The world at large has always exhibited the symptoms of being afflicted with some degree of “LEGOmania”, but 2014’s “The LEGO Movie” saw the condition finally take hold of moviegoers across the globe. 2017 saw the new franchise continue onward with its first two spin-offs, “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”. And while such renown Legomaniacs as Zack and Jack have yet to receive the fully warranted Stan Lee cameo treatment, with “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”, it remains safe to say that, as far The LEGO movie franchise goes, Everything is Awesome!
With the protectors of Ninjago all brought to life through 3D animation, an ensemble cast steps in to provide the voices of our heroes and villains, with Dave Franco leading the way as the voice of Lloyd Garmadon, aka The Green Ninja. His fellow Ninjutsu-trained protectors of Ninjago include The Red Ninja Kai, voiced by Michael Pena, The Blue Ninja Jay, voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, The Silver Ninja Nya, voiced by Abbi Jacobson, The White Ninja Zane, voiced by Zach Woods, and The Ninja of Earth Cole, voiced by Fred Armisen. Justin Theroux voices the villainous Dark Ninja, Lord Garmadon, while Olivia Munn voices Lloyd’s mother Koko. The one and only Jackie Chan also voices the role of Master Wu, the wise mentor of the Ninja protectors of Ninjago. Never one to turn down a chance to go the extra mile, Jackie also makes a live-action appearance in the role of Mr. Liu, an antique shop owner who narrates the Legend of Ninjago to a young boy, played by Kaan Guldur, in a live-action framing device that bookends the film.
The villainous Lord Garmadon has spent his life determined to conquer the city of Ninjago, but his conquest is repeatedly thwarted by the city’s heroic Ninja protectors. Lord Garmadon’s son Lloyd is frequently the subject of scorn through Ninjago due to his connection to the city’s biggest menace, but unbeknownst to both the denizens of Ninjago and Lord Garmadon, Lloyd is a member of the Ninja force that defends the city from his father’s attacks.
Although having been forbidden by the Ninja protectors’ wise mentor, Master Wu, to use the “ultimate weapon” in battle against Lord Garmadon, Lloyd sees it as his one sure fire chance of ending his father’s attacks on the city once and for all. Lloyd puts the weapon to use during Lord Garmadon’s next assault on Ninjago, but unfortunately, it ends up doing more harm than good, forcing Lloyd, Master Wu and their fellow Ninja warriors to cross the Forest of Dangers for the “Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon” to finally set things right.
From its inaugural instalment in 2014, “The LEGO Movie” franchise has managed to be the rare film franchise that is all things to all people. It’s a parody of whatever piece of intellectual property its adopting, but also manages to play it straight. It’s an out-of-this-world child-friendly fantasy but also delves into themes and subject matter that adults can relate to. It’s been an unabashedly synthetic CGI concoction that nevertheless manages to be heartfelt and emotionally engaging – naturally, these are the very things that made Lego-maniacs of us all in the first place!
The Lego universe is one of high adventure but also heart-warming simplicity, where anyone can be a hero battling to save the day and be cartoony without being Looney (Tunes). One only need look at the opening of last February’s “The LEGO Batman Movie” for proof of that alone, whose blood-pumping soundtrack, by the way, actually somehow makes The Dark Knight’s incredible warehouse brawl more righteously bad-ass than it already was!
In “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”, the ultimate weapon threatening to wipe out Ninjago is something as mundane as a cat named “Meowthra” driven to swat the city to pieces by the irritation brought on by the red beam of a pen light. While the film derives a token amount of comic relief from such a seemingly silly McGuffin, the quest of Master Wu and his Ninja warriors to uncover the Ultimate, Ultimate weapon evokes, within the parameters of the Lego universe, the feel of a genuinely sweeping martial arts adventure. There’s an almost “Power Rangers” meets “Avatar” vibe to its premise of multi-coloured Ninja warriors, each embodying the power of the elements, towering mech-suits, and monstrous threats right out of a kaiju movie.
Owing to the fact that he’s endured a lifetime’s worth of injuries that would have left most of us as dead as door nail at half his age, Jackie Chan has reinvented himself tremendously over the last decade or so. “The Foreigner“, released just weeks after this film, saw Jackie take on a Clint Eastwood-esque role of an aging special ops soldier who was brains first and brawn second. For “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”, it’s of course all voice-acting on Jackie’s part, but the wise mentor role has fit him like a glove since 2008’s “The Forbidden Kingdom“, and while it goes without saying that these are very different fight sequences than you’ll find in even the most animated martial arts films, they carry the feel of a whacked-out version of “Drunken Master“.
The animation style gives the action a literally impossible level of fluidity, with each fight sequence playing like a series of snapshots of characters caught in the middle of a kick or flip, while their movements in between flash by at the speed of light. Master Wu’s one-on-one with Lord Garmadon in The Forest of Dangers encapsulates the film’s unique approach to martial arts Legomania and IS the mental image of what all of us who once pitted action figures against one another in battles to the death had going on in our minds. The film further blends the cartoonish with the child-like in its resolution of the Ultimate Weapon vs Ultimate Ultimate Weapon, which in true “LEGO Movie” tradition, brings the conflict of the film to a close in a fittingly endearing way.
Like its predecessors in the franchise, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is an action-packed, family friendly “Toy Story”-style adventure that has something to please everyone. Its action sequences are pure cartoon fun that will bring a smile to faces of kids and grown-ups alike on completely different levels and in his ongoing mission to try new things, Jackie Chan is still taking us to school – but then again, you probably knew that already!
- This is the first film in the “LEGO Movie” franchise that is based upon an original Lego property. Ninjago began as a Lego toyline in 2011, which was accompanied the same year by an animated series on Cartoon Network, “Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu”, which continues to run today.
- Producer Chris McKay served as the animation director for “The LEGO Movie” and director for “The LEGO Batman Movie”, and has also worked as both director and animator for many episodes of the popular stop-motion sketch comedy series “Robot Chicken”. McKay is also set to direct the upcoming comic book movie “Nightwing”, which will be set in the DC Extended Universe and which will reportedly be extremely martial arts action heavy.
- Jackie Chan was heavily involved in crafting the film’s animated martial arts sequences, which you can see in the video below…
Film Rating: 7.5/10
- “Can I be the Master….of Surprise?” – Lloyd (after being dissatisfied with learning he embodies the “element” green.)
- “I’d say it’s about a seven…point…arm ripped off!” – Lord Garmadon (after Lloyd asks him to evaluate his injuries on a scale of one to ten.)
- “Ninja-Go!” – Lloyd and the Ninja force (preparing to head into battle.)
Seen the movie, what did you think; would you like to see more LEGO movies featuring different martial arts styles? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Don’t forget to check out our previous kung fu movie reviews too!