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The LEGO Ninjago Movie - an AFOL's Review

I had the opportunity to watch the LEGO Ninjago movie today, as part of a press preview showing in Seattle, WA.  The showing included members of the press, Members of the local LEGO User's Group (SEALUG), and members of the community.


NOTE: While I'm trying to be spoiler-free, please proceed with caution!


As a point of context, I have very little knowledge about the Ninjago world; I haven’t built any of the sets or watched the TV show. My typical focus is LEGO and Architecture, although I dabble in Technic, Creator, and Star Wars themes.


Story

The movie begins with a brief live-action shell story containing none other than Jacky Chan as a real-life Master Wu. We are quickly (and painlessly) transitioned into Ninjago city, a beautiful brick built city which is obviously inspired by Asian architecture. I did not see specific references to China, Japan, Korea, or other countries in the region, so I think they have tried to keep it nonspecific. (I do not feel qualified to determine if this is a sincere effort or cultural appropriation.)

We are quickly introduced to the cast of characters and the conflict between the “good guys” (Master Wu, Lloyd, Cole, Jay, Kai, Nya, Zane), and Garmadon – the seemingly one-sided villain. We are also introduced to Lloyd’s mom, Koko.



The film draws obvious parallels to classic Monster / Robot invasion themes.


Within the first 30 minutes, the connection between the main characters becomes clear, setting the stage for the film’s core story line.


Details

Without going into specific spoilers, I wanted to call out a few details of the film which helped it shine...

  1. Music – Through a mix of flute melodies and popular songs, the transitional moments in the film are emphasized with complementary music selections. They are nice easter-eggs for older viewers. It’s a bit heavy-handed at times, but the film isn’t trying to be subtle, so it works.
  2. Style – The movie environment is richly detailed and attractively rendered. The film used a blend of brick-built environments and rendered 3d scenes to a positive effect. In contrast to the original LEGO movie, most of the landscape and water details are not brick-built, but I felt like it did not detract from overall effect.
  3. Animation – The stop-motion style of animation perfected on the original LEGO movie returns for this film. I think this is a good decision, as the subtle pauses of the minifigures as they move remind the viewer that it is in fact a toy. I did notice that they took more liberties in changing the angle of arms and heads beyond what is possible with real bricks. In this way, the film is a bit less authentic, but I didn’t feel like it was too distracting.


LEGO'iness

My biggest pleasure in the original LEGO movie, and biggest disappointment in The LEGO Batman Movie stems from the role LEGO plays in the storyline.

The plot of The LEGO Movie is inextricably linked to the LEGO medium, be it the various historic LEGO realms, the constant re-building of components into creative solutions, or even the moment where Emmet can finally “see” the LEGO elements and their associated Part ID’s. The movie was bursting with easter eggs and natively LEGO moments that were a lot of fun to see as an AFOL.

By contrast, The LEGO Batman Movie was a Batman movie first, and the LEGO aspects felt like an afterthought. The movie’s core plot would have worked just as well as an animated film, a cartoon, or even a live-action film. This was disappointing to me as a fan of LEGO first, and Batman second. (By contrast, friends who love the Batman franchise were more positive about the film.)

The LEGO Ninjago Movie isn’t quite as strongly tied to the brick as the original LEGO Movie, but it’s better. There are lots of clever parts usage moments, and the storyline features specific LEGO elements in a prominent way.


For my closing thoughts, and an analysis of how closely the official LEGO sets match the movie, visit http://brickarchitect.com/2017/ninjago-movie/


Thanks,

---tom

MegtheCatdspigeldavetheoxygenmanricecakemsandersdatsunrobbieTheOriginalSimonBFowlerBricksbandit778CCCSumoLegoLittleLorilentil

Comments

  • LEGO_Dad77LEGO_Dad77 Northeastern CaliforniaMember Posts: 218
    edited September 25
    Cool review man. :)

    Being a fan of the show - both my Boy and myself - I was a little puzzled (though of course I understand that it's a stand-alone story/film, they did what would work best within the average runtime) as to why they re-wrote the history of the characters. It WAS cool how they did it though, by having Jackie say "the legend beHIND the legend of Ninjago", or something to that effect.

