Movie review: Lego Ninjago
Movie review: Lego Ninjago
30 September 2017
Lego is counting on seven seasons of successful Ninjago television to deliver a ready-made audience for The Lego Ninjago Movie, though new fans won’t be left struggling to follow the plot.
Jackie Chan enters the first scene as a shopkeeper who offers to tell a young boy, “... the legend behind the legend of Ninjago”. But it will require him to “... forget all he has learned,” effectively cleaning the slate for the story that follows.
Dave Franco voices Lloyd, a teenage boy who struggles with a double-identity.
When his city is in crisis, he becomes the heroic Green Ninja and is hailed a hero, together with the rest of his ninja team.
However, at his high school he is despised as the son of the evil warlord, Garmadon. But Garmadon and his mother separated when Lloyd was still a baby, and the dark lord has shown no interest in reconnecting.
When their eventual face-off arrives, it’s more a family confrontation than a battle between good and evil: Lloyd: You ruined my life! Garmadon: That’s not true! I haven’t even been a part of your life! How could I ruin it? I wasn’t even there.
In his anger, Lloyd uses ‘The Ultimate Weapon’, and accidentally unleashes a terrible beast – a giant kitten called Meowra.
Now this estranged pair must combine to locate ‘The Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon’ to banish the cat from Ninjago.
Yet what they actually find along the way are new identities for father and son. What might once have been considered a “minority” storyline for a children’s movie, is certain to be a real touchstone for Lego.
In 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 47.5 per cent of all divorces involved children. One parent families have steadily been on the increase, with 28.2 per cent of those children seeing their estranged parent only once a year or never.
In fact, 51 per cent of estranged parents spend no overnight time with their children at all.
Given these figures, many of the children sitting in cinemas these holidays will require no imagination to understand the mixture of anger and longing Lloyd feels towards even a villainous father.
Not surprisingly, the plot climaxes with a resolution for Lloyd and Garmadon. Lloyd apologises for wishing Garmadon had never been his father; Garmadon regrets the time they’d lost together.
It’s touching and appropriate remorse. But the camera is already pulling back to the “real world” before we can see if it will lead to the sort of repentance that actually turns lives around.
And the final message left with the child who first wandered into Jackie Chan’s shop is not sacrifice for the sake of others, but confidence in your own ambitions.
It’s a fitting finish for the conundrum presented by The Lego Ninjago Movie. It’s excellent and amusing entertainment for all ages, driven by a personal storyline that is easy to appreciate.
Yet it settles on an affirmation of the very philosophy that does much to undermine marriage and family life. If the ultimate message is to believe in yourself, then your personal vision for your life ranks higher than any responsibility you might owe to those around you – be they husband, wife or child.
By contrast, Jesus says we achieve our greatest potential in the Kingdom of God when we put ourselves at the service of even the least people in our lives.
Servants make the greatest heroes, not the super-confident.
I don’t know if the average Ninjago fan will appreciate that distinction, but I do know what makes for a happier family life.
Lego Ningago is rated PG and is in cinemas now.
Mark Hadley is the culture writer for others and is one of Australia’s leading Christian communicators.