If you are as unfamiliar as I with the world of Ninjago, let me sum it up nice and quickly for you; it's Power Rangers.
A group of teenagers with attitude have secret identities where they fight off bad guys with ninja skills and giant mechanical animal things. It is literally Power Rangers, to the point where I assume some sort of legal arrangement has been reached regarding rights. There is a whole world of Ninjago that might explain all this, but it is a world I am not prepared to enter.
What brings me to this film is the LEGO movie franchise, seen most recently reinventing Batman. And in that regard this film is very much on brand, as it simultaneously pastiches these silly uplifting teen movies and performs the script right down to the smallest element. However, while The LEGO Batman Movie clearly came from a place of love, this feels much more like a work for hire.
So this is not a knowing wink to the conventions of teen adventure, it is just a teen adventure film that isn't taking itself seriously. Which begs the question, who is this film for? These types of films are usually aimed at the under 12 market, and this would probably be entertaining enough with its flashy colours and fast moving visuals. But this falls between two demographics; if it is for kids then it is insultingly simple and trite, even by the usual pathetic standards of children's films. If it is a pastiche for nostalgic adults then it is nowhere near biting enough, not to mention too boring to hold the attention.
There is a plot, but it's not really worth detailing because it does absolutely nothing original. Again, I think it's supposed to be so painfully by the numbers because it's a parody, but they forgot about the parody bit. Its one attempt at genuine plot is making the hero the estranged son of the villain. Not entirely original but at least a solid premise to build an emotional story. They do this... in the most obvious and painful way you can imagine.
Of course the two are reconciled at the end, but the weird thing is how it comes about. Normally with this sort of thing it is the villain who changes their ways and turns good thanks to the power of love. But here they decided to make it the heroes responsibility to forgive the father and accept him for what he was. This seems like an odd moral lesson – no matter what your father does to you; neglects you, abandons you, literally tries to murder you, you should still love and respect him. That really is a strange thing to teach children. And I don't think it's supposed to be a joke; it certainly doesn't come across as one. It feels like someone may have written a sarcastic parody of these adventure films and then the studio took out the level of irony and just played it straight.
Confused and completely unsatisfying. 5/10