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