The LEGO Ninjago Movie

LEGO has been part of the lives of children since 1958. As was shown in the original LEGO movie, some people are free-flowing builders while others are insistent on following the instructions that come in the box. This freedom is the beauty of the toy bricks out of Denmark; they satisfy various creative methods and personalities. This concept was an underlying theme of the Warner Brothers Animation team, but with the release of their third big-budget production have the creators maintained their originality or have they become a slave to a formula?

As a typical 16-year-old, Lloyd (Dave Franco) experiences all of the challenges of a teenager. An overly protective mother, the awkwardness of high school and he has a complicated relationship with his father. Being the only child of divorced parents is hard enough, but the real issue is that his dad is Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), the tyrannical warlord who continually attempts to take over the city of Ninjago. As the enemy of this whole LEGO populace, his father has made things exceptionally difficult for Lloyd’s life.

Thankfully he has his circle of friends and his ninja mentor, Master Wu (Jackie Chan), who have all come together to protect the citizens of Ninjago from the multiple invasions by Garmadon. As vigilante warriors, Lloyd and his band of fighters always manage to keep the upper hand, until one day when their enemy unwittingly finds their weakness. This challenge leads to a quest to find the Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon that could finally bring an end to this tyrannical invader and all of Lloyd’s problems.

After only three feature films, the directing team for The LEGO Ninjago Movie must have received the ‘by the numbers’ instructions on how to deliver a film within this franchise. The formula involves a villain with a snarky attitude that wants to control the local LEGO community, a hero that has identity or daddy issues and a surprise twist that is added in for good measure. These elements worked well in The Lego Movie, but are reminiscent of the old building brick sets that sit on the shelf in a children’s playroom. Once the construction of these toys is complete, most of these creations are usually only suitable for display or for the bricks to be added to the ‘mix bucket.’

This film is primarily for fans of the Ninjago sets and graphic novels. There are whispers of the previous films that offer a few laughs and enough action for all of the primary school boys in the audience. The only element that provides originality, but a bit of frustration to this movie is the voice work of Jackie Chan. He is funny, but without his signature stunt work to add to the film, his presence is more to pay homage to his extensive kung fu career than for lifting the quality of this production.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie offers a safe option for families with younger male fans, but it does not add too much to the LEGO film canon. The parents will appreciate the humour, but after awhile most of the jokes will seem familiar. The hope will be that for the next film they will throw out the ‘instructions sheet’, stick their hands into the ‘mix bucket’ and build something new and different within this builder’s world.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

‘Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.’ Psalm 127:3-5

One aspect of fatherhood that tends to get overlooked is that it is not only a responsibility, but it is a privilege. Children are truly a blessing. It can be hard to remember this during the early morning feedings or the latest car smash, but these incidental things should not diminish the gift that they are in our lives.

Fathers need to look at this opportunity as an honour and do all that can be done to be the men our children need us to be. Somedays are harder than others, but thankfully the Bible gives us the instruction manual to help to mould our children and prayer provides the comfort to watch over them in all situations.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” – Joshua 24:15

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.