and confusing to look at. I mean, I’m not sure who is who or what they’re playing at half the time. It’s all pretty frantic. Ohmygod now they’re firing crabs! That’s funnier than the sharks somehow. This is pretty silly!

Now there’s an old ninja master guy called Master Wu (also Chan) who’s a bit like Vitruvius from the first LEGO Movie. And he’s told the gang not to use some Ultimate Weapon. Gee, wonder what’s gonna happen later on in the – oh, no, it happen right away! Ha! What, the Ultimate Weapon is a laser pen? I guess that’s a different riff on the “Kragle” from the other movie. And the whole ‘absentee father’ routine going on here between Lloyd (sorry, Luh-Loyd) and his father Garmadon has kinda been done already in both previous movies. Seems like the LEGOverse could use some new material, I mean –

OH MY GOD NOW THE CITY’S BEING ATTACKED BY A CAT. Like, a real-life cat. Not a LEGO cat. Oh my, this is inspired. Now we’re riffing on kaiju movies like Godzilla et al. It’s like a delirious catch-all spoofing Asian cinema.

No, more than that, it’s spoofing the very archetypes that make up these movies and, knowingly, their Westernised rip-offs as well. Like Karate Kid or Power Rangers (is that American? I have no idea. Note to self, Google where Power Rangers came from). And this bit with Master Wu? It’s like Gandalf and the Balrog from Lord Of The Rings – noooooooooooooo! (I bet he’s not gone really…)

This movie is doggedly building its own plot out of tropes; its master-building originality out of it’s very unoriginality. How post-modern! How meta! Like the way Gremlins 2 cannibalised American culture. Or how Quentin Tarantino has assembled his entire output from the pieces of other movies (also mostly Asian). I get it! It’s a fun story tailored for children, but grown-ups and cinephiles can also have fun spotting the references that they’re more accustomed to. There’s some pretty strong Luke/Vader style stuff going on too. Hey, speaking of which I’m kinda liking this Garmadon guy. He’s basically stealing the show. Justin Theroux seems to be having a riot doing the voice for him.

Ha! Hahaha! I can’t stop giggling at this thing! I mean, flip knows we needed a good comedy after the year we’ve all had, am I right? This level of anarchic silliness is just what I needed. Sure, it’s all a bit hokey. Heavy-handed, even. But so are the movies it’s lambasting. I think it’s fine. Yeah the father-son bonding routine is pretty tired, but it’s also mocking how tired it is, and there are so many funny bits! Ha! Like that one! Hahaha!

Wait, what? It’s over? That didn’t feel like 100 minutes… That was so pacey. I honestly didn’t feel much of a lull at all. Let’s see these credits. Holy crap! One two three four nine writers? Well they crammed the funny in. Oh, here come the ushers. Time to get up and get out of here. Well, I am relieved. What a hoot. I wonder if I can get one of those paper hats now?

Score:  

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