    I agree 100% with your LEGO-iness ascertation; I definitely enjoy brick-built effects and all scenery as opposed to "real" smoke/clouds/etc (Pig Chariot Chase to the Canyon scene from TLM, I'm lookin' at you). Well, except I think the "real" water works as I (and I'm sure many of us) played with LEGO in the bathtub, sink, pool, and.... mud! XD But again, they kinda set that part up in the beginning with the fish tank decorations.

    You should check out the show sometime! Been watching it alot more lately with my Son to get us even more amped up for the movie, and it's fun to see the team jumping into/building new vehicles and whatnot, and pointing to the screen with a "hey! We have that!" Just shows the strong connection to the real LEGO sets I guess, y'know?

    Anyhow, great review - movie was a bit of a letdown, but just a bit. I suppose nothing will ever quite "stack up" (oh dang, pun) to the original TLM. ;)
    Pumpkin_3CK5
  • HanzoHanzo VAMember Posts: 291
    Got back a bit ago from seeing it.  We enjoyed it.  It wasn't better than The Lego Movie but I felt it was better than The Lego Batman Movie in my opinion.  I have no previous experience with Ninjago so I have no preconceived notions of story or characters, so that may have added to the enjoyment coming in fresh.

    I liked the mix of Lego pieces and "real" elements.  Voice acting seemed solid all around and to me there wasn't a lot of cheesiness even though I had expected there to be.
    dannyrww
  • MattPetersenMattPetersen Florida, USAMember Posts: 255
    I loved the movie (so did my son).
    My biggest gripe is that they stopped using LEGO bricks for water and plants.

    I loved that the LEGO MOVIE used LEGO for everything. Maybe it got to be too difficult or time consuming but I noticed that in both Batman and Ninjago they didn't use bricks for everything in the environment. 
    SumoLegoLEGO_Dad77Bumblepants
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 7,849
    edited September 25
    This go-round was not as surprising and entertaining as the Lego Movie, and didn't have anywhere near the level of humor of the Lego Batman Movie.

    Kinda - meh.  Although I did like this version of the story better than the television show.  I don't like either version of Garmadon's origin.  I'm sure it'll do well, but any sequel will be strictly kids movie fodder.
    Pumpkin_3CK5gmonkey76BumblepantsLEGO_Dad77
  • LEGO_Dad77LEGO_Dad77 Northeastern CaliforniaMember Posts: 218
    Oh, my Boy just informed me that the best part of the movie was when he ate his hot dog. XD

    Straight from the heart people.
    MattDawsonrichlBumblepants
  • Pumpkin_3CK5Pumpkin_3CK5 CaliforniaMember Posts: 532
    I feel like they tried too hard, both with the drama and comedy, and ended up being underwhelming. Lots of trippy scenes that seemed out of place as well. I was also expecting them to form Voltron lolz
    LEGO_Dad77gmonkey76Bumblepants
  • AanchirAanchir United StatesMember Posts: 2,257
    I loved the movie (so did my son).
    My biggest gripe is that they stopped using LEGO bricks for water and plants.

    I loved that the LEGO MOVIE used LEGO for everything. Maybe it got to be too difficult or time consuming but I noticed that in both Batman and Ninjago they didn't use bricks for everything in the environment. 
    I don't think it was a matter of it being difficult or time-consuming, I think it's just a matter of them wanting to do new things. In The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the elements of the ninja being real elements gives their control over them a sort of a mystical quality like the relics in the first movie had. It also lets the creators explore the lifestyle photography look (like a lot of people do when they take their minifigures on vacation with them) rather than just a MOC photography look.

