A few months back my friend and I were having one of our weekly phone conversations. It was nothing out of the ordinary; we talked about how our weeks had been going so far, things that pissed us off, things that excited us, and plans to hang out in the future. About halfway through the conversation she mentioned a movie that she really wanted to see in September, it was called The LEGO Ninjago Movie. I had heard of Ninjago, mostly through TV commercials when flipping through channels of the TV, it was a LEGO cartoon series with seven seasons that also had short-length films. I had never thought about watching any of the LEGO-based cartoons or films before, but after seeing how popular and comical The LEGO Batman Movie was I decided to give Ninjago a chance.
After spending almost two months watching both short-length films and as many of the seasons Netflix had available; I admit, I’m a horrible binge-watcher, I actually grew to love this LEGO series. The show featured voice talent that I like and was familiar to me, and although the characters were animated they were created to be relatable to the average viewer. After seeing all of this I was really looking forward to the movie in September.
Walking into the theatre I knew the movie wasn’t going to be predictable to me in any way, shape or form. I knew it would be the same cast of characters, but I had heard through various internet sources that this film was meant to be a complete reboot of the series so it would be more viewable to a more mainstream audience who had no knowledge of the property. Since I loved the series and the characters so much though, I was more than willing to give it a chance.
For those of you who plan on seeing the movie but haven’t done so yet, this is where the spoilers begin. The movie follows Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco), the son of Lord Garmadon (Justin Theorux), an evil warlord who constantly attacks Ninjago in an attempt to take control of it. Lloyd is an outcast at school and all throughout the city because of his father’s reputation. He fights undercover as the Green Ninja whenever his dad attacks the city. His friends are his classmates Zane (Zach Wood), Cole (Fred Armisen), Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), Kai (Michael Pena), and Nya (Abbi Jacobson), Kai’s younger sister, who are also ninjas. All of them fight Garmadon and his evil army with mech’s that specialize in using a certain elemental ability. Zane’s uses ice, Kai’s fire, Cole’s earth, Nya’s water, and Jay’s lightning. The ninja are trained by Master Wu (Jackie Chan), Lloyd’s wise uncle, and Garmadon’s younger brother, who reminds them that each of them holds true elemental powers within them and will not be true ninja until they unlock powers and find their true potential.
Very early on in the movie, we’re introduced to just how the relationship between Lloyd and Garmadon works. Garmadon has no idea how to deal with his teenage son because he has not seen Lloyd since he was a baby and only remembers him as that; he does not even know that his son is the Green Ninja who is always ruining his attempt to take over Ninjago. During one combative encounter, Lloyd can no longer deal with the fact that his father neglects him and continues to make him an outcast because of his schemes and uses the Ultimate Weapon that Master Wu forbade him from using. The Ultimate weapon turns out to be a laser pointer which summons the movie’s true villain, a real-life cat named Meowthra. She begins destroying Ninjago while trying to get the laser and destroys all of the ninja’s mech, power before Lloyd can destroy the laser. Garmadon declares his victory, and Lloyd reveals to his father that he is the Green Ninja and he wishes that Garmadon was never his father before disappearing.
As the movie continues we eventually see Lloyd and Lord Garmadon’s relationship grow as Lloyd and the rest of the ninja must travel to the other side of Ninjago and cross through many dangerous regions in order to retrieve the Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon, and Master Wu gets separated from them and assumed dead. Garmadon now leads Lloyd and the ninja through the Forest of Dangers, Canyons of Death, and the Temple of Fragile Foundations, much to Lloyd’s dismay. On the journey though Lloyd is finally able to express how he really feels about being neglected by his father and how the people of Ninjago treat him because of his father’s actions. Slowly, we begin to see the Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker style relationship between father and son take a turn for the better.
Now being a fan of the show and seeing several seasons of it, I did notice quite a few differences. First off, in the show, Lloyd’s mother, Misako, or Koko as she is nicknamed in the movie is given a complete makeover to make her look younger, and though it is not mentioned, later on in the movie, it is possible she has an entirely different profession. Her personality is also changed so she appears as more of a “badass.” One of the most interesting changes that the writers made, however, was he cluelessness to Lloyd’s true identity; whereas in the show she knew her son was meant to be the green ninja and left him at a boarding school so she could research a prophecy that existed about him.
Next, there were the changes made to the other ninja. For starters, we know right off the bat that Nya is the water ninja, whereas, in the show, we do not learn this until a much later season, seeing how Master Wu himself did not know right away. We are also given hints right away that Zane is a robot, but I enjoyed that because of how comical it was. Cole’s personality is not given any drastic changes, but his appearance, like the others, does get altered, more so than the others. Jay is depicted as more fearful and reluctant of almost everything and rarely talks, a big contrast to his show counterpart. Lastly, Kai is still impulsive and appears to enjoy fighting like his show counterpart, but he is depicted as serious, much like Cole.
One of the differences that stuck out to me the most was Lloyd and Garmadon’s relationship. In this movie, Garmadon has not seen Lloyd since he was a baby because his mother left with him. Having no contact with his son and having no idea where he certainly does not help Garmadon, and while it may look like in the beginning that Garmadon does not love or care about Lloyd, it is simply because he does not know how to love his teenage son. He has not seen Lloyd in 16 years and therefore knows next to nothing about him. As we watch the second half of the film though we can see that he does truly care of his son and that has missed out on a lot of things that he continuously tries to make up for, in little ways, but he still tries.
While this movie has not been a box office hit, as a fan I thoroughly enjoyed it. I do feel that is because even if the movie was made as a reboot so it could capture the attention of a larger audience, I, as a fan of the show, noticed all the details of the story and the characters that I enjoyed in the TV series. I cannot say I prefer the movie over the TV series or vice versa; out of all of the LEGO movies that have been made so far, I think The LEGO Ninjago Movie has earned the top spot at my favorites list for all the LEGO movies.