When The Lego Movie hit it big in 2014, it wasn’t long before a whole new franchise was created. More Lego movies, both sequels and spinoffs, were quickly greenlit. The issue is that while there is no doubt that most Lego properties are popular, some are significantly more beloved than others. The first spinoff, The Lego Batman Movie, was actually quite good but fell far short of the original film. The latest movie in the franchise, The Lego Ninjago Movie, is a serious step down and may have now hurt the franchise just as it was getting started.
The plot is pretty basic – young hero must stop an evil mastermind with the help of his friends. He receives training from a wise old master, and he uses the techniques he learns to help take down the bad guy. The “twist” is that this time, the villain is actually the father of the hero. Sound familiar? Yes, I actually saw many similarities between this film and the Star Wars movies. The difference is that while the Skywalker saga was created out of love, Ninjago just feels rushed and created strictly to sell toys. It also feels similar to the plot of the first Lego movie, though the quality of that was significantly higher.
Not everything about Ninjago is terrible though. It really did get a great cast of voice actors for the roles. Jackie Chan is great as always as the wise Master Wu, and the always phenomenal Justin Theroux is actually very funny as the evil Garmadon. Dave Franco, who I find infinitely more tolerable than his brother, is very good as the heroic Lloyd. Ultimately, the quality of the voice actors really has little impact on the rest of the film.
In my opinion, the biggest issue with the movie is just how awful it looks. Obviously stop motion animation isn’t easy to pull off, especially when it gets mixed with live action, but the first movie managed to pull this off with no issues. This time, it looks absolutely horrid. Maybe making the movie look cheap and cheesy was the plan from the beginning, but if it was was it was a very bad idea. I really hope all future Lego branded filmmakers learn a lesson and take the time to make their movie actually look good.
It’s unfortunate that the Lego franchise has taken such a hard hit only three films in, but I do believe that this could be a blessing in disguise. At least all future movies in the series should be better by comparison. The Lego Ninjago Movie is on par with some of those old direct to DVD animated movies that were popular in the past. It could have been so much better had the producers went for quality over quantity, but sadly that is not the case.