    Now, if the real objects in The LEGO Ninjago Movie were scaled as if the minifigures were real people, then I agree that would break the illusion that "this is something you can do with real LEGO", but I don't see what's wrong with it as long as they continue to keep the real rocks, sand, plantlife, etc in scale with LEGO bricks.
    Lyichir
  • SeanTheCollectorSeanTheCollector BirminghamMember Posts: 456
    Just watched the movie in the cinema and was very disappointed! :(
    Not much else I can say.
    gmonkey76
  • gmonkey76gmonkey76 ChicagoMember Posts: 819
    Finally saw it myself, and while I don't really know much about Ninjago I can say I didn't like the movie. I did like how the opening credits paid homage to old kung fu movies, but it went down hill from there. I would have to rate them in the way they came out.
  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 5,805
    I didn't enjoy it either -- I had trouble staying awake. It looked great but the story was boring. The best part was the havoc-wreaking non-LEGO 'element' :)
    Bumblepants
  • gunther.schnitzelgunther.schnitzel Member Posts: 92
    I brought my niece to this yesterday afternoon. The official release date in Ireland was 13th October (with previews last weekend) and they were showing it in 2D in 2 screens so I expected it to be packed like most kids movies I have seen with nieces / nephews. The cinema was less than 1 / 5 full which I've never seem before for a Sunday afternoon new release. We both enjoyed it but there were very few laughs from the audience so word of mouth certainly won't be helping boost sales. There hasn't been much advertising / promotion here, some bus stop posters is all I remember, maybe they have given up on it based on poor US box office performance.

    Are there any more LEGO movies planned?
  • RecceRecce 10,171km away from BillundMember Posts: 628
    ... 

    Are there any more LEGO movies planned?

    Probably not many left after this one... 

     I've watched it and found the story to be a bit boring. Definitely not as enjoyable as Batman Movie or Lego Movie.

    I've read that many who have watched it fall asleep halfway through, not me though. The only plus is that now I'm really tempted to get the red mech. 
  • stluxstlux LuxembourgMember Posts: 1,377
    Pacing was definitely a bit off, with lots of sections where not much was happening in either the action/comedy department. I can see how people might fall asleep.
    I still enjoyed it, but a lot less than TLM and TLBM. I will not be rushing to buy the blu-ray when it comes out, unless it comes with a very desirable polybag. A warrior outfit on a certain minifig would help...
    LEGO_Dad77
  • redarmyredarmy AberdeenMember Posts: 382
  • BrickByBrickBrickByBrick Massachusetts, USAMember Posts: 59
    stlux said
    A warrior outfit on a certain minifig would help...
    If we're talking about a certain someone, have you seen the pictures of the quake mech and piranha chase sets for next year?
  • stluxstlux LuxembourgMember Posts: 1,377
    @BrickByBrick I had indeed seen the pictures of those upcoming sets, but had apparently totally forgotten about their minifig selection!

    Yes, that addresses what I'm missing from the current TLNM minifigs, so not sure what could tempt me now to buy the blu-ray...
  • bandit778bandit778 Docking Bay 94. Member Posts: 1,479
    @stlux
    Unikitty in dojo training attire. ;)
    stluxAanchirLegogramLyichir
  • AyliffeAyliffe the UK innit?Member Posts: 255
    Saw the movie on saturday by myself, and my thoughts on it are... extremely mixed, honestly. I'm not sure how to properly structure this, so I'm just gonna list below the good/bad things about it that I can think of right off the top of my head (some of which may have minor spoilers, so watch out for that innit), starting with...

