Bricking it: why the Lego movie franchise is on shaky foundations
The Lego Ninjago Movie cant hope to live up to the standard of either the original film or Lego Batman. Has quality already been sacrificed to quantity?
When we discuss the fad for cinematic universes, with their unimaginative bloat and paucity of ideas, we tend to overlook Lego. Thats partly because, in terms of sheer out-and-out stupidity, Lego has been comprehensively outflanked by everything from DCs red-pill dirge to the ongoing forehead-slap that is Universals Dark Universe.
But its mainly because 2014s The Lego Movie was so spectacular. Several thousand times better than it had any right to be, The Lego Movie zoomed in out of nowhere and smashed a hole in everyones expectations, bristling and fizzing with an irresistible energy that demanded you fell in love with it on the spot. The fact that the second Lego movie was Lego Batman admittedly not quite as good, but the perfect counterpoint to Batflecks grim posturing only helped to underline Legos potential as a feature film property.
But now theres The Lego Ninjago Movie, which has been much less rapturously received. Critically its been a dud, with reviewers baffled by the absence of humour. And commercially its the worst-performing Lego movie by a vast margin. Whether thats been because nobody over the age of nine actually knows what Ninjago is or even how to pronounce it properly or because Lego has made the classic mistake of expanding too quickly remains to be seen. But well find out pretty soon because, well, Lego is expanding too quickly.
In 2019, Lego will offer us both The Lego Movie Sequel and something called The Billion Brick Race. This will be in addition to the two straight-to-video releases out this year Lego Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash and Lego DC Super Hero Girls: Brain Drain the upcoming TV spin-off based on The Lego Movies Unikitty character and the breathtakingly unwieldy television special Lego Marvel Super Heroes Guardians of the Galaxy: The Thanos Threat. Call me a cynic, but it seems unlikely that all of these projects will hit the heights we now expect them to.
And thats a problem. Three years ago, Lego set out its stall on a promise of unbelievable quality, which was always going to be hard to maintain unless it opted for a policy of throwing everything it had at a tiny clutch of well-chosen films. The Lego Ninjago Movie proves that this isnt going to be the case at all; that Lego instinctively favours quantity over quality.