Genre: CG Animation
Director: Charlie Bean
Cast: Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Olivia Munn, Abbie Jacobson, Fred Armisen, Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Jackie Chan
Runtime: 1 hr 41 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: http://www.legoninjagomovie.com
Opening Day: 28 September 2017
Synopsis: In this big-screen NINJAGO adventure, the battle for NINJAGO City calls to action young Master Builder Lloyd, aka the Green Ninja, along with his friends, who are all secret ninja warriors. Led by Master Wu, as wise-cracking as he is wise, they must defeat evil warlord Garmadon, The Worst Guy Ever, who also happens to be Lloyd’s dad. Pitting mech against mech and father against son, the epic showdown will test this fierce but undisciplined team of modern-day ninjas who must learn to check their egos and pull together to unleash their inner power of Spinjitzu.
This reviewer highly recommended The Lego Movie back in 2014, calling it a movie that “is awesomely perfect for both adults and kids”. He gave a perfect score for The Lego Batman Movie earlier this year.
So it doesn’t take a genius to guess whether he is going to lap up the third instalment of franchise.
Based on the Lego Ninjago toy line which has been delighting fans since 2011, this is the first feature length movie to be based on an original Lego property. This columnist did not have much interest or knowledge about Ninjago before this, but he now finds himself checking out toy reviews to decide which sets are worth owning – such is the power of commercial product placement.
For the uninitiated, Ninjago is a fictional world featuring both modern cities and ancient villages. The setting for the 2011 TV series is now a colourful universe combining Chinese and Japanese pop cultures inhabited by Lego characters. The protagonist is 16 year old Lloyd Garmadon, the son of the evil Lord Garmadon, a tyrant living in a volcano and is constantly trying to conquer Ninjago.
Poor Lloyd: he is a social outcast (not surprising when your father is a villain who crushes buildings and blows people up) and doesn’t know what it is like to spend quality time with Daddy. He is also torn when he morphs into the Green Ninja to fight Lord Garmadon with his teammates. Can his uncle, the wise Master Wu (who is also the ninjas’ spiritual leader), enlighten him? Does his mother, a working class lady named Koko, have a secret to hide?
We sense that this teenager is experiencing unbelievably high levels of stress.
Like the two stop motion animated films before this, the filmmakers have created a rich and multi coloured universe which look epic on the big screen. Battlescenes with exploding Lego bricks are impressively created, and live action scenes are cleverly inserted. The highlight is seeing how each ninja drives or controls a machine (known as a mech) to destroy bad guys.
The pop culture references and jokes fire at you in a fast and furious mode – no wonder we see three directors (Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan), six screenwriters (Logan, Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern and John Whittington) and six producers (Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Chris McKay, Maryann Garger and Roy Lee) on the credit list.
The voice cast is remarkable. Dave Franco (Nerve) is exasperatingly adorable as Lloyd the Green Ninja, Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train) will crack you up with his non stop gags, and Jackie Chan (The Foreigner) is perfectly cast as the wisecracking Master Wu. It is interesting to note that this is not the first time Chan is voicing kungfu inspired characters – remember Monkey from the Kung Fu Panda movies and Mr Feng from The Nut Job 2?
The rest of the ensemble cast members have less to do, but they are equally remarkable. Michael Pena (CHiPs) is imposing as Kai the Red Ninja of Fire, Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) puts his awkward charm to good use as Jay the Blue Ninja of Lightning, Abbi Jacobson (Bad Neighbours 2) displays girl power as Nya the Silver Ninja of Water, former Saturday Night Live star Fred Armisen (Zoolander 2) spouts hilarious one liners as Cole the Black Ninja of Earth, and Zach Woods (Ghostbusters) is mechanically brilliant as Zane the white Ninja of Ice. Elsewhere, Olivia Munn (Office Christmas Party) takes on the role of Koko, Lord Garmadon’s ex wife and Lloyd’s mother.
While there isn’t a creatively witty surprise like The Lego Movie and a ton of Easter eggs like The Lego Batman Movie, this 101 minute movie still packs enough solid jokes to entertain both adults and kids. This is a straightforward story about the importance of family, and you can expect father and son to reconcile in the end. It may be a convenient way to conclude a movie, but it works for the masses.
For collectors, they will be scrambling after the movie to purchase Lego’s brilliantly manufactured building sets of Lloyd’s Mech Dragon, Kai’s Fire Mech, Jay’s Lightning Jet, Nya’s Water Strider, Cole’s Quake Mech and Zane’s Ice Tank.
(The entertaining movie features martial arts, good guys, bad guys, adventures and lots of laughs – and it ultimately gives you an urge to buy some Lego Ninjago toys)
Review by John Li