    THE GOOD STUFF
    • The visuals are, as per usual with these films, utterly gorgeous. A lotta reviews for the film have used the "oh no it doesnt use legos all the time its lazy" thing as a frequent criticism, but for me I... don't get this? The realistic natural elements with minifig-made structures being integrated into 'em reminded me mostly of those wonderfully-photographed spreads you'd get in 90s lego catalogues with train layouts and castles and such, and boy do I have a love for those layouts. S' a good visual style.
    • I also really really like Ninjago City's general design, it's almost like Los Angeles in Blade Runner but brighter and more child-friendly and I really really like that. Good stuff.
    • The animation is also, as per usual, still utterly gorgeous. They definitely do "cheat" a lot more with popping off minifig arms and exaggerated movements than the other films, but every smear frame in the film is still made with 100% lego elements so far as animation goes it's pretty dang inventive. 
    • Apart from one or two duff notes (I'll get back to this in a sec), the voice acting is mostly pretty spot-on too. Garmadon, Lloyd and Zane in particular are dang great, and the rest of the ninjas are pretty well-voiced too... when they do eventually speak, that is (I'll also get back to this in a sec).
    • The stupid pointless love-triangle from the show that serves no purpose other than to start shipping wars on tumblr is completely absent here, thank christ.
    • The character designs are several notches above Ninjago's usual decent standard and some of them (particularly Zane and Jay) are probably my favourite iterations of the characters design-wise ever.
    • Zane is best ninja bar none.
    Right, now we've covered that let's move onto the more questionable bits of the film, with...

    THE BAD STUFF
    • On imdb the film has a grand total of 13 (!) writers, and when it comes down to the plot... you can really, really tell this thing's had a silly amount of rewrites/changes through production and the final result feels more like remnants of several different story ideas blended together in the edit rather than having a clear idea of what they wanted to do at the very start. There's bits like the Good Morning Ninjago segment introducing the ninjas at the start where you can really tell that they had a ton o' finalised footage they'd removed from an earlier cut that they didn't know what to do with so they just haphazardly shoved it in there and it just suuuuuuucks. Talking of the first Good Morning Ninjago segment...
    • With storytelling in any medium, there's a general golden rule that should never, ever be broken with characters - show, don't tell. If you wanna get across to the audience that a character is shy or reckless or calm, then you should get that across through their speech and mannerisms so the audience can work out for themselves which character is which. What you absolutely shouldn't do in any piece of media whatsoever is yell directly at the audience which character is which and exactly what all their character traits are because it treats the audience like two-year-olds and is frankly an extremely lazy way of introducing characters. Naturally then, that's exactly how TLNM decides to introduce you into this world and, to put it bluntly, it's absolutely piss-poor and by far the worst part of the film for me. Tiny bits and bobs of exposition is one thing, but getting two news anchors to spend like 5 minutes yelling at you exactly who each character is and their relationship to Lloyd is just extremely lazy and awful in every single way and I just hate it so much and ugh. Showing all of the mechs and the inside of Garmadon's fortress in said news segment also completely removes any sense of surprise from their initial reveals later on in the film for the audience, which also completely sucks. The absolute worst part about it is that it's pretty clear from the unused footage in the ninja montages that they were gonna have a longer battle sequence at the start that would've introduced every character naturally through actions like every other good film, but instead they opted for this route because... why? Why did they do this? Why?!?
    • This definitely isn't a problem unique to TLNM (By the sounds of it the MLP Movie does it and I've got my fears about Avengers: Infinity War and Justice League doing it), but it's very much prevalent here - whilst some of the main characters get a ton of development/screen time, with a lot of them sorta just feel like they're tagging along for the ride and don't really contribute to the plot in any meaningful way as individuals. Kai and Cole in particular are just sorta there, and whilst Jay and Zane have some cool lines every now and again they don't really evolve as characters that much throughout the story. Shame really, since I was really hoping that the movie would make an attempt at not making Cole the "sorta-here-I-guess" ninja like he is in the show. Guess it simply wasn't to be.
    • Remember how I said most of the voice acting is pretty good? Well, there's an exception to that general rule, but there's a chance you may not have heard it - instead of having Good Morning America hosts for the GMN segments, here in the UK they replaced 'em with Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway from Good Morning Britain because localisation or something. Whilst Kate's performance is completely fine, Ben's is... to put it blunt, pretty darn awful. I dunno whether it's the way he's saying the lines or how it sounds like they're not written with his voice in mind (I wouldn't be surprised if he's got the same lines as the US GMN hosts, but I've got no way of checking that), but either way it sounds cringey as hell and I don't like it no siree.
    • Without going into too many details, the framing device the film uses serves no real purpose plot-wise and really doesn't need to be there honestly. They could've completely cut it and it wouldn't have made a shred o' difference.
    • Warner Bros really, really shouldn't have revealed Meowthra in the SDCC trailer honestly. If they'd kept it secret until the film's release as a right-outta-left-field reveal I really would've had more respect for the film than I do now.
    • The climax also feels kinda... rushed? Like, the moral lessons happen and then the animated stuff just sorta... ends. Doesn't feel as earned as TLM or TLBM.
    • There's a couple of scenes near the beginning that sound awfully devoid of background sound/music, almost to a degree that it makes the thing feel like WB sent out an unfinished cut to cinemas. S' weird.
    • The meme-y ultimate weapon montages? Awful. Please don't do that again.
    • Occasionally the ninjas describe things as "So ninja!" and it feels very "how do you do fellow kids" each and every time.
    • Zane does not dab in the film. 
    All in all, if I had to rate the film I'd give it a firm 6/10 - it's not the absolute worst film I've seen this year (to be fair I had to sit through the bloody emoji movie so I wouldn't take that as much), but there's much better out there to watch and I'd encourage you to do so. 

