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The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

Warner Home Video
4K UHD Released: 12/19/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/10/2018

Lego toys have been around since 1949 and have been a favorite of children (and adults) for decades. What began as simple bricks which could be used to build various things, expanded into kits which had specific themes (space, knights, etc.) and then moved into licensed characters. In 2003, Lego moved into the entertainment realm with the premiere of the first official Lego animated product, based on their Bionicle line. From there, animated Lego features have spread through home video and television. In 2014, Lego made the jump to the cineplex with The Lego Movie, whose success led to the spinoff 2017's The Lego Batman Movie. For the followup, Lego went back to their roots with The Lego Ninjago Movie, derived from a line of popular toys. Will this be a another winner?

The Lego Ninjago Movie takes place in the city of Ninjago, a sea-side metropolis where the citizens are generally very happy, except for when the super-villain Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux) attacks from his volcano lair. This is especially bad for Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), as everyone knows that Lloyd is Garmadon's son, and they never let him forget it. What the public doesn't realize is Lloyd is also the leader of the ninja force which protects the city. Nya (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), Cole (voiced by Fred Armisen), Jay (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), Kai (voiced by Michael Pena), and Zane (voiced by Zach Woods) all join Lloyd using robotic machines to fight Garmodon. When the team's teacher, Master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan), tells Lloyd about the "Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon", Lloyd and the team go on a mission to retrieve it. But, when an uninvited guest joins the quest, Lloyd is forced to take a look at his life.

The Lego Movie was based on original ideas and characters, while The Lego Batman Movie took the Batman character from The Lego Movie and placed him squarely in the DC Comics universe (along with some other characters owned by Warner Brothers). The former offered a blank slate to the audience, while the latter presented us with a group of characters who would be known to many viewers. The Lego Ninjago Movie takes things in a different direction. Not only is the film based on a specific set of toys, a Ninjago television show -- Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu (a show which features the same characters, but voiced by different actors) -- has been around since 2011. I have not seen that series, but I have to assume that the movie found itself attempting to appeal to fans of the TV series and the toys, and those who simply saw this as another Lego feature film.

Given all of this, I really didn't know what to expect from The Lego Ninjago Movie, as I had sort of liked The Lego Movie and had really liked most of The Lego Batman Movie. I was hoping for more of the subversive, clearly aimed at adults humor which was found in the earlier films. The Lego Ninjago Movie has a smidge of this and I did laugh a few times, but most of the truly funny moments are in the trailer. Instead, what we get is a movie which is surprisingly serious in nature. Now, this isn't a deep drama by any means, but much of the story focuses on how Lloyd feels abandoned by Garmadon and how growing up without a father scarred him emotionally and left him without certain essential skills. Lloyd's depression and sense of loneliness permeates the film from the outset and is the major theme throughout. Kids will most likely still enjoy the action and the bright colors, but adults will certainly think, "This is a little dark."

I feel certain that those who are already fans of the Ninjago characters will get a kick out of this movie. Those who are going in expecting something similar to the first two films will be disappointed. The movie has some funny moments and a few clever things (I liked the shark gun), but it also feels like a bigger budget version of a TV show. The voice acting doesn't have much of an impact and Theroux sounds like he's channeling Will Ferrell. My hope is that the next feature film from Lego will go back to doing something original and actually bringing the funny.

The Lego Ninjago Movie does nothing for kitty PR on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2106p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. It's the level of detail which is the real star there. The picture is incredibly crisp and we can see every mark and blemish on the characters. The depth works very well, even in this 2D version. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a nicely balanced track which really helps to bring the action sequences to life. These scenes delivers distinct stereo and surround effects and we are often treated to individual sounds coming from the rear speakers. The subwoofer is especially strong, highlighting each explosion and punch.

The extra features for The Lego Ninjago Movie are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Director Charlie Bean, Editor Dave Burrows, Layout Supervisor David Scott, Animation Director Matt Everitt, Associate Producer Kristen Murtha, Editor Garrett Elkins, Editor Ryan Folsey, Editor Doug Nicholas, Editor John Venzon, Editor Todd Hansen and Music Execs. Nikki Sharon and Amanda Markus. "Team Supreme: Building Ninjago" (8 minutes) offers interviews with the creative team, as they discuss the design of the settings and the characters. "Rumble in the Bricks" (5 minutes) takes us on-set to see how Jackie Chan and his team choreographed martial arts fights which were then turned into Lego animation. We get three "Mini Movies" -- "Shark E. Shark in Which Way to the Ocean" (2 minutes) (which is done in traditional animation), "Zane's Stand Up Promo" (2 minutes), and "The Master" (5 minutes). There are four MUSIC VIDEOS included here. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. "Gimme Some Outtakes!" (5 minutes) is a reel of fake bloopers. "Promotional Material" (20 minutes) offers a series of 10 shorts which were used to advertise the film and to be shown in theaters.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long