While every other studio is bent on creating a unified cinematic universe (Disney, Sony, Universal… the list goes on), there is one that is intent on taking it easy. While Warners is focused on creating a unified DC Cinematic Universe, it is also doing the opposite with its LEGO Animated Universe.
Even though The LEGO Batman Movie is a spin off of 2014’s The LEGO Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, while making use of the same plastic construction toys, is not linked to the earlier two flicks in any way.
For the average viewer, it’s both a boon and a curse though. Without any previous links, audiences can walk into this movie without knowing about the Master Builder, or that everything is awesome. The slate is clean and there’s no need to know any history before diving in.
Wait, did I say there’s no need to know any history? Sure, you don’t have to know the earlier movies, but as the title suggests, you kinda have to be familiar with the Ninjago franchise to appreciate this movie.
LEGO makes plenty of playsets with dozens of themes. Some, such as Pirates, City or Space are basic in their themes, while others, such as Star Wars, DC and Marvel, are licensed from other content owners. Then there is the Friends range, and the Ninjago range.
Ninjas in mecha suits, trying to save the city of Ninjago from the evil Lord Garmadon. Oh, except that the leader of the ninjas, Green Ninja Lloyd, is the son of Garmadon. Cue father and son relationship in the fight of needy son versus redeemable father.
And the even more confusing part? The LEGO Ninjago Movie is based on the toy, but it is set in a storyline that is different from the TV series. Yet, it shares some elements from the show, so cue confusion.
Yes, it is a child’s movie after all, and that is where LEGO finds its strength – no matter the theme, it falls back upon the same concept of heart, which this movies has, like an unending volley of bricks.
And that’s a concern. The first LEGO movie was about a simpleton finding his place in the world, while the second is about a hero’s relationship against a villain. The third sort of copies the second and the first, and how many times can you see the same LEGO pieces fall apart, only to come together to form the same thing.
Then there is the level of self awareness contained within the film – more so with the appearance of a live-action opening and ending sequence. And the fact that Mewthora, the manifestation of an all powerful ultimate weapon, is a life-size… cat.
Irreverence has always been the backbone of the first two LEGO movies, and the dial has been cranked up several notches here. The jokes come in fast and furious, and there are laughs for both adults and kids here.
Naturally, a LEGO movie is not one without any toys, and the company has filled the movie with some nifty ones. Sure, the mechas are awesome, but check out Wu’s flying Chinese junk. And Garmadon’s ultimate robot, Garma Mecha Man. My favourite would be the Temple of the Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon. It’s not very often that movies and toys have such close synergy, and LEGO is getting good at it.
My only fear is that while the LEGO movies have a good foundation, I’m not sure how many times the same jokes, self reference and feel-good nature can be continuously replicated.
Like the bricks, the same set can only used for a finite number of sensible constructs, before you have to add in new elements.