    tl;dr: Save the money you'd spend on film tickets for the stunning sets and just wait 'til the movie arrives on DVD - it's competent but really not worth the cash honestly.
    LEGO_Dad77catwrangler
  • AyliffeAyliffe the UK innit?Member Posts: 255
    (posting this bit separate as I actually went over the word limit, whoops)

    As for set accuracy, I didn't notice any real big issues other than tiny variations (Casual Lloyd has sandals in one scene and I desperately wish his CMF had 'em), things that simply didn't exist in the film (all the training robes), and stuff that they clearly left out to avoid spoilers (the aforementioned Temple of the UUW) - all stuff that I can pretty much look over due to how stellar the sets are.

    It's a shame really, since if the film was as high-quality as the sets I'd be here today raving about how stunningly brilliant the film was and how many oscars it'll win. Ah well, at the very least hopefully TLG and WB will learn from this that shoving two lego movies out in the space of a year is a really bad idea and they shouldn't do it again. 
    LEGO_Dad77
  • AdzbadboyAdzbadboy London, UKMember Posts: 2,489
    edited October 18
    I've seen both The LEGO Movie (2014) and this year's The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) in the cinema however I've decided to pass on The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017).

    The initial decision to watch for the 2014 movie like many of us was simply because it was a feature film about LEGO and the playful aspects of the brand. Skip to 2017 with The LEGO Batman Movie the decision was mainly because it was a cool original comic book movie about Batman whilst spoofing his pass iterations in various media.

    Now with The LEGO Ninjago Movie I'm not feeling any connection with the movie at all. I've passed on the opportunity to experience in theaters and I'll happily wait for the home release. I've yet to purchase any merchandise on the movie with the exception of #71019-20 - N-POP Girl, this wasn't the case with the first two LEGO movies, I had merchandise way before those movies were out. The trailers didn't do much in addition the critics reviews, looks like I made a good decision by reading the comments on this thread.
  • kbwkbw NCMember Posts: 107
    I don't really have an in-depth review and I'm not a film expert, but I've seen all 3. Lego Movie is the best, followed by Batman, followed by Ninjago imo. That said, I wasn't as down on this as most. I was entertained and I didn't find it as bad as others have suggested as the jokes are right up my alley. I enjoyed the sense of humor even if it was repetitive. I laughed often. I told somebody the other day it's worth seeing just for the bad guy (Garmadon). Jay's character was pretty entertaining too.  Honestly, if you're looking for a way to kill some time and aren't searching for some deep cinematic experience, check it out. However, If the jokes in the previews don't make you laugh, then proceed with caution. Finally, you don't need to see it in the theater by any means. DVD is fine.
  • richlrichl Member Posts: 236
    Ayliffe said:
    • ... since I was really hoping that the movie would make an attempt at not making Cole the "sorta-here-I-guess" ninja like he is in the show. Guess it simply wasn't to be.
    Mr Cole is the worst.
    AanchirAyliffeLyichir
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