When I reviewed the marketing campaign for The LEGO Ninjago Movie I thought the whole effort was relatively harmless, a decent, if half-hearted, attempt to both cash in on the popularity of the toy line that inspired it and sell more of those playsets. There was nothing particularly interesting or motivational about the campaign, it was just…alright.
The movie is focused on Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), a member of an elite squad of ninjas who protect Ninjago City from Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), the warlord bent on conquering the city for reasons that don’t extend far beyond “because.” Complicating matters is the fact that Lloyd is Garmadon’s son, something that’s widely known, but because Lloyd’s identity as the Green Ninja is a secret, no one draws the connection between attacker and defender. Things happen and eventually everyone learns a valuable life lesson.
Most of the main story beats were laid out in the marketing, which emphasized the humor that audiences had come to expect from the previous two LEGO feature films. We got the relationship between Lloyd and his father as well as the general personalities of the other members of the ninja team. In fact all those characters formed a big chunk of the marketing, with several series of posters released that featured almost all the characters in the movie.
There are a few things that were in the campaign that aren’t in the final movie, including a major story beat involving Lloyd and his dad. And the framing device of the story isn’t hinted it at all, with the focus firmly kept on the LEGO action and not the way the story is being told, which continues the blending of the real-world and the animated adventures.
The biggest aspect of the movie that was true to the campaign which sold it is that it’s just not necessary. There’s nothing new being told here, nothing unique. Perhaps that’s why this movie hasn’t lived up to the box-office standards set by The LEGO Movie or The LEGO Batman Movie. It’s funny and certainly entertains, particularly if you’re with a younger person who’s more in the target demographic. But it’s just…there. It passes right through within 10 minutes, leaving nothing behind.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie isn’t bad. It’s well made and relatively entertaining. But if you haven’t already seen it, go in with low expectations. There are some decent laughs but by the time you get to the car you’ll have forgotten much of it due to a lackluster story that forgets what message it’s trying to send three or four times over the course of script.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.