The LEGO movies have been consistently excellent. The LEGO Ninjago Movie is no exception. Continuing with their father relationship themes, this movie has great talking points and family dynamic issues on which to reflect.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
If your kids (and maybe you) are fans of the LEGO Ninjago cartoon series, they’ll notice right away that the movie doesn’t really keep continuity with the series. Since franchises are getting away from keeping previous timelines and story plots more and more, they’ll probably be fine with it. If you take the movie as its own story, it’s a pretty good one; entertaining, funny, great graphics, and excellent lessons. And Jackie Chan is always charming. And, after seeing this movie, there are several new LEGO sets that I’d like to get for Christmas.
Is it appropriate for your kids?
LEGO is careful about turning out products that are safe for children, and their movies are no different. There’s no bad language, no sexual material, no bloody violence–just LEGOs getting blown up, and you never get the impression that anyone is hurt badly or killed. I found nothing objectionable in it.
Caution: Contains spoilers.
Llyod Garmadon is the son of the most dastardly villain in Ninjago City, Lord Garmadon … and everybody knows it. Actually, I think he’s the only villain in Ninjago. But, Lord Garmadon tries to conquer Ninjago City pretty much everyday and is defeated by the secret ninja warriors who use mechs based on each ninja’s element: fire, water, earth, ice, lightening, and … green? Lloyd is the head ninja of the group, and is surrounded by his friends: Kai, Jay, Nya, Zane, and Cole. Master Wu leads these ninja, and has trained them to be the great warriors that they are. They have gotten away from their art, Spinjitzu, and rely too much on the tech of their mechs to do battle. Master Wu makes them realize that they have to develop (or, redevelop) their ninja skills and the gifts that their elements give them. But, poor Lloyd has a few roadblocks in the way; he’s always blamed for the things that his dad does because no one knows he’s the Green Ninja, he’s angry and hurt at his dad’s abandonment of him, and it’s hard to develop your element when it’s “green.” How do you develop green?
Frustrated and hurt by his dad’s lack of attention to (or even awareness of) him, Lloyd chooses to use The Ultimate Weapon against Lord Garmadon disobeying the warning of Master Wu. It unleashes a kaiju-sized cat into Ninjago City, causing mass destruction, as cats normally do against LEGO sets. The Wu Crew sets out on a treacherous journey with Master Wu to find The Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon so that they can stop the cat.
Along the way, they’re ambushed by Garmadon, lose Master Wu, and the ninjas allow Garmadon to lead them. But, just as bad guys do, he leads them off of the Right Path onto a Short Cut that should have led them to disaster, but instead leads to some relationship growth between Lloyd and his dad. When they get back to the city, Garmadon goes about his old evil ways again. It’s not till the ninja are about to be crushed by the Temple of the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon that Lloyd realizes that the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon is, in fact, the power that each of them has inside. Armed with this knowledge, the ninja return to Ninjago City and defeat Garmadon’s forces. Garmadon, however, was busy trying to use things that he thought were the aforehand mentioned Weapon on the cat and is eaten by it. Finally, Lloyd realizes that his Green Element is the life that flows within all of us and unites the other elements. He forgives his father, who is thrown up by the cat, and makes peace for himself, his father and the City.
Some Themes for Discussion
- Lloyd was being bullied in school, and judged for his father’s actions. They didn’t know the true Lloyd–they didn’t know what was in his heart, that he was a wonderful son, or that he was the most powerful ninja in the secret ninja group. Have you ever been judged by people’s impression of you rather than who you really are? Have you ever done that to anyone else?
- Lloyd’s dad knew so little about him because of his own self-centeredness that he didn’t know he was the Green Ninja, or when his birthday was, or even how to say his name right. It was also the reason their family broke up–because Garmadon was unwilling to put his family’s needs before his desire for world domination. What else can self-centeredness do to a family? What are some ways that family members can be more attentive to one another’s needs? How can tending to one another build a family up? What are some ways that your family is good at being selfless?
- The Temple of the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon was the house that Garmadon and Wu grew up in. It was also called something like, “the house that was built on an incredibly weak foundation.” Jesus warned us about houses built on weak foundations, too. Read Matthew 7:24-27. How does it remind you of Garmadon? How did he build his “house” on a sandy foundation? How did his brother, Wu, build his “house” on solid ground?
- Master Wu’s ship is called “Destiny’s Bounty.” If destiny is what we were made for–what attributes God gave us that make us special and make us most suited for a particular vocation–then what does the name of Wu’s ship mean? What bounty are given, do we discover, do we have, when we follow our destiny?
- No parents are perfect; we all know that! How important was Lloyd’s forgiveness of Garmadon? How did it change Lloyd? How did it change Garmadon? How important is it in our families? How can it change us?
- Each ninja had a special elemental gift that made them special. Garmadon also had special gifts–but he used them for evil. What special gifts do you have? How do you use them?
- When Lloyd disobeyed Master Wu and used the Ultimate Weapon, he caused a ton of trouble. He almost got all of his friends killed, the city was pretty much destroyed, the villain won (for a while), and a cat that nobody could stop was on the loose. When that was all over, he had to earn his friend’s trust back. What trouble does disobedience cause, and what does it feel like to have to earn trust back?
- The ninjas allowed themselves, against Master Wu’s warning, to be led off of the Right Path onto the Short Cut by Garmadon. It didn’t work out so well for them. Why did Garmadon take them there? Did he have their best interests in mind, or was he looking out for himself? What does this part of the story tell you about taking short cuts in life? What does it tell you about the Right Path? Do your friends or family ever try to get you to take you off of the path you know you should stay on? Do you go with them, or stay on the right path?
- There were some moments when Garmadon rose to the occasion, and acted like a father to Lloyd. He even tried hard to do it at points. What does it mean to be a good dad?
- Jackie Chan is one of the best martial artists that ever lived. At the end of the movie, they showed outtakes of him messing up, but not getting upset about it. How does it make you feel to know that someone as talented as Mr. Chan had to take several tries to get his stunt right? What does that tell you about how to become great at something, or patience, or making mistakes?
- The ninjas had to be reminded to be true to their gifts, and not to rely on the mechs, which were actually keeping them from living their full potential. What are some things that could keep you from living your full potential? What are some distractions that keep you from remembering who you’re destined to be?
- What was your favorite part of the movie? Which character do you identify with most?