U – 101mins – 2017 – 3D
THE QUEST FOR PIECE
With 2014’s Lord and Miller-scribed The Lego Movie proving to be a chuckle-stuffed block-buster, a whole universe of brick-based CG-animated feature film spin-offs were commissioned, with this modern-day karate-themed yarn following hot on the heels of February’s Batman solo adventure (which I reviewed HERE).
Based, unsurprisingly, on a ninja/samurai/sensei toy line, Ninjago splices Feudal Japanese iconography and martial arts with supernatural superpowers and sci-fi future tech, granting the heroes Power Rangers-style zords to ride, and for reasons bizarrely left unexplained, a robot teammate (Zach Ghostbusters: Answer the Call Woods).
Directed by a TRIO of filmmakers and written by SEVEN, I attribute some of the films zipping hyperactivity to the age old ‘too many cooks’ quandary. Frenetic busyness is a staple of this stop motion-aping franchise, but here it feels more clunky and less purposeful, often blurring the backstory and diluting the universal and relevant father-son relationship, which gives heart to the outlandish wackiness.
Cinema icon Jackie Chan is a stand-out player as both bookending narrator and the hero’s spiritual leader, Master Wu, who guides the team of secret teenage ninjas into the Forest of Dangers and to the Temple of Fragile Foundations to collect an “ultimate, ultimate weapon” which will stop giant “monster” Meowthra (a real-life tabby cat) from destroying Ninjago City – but will evil warlord Garmadon (Justin The Girl on the Train Theroux) foil their plans?
As colourful as ever, Ninjago is sadly the least meta and least parent-friendly LEGO movie yet. The tension between Garmadon and plucky Green Ninja “L-loyd” (Dave Franco) does grow into a soulful strand, but for long stretches (particularly early on) wackiness is the overriding factor.
There are some neat nods to kung fu movies (Look Whose Punching Too!) and even a Jackie Chan blooper real over the end credits, while the animation – particularly concerning the implementation of Meowthra – is commendably sublime. However, the concept of have real life impacting dangerously upon the toy city feels like a lazy repeat of the twist which shocked in the first movie.
CR@B’s Claw Score: