Movie Review – Black Panther

Black Panther may not be Marvel’s best origin story, but it’s definitely one we all have to see.

 
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I hate to have to pull up the DC Extended Universe when talking about Marvel, but I’m sorry, the comparisons are inevitable. Here is a movie that will do for the black community everywhere what Wonder Woman (2017) did for women, but while the exhilarating romanticism of our first blockbuster female superhero has already been washed away by the stench of Justice League (2017), Black Panther arrives at a time that could not be more crucial for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the world in general. This is an important film, if not necessarily a great one.

As an origin story, Panther is neither a success nor a failure. It just is. But inherent within this fable is an abundance of joy and innovation; it’s a tried and tested story of a prince who has to fight for his throne, set against a mouth-watering backdrop of an Africa that has been bisected by tradition and the ultramodern.

That is what really works here – the film’s energetic production design. The fictional kingdom of Wakanda is cradled somewhere in the mountains and visually sealed off from the world by some kind of force field, so we’re treated to mud huts and goat farmers before the camera swoops through the barrier to reveal an eye-popping futuristic utopia of towering spires and flying vehicles. It’s a place where the new is built upon the foundations of the old – it can be seen from the magnificent costumes to the graffiti that adorns an underground research lab. We get the sense that this is a city born from African soil and raised in its complex culture, not in the memory banks of a visual effects artist’s computer, and it’s splendid.

But the plot, it must be said, is rather ordinary. We are reacquainted with Prince T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who, after his father’s untimely demise in Captain America: Civil War (2016), has to assume the throne and ensure the precious vibranium metal that accelerated Wakanda’s growth remains secret from the rest of the world. But there is dissent in the ranks and the emergence of a foreign foe, who has been selling vibranium on the black market for years in an attempt to finally reach the mythical El Dorado and claim the kingdom as his own.

There are deep pockets of delightful moments, as when Black Panther tears through a car chase in South Korea, but for some reason many of the fight scenes take place in near darkness, and it doesn’t help that our hero’s costume is 98% black.

The large cast, in which I counted only two white men, is populated by quite an effective range of personalities, from Danai Gurira’s formidable warrior Okoye, to Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s enchanting younger sister who is apparently proficient at everything, including spinal surgery. Unfortunately, Michael B. Jordan’s villain is awarded pathos and a profound backstory but ends up shouting “BURN IT ALL!” and “I AM YOUR KING NOW!” a whole lot, y’know, like a bad guy. He seems more like a brutish nuisance than an emotional nemesis.

Black Panther is nevertheless a success. It’s entertaining and confidently directed by Ryan Coogler, who has left enough doors open so that we may all discuss his movie’s relevance. What’s left now is to see what Marvel will do next, because it’s imperative, after such a momentous step into the light, that these pioneering characters not be hustled back into the shadows by their white counterparts. They’ve proven they can hold their own.

Black Panther is available in Australian cinemas from February 15

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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Movie Review – The Commuter

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, The Shallows) returns to the world of action with his new vehicular thriller, The Commuter.

⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

It’s seriously difficult to hate on a movie as clueless as The Commuter. It knows many of us just want to leave our brains at home, and turn up at the movies ready to squeal at guns and explosions, but surely even the most gleeful action fan has to have standards, no? The problem with The Commuter (one it shares with its carbon-copy predecessor Non-Stop) is that it begins with a thrilling premise, then proceeds to abandon all notion of coherence till it eventually flies off the rails, which it literally does.

Liam Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, an insurance salesman who for some reason has to remind us a gazillion times that he’s sixty and on the verge of retirement, as if possessing the face of a weathered Liam Neeson isn’t enough. As the movie begins, poor Michael is fired, and he despairs at having to break the news to his upbeat wife (Elizabeth McGovern). As luck would have it, on his train ride home he is approached by a random seductress (Vera Farmiga) with a life-saving proposal: identify a character on the train named Prin before Prin disembarks and earn $100,000. How convenient.

But exactly how is Michael, an average Joe insurance salesman with a winning smile and a mortgage, supposed to possess the skills to pick one person out of a hundred? Easy: make him a former police officer, of course. Now, not only can he behave like a detective silently analysing his fellow passengers without looking like a complete psycho, he can also perform all the necessary Liam Neeson action movie nonsense, such as leaping from carriage to carriage like an elderly Indiana Jones. Oh, the skills police academy will teach you.

The Commuter is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, whose films (mostly action) tend to veer precariously toward the unbelievable. Not for a moment was I convinced a real shark would behave the way the shark in The Shallows behaved, and not for a moment in The Commuter was I convinced Michael could smash a dude in the face with a guitar.

But what a guy Michael is. By the end, not only does he uncover a massive conspiracy, and survive one of the most horrific train derailments in modern history, he also manages to return his wife’s confiscated wedding ring, save a punk teenager from her douchebag boyfriend, spark a romance between a ticket attendant and a nurse, and I’d be damned if he didn’t cure cancer as well.

The Commuter is available in Australian cinemas from January 11 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal

Movie Review – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

With a top notch cast as well as lots of fun and games, the new Jumanji film has everything you need this summer holidays.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Move over 80s nostalgia; now it’s time for the 90s to get in on the action. And what better way to evoke the feeling of the 90s than with a sequel to a Robin Williams classic?

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle swaps the spooky board game for a dusty videogame cartridge, and sees a quartet of youths transported from high school detention to the sweaty jungles of Jumanji, with each inhabiting the body of the playable character of their choosing.

Nerdy gamer Spencer (Alex Wolff) becomes the muscly Dr Smoulder Bravestone (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson); resident jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) becomes pint-sized zoologist Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart); shy bookworm Martha (Morgan Turner) transforms into karate commando Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan); and snobbish cheerleader Bethany (Madison Iseman) is lumped with rotund cartographer Shelley Oberon (Jack Black). Their only hope of escaping the game is to return a magical jewel to its resting place atop a towering jaguar mountain, working together to evade the clutches of the evil Hardin (Bobby Cannavale).

Although reviving such a beloved family film at first seems like heresy, this sequel is actually well worth your time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that its entertainment value came as a very welcome surprise. Fun, brash and inventive, Welcome to the Jungle is way better than it has any right to be, and a lot of this value can be attributed to its stellar casting.

Watching the core cast play against type is great fun – whether it’s Johnson willing himself not to cry, or Hart acting tough whilst wearing a bucket hat and carting around a huge backpack. Superficial and obsessed with Snapchat, Black, in particular, steals the show; dealt a character that could’ve gone either way, he makes pretty much every gag land.

Much like its forebear, Welcome to the Jungle is playing to the family crowd. There is a lot of humour in here that appeals to teens and young adults as much as it does it kids, which will be music to the ears of parents who are starved for  ideas during the upcoming summer holidays. Even though it might be a tad scary for really small sprogs, the videogame tropes and the Breakfast Club-esque first act will be the perfect two-hour distraction for those who have grown up with the GameCube.

It’s a little shaggy, and the final act could’ve done with a trim, but you’ll regularly find yourself laughing aloud or staring in disbelief at the silliness up on the screen during Welcome to the Jungle. In a year dominated by remakes and reboots that do the bare minimum (we’re looking at you, The Mummy), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a surprising breath of fresh air that leans on a familiar conceit and does something different with it. The cast goes off like a house on fire and the clever integration of videogame motifs lends the film a new angle for a new generation of kids.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is available in Australian cinemas from Boxing Day 

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Movie Review – Justice League

DC takes two steps forward and one step back on its bumper team-up tentpole, Justice League.

⭐ ⭐  ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

After fours years, just as many films and a hype train large enough to tow a small planet, DC and Warner Brothers hastily arrive at their Avengers moment in Justice League, a crossover event that sees established superheroes like Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman team up with fresh faces such as The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

Their mission is to stop Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an ancient interdimensional demon from uniting three ‘mother boxes’, shiny Rubix Cubes with the power to destroy all life on Earth when joined as one.

Having undergone a troubled production, the expectation going in is that Justice League would be a mess, visually, tonally and narratively. Unfortunately, those fears appear to have been well-founded for the most part; Snyder’s third swing of the bat isn’t a miss on the scale of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it’s hardly the home run many fans were hoping for either.

Narratively, cowriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon (the latter of whom also directed a few reshoots after Snyder departed following a family tragedy) cobble together a passable plot that is markedly more straightforward than its bloated predecessor.

This streamlining is a good thing; rather than getting bogged down by mythology, Justice League (with Whedon offering some of his trademark quips) affords its central five heroes time to interact. Batman and Wonder Woman don’t see eye to eye; Cyborg isn’t a fan of Flash’s silliness. It endears us to their cause, making the abysmal CGI throwdown in the third act at least tolerable.

Visually, Justice League isn’t great. The VFX lacks polish and an overreliance on green screen is abundantly clear once the heroes jet off to face their ultimate foe in the final act. The reshoots and last minute tinkering hasn’t done much to help in this department.

The cast is a mixed bag as well; Affleck swings between suave and narcoleptic; Gadot is equal parts a radiant beam of sunlight and a thrilling whirlwind of ferocity; Miller is a jittery and sarcastic millennial who can’t sit still; Fisher is stoic and only afforded a hint of depth; and Momoa’s Aquaman is an insufferable X Games bro with milky white contacts and a penchant for surf lingo – it comes as a surprise that he doesn’t throw a single shaka.

Even the score is a hodgepodge of intersecting leitmotifs, as Danny Elfman throws everything but the kitchen sink into the mix; Hans Zimmer’s uplifting Man of Steel theme and Junkie XL’s thunderous Wonder Woman cues overlap with John Williams’ original Superman theme and Elfman’s own 1989 Batman score. The result is clunky and disjointed – a summation that extends to most of Justice League, to be brutally honest.

And so, we arrive at the end. Things are more hopeful, the status quo has shifted once again and better things to come are teased. But it does beg the question, how long can audiences go before the crippling mediocrity (save for Wonder Woman) lastingly cripples DC’s efforts to ape Marvel? Justice League sees the former lean into the latter’s formula heavily, and it signals a shift in the right direction, albeit a slow one. Once again I find myself whispering under the breath – “maybe the next one will be better…”

Justice League is available in Australian cinemas from November 16.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

Movie Review – Murder on the Orient Express

Hollywood once again recycles that which need not be recycled, in Kenneth Branagh’s take on Murder on the Orient Express.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I see no other way to approach a review of a movie like this than to compare it to what’s come before. Its history is too deep. Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted to radio; into a 1974 feature by Sidney Lumet starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot; a 2001 TV movie with Alfred Molina in the role; and of course as an episode of the distinguished ITV Poirot series. It has even been remade in Japan. Now comes another version, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, and I find myself simply incapable of finding the right words to recommend it.

This is an adaptation that works on the fundamental level, which means it has a sound plot, supreme technical prowess and performances that befit its ludicrously high-profile cast. It is a movie that can be seen and appreciated in about equal measure without being spectacular. Whether it holds up as a faithful Christie adaptation I will leave to her loyal fans and scholars to determine; as a gripping murder mystery, it is neither gripping nor very mysterious.

To discuss the plot would be to grind against the very grain of Christie. Her stories are designed to unfold chronologically, so that we pick up hints and clues and slowly piece together the unfathomable puzzle along with her great detectives. The less we know going in the better. Murder on the Orient Express remains her most famous probably because of its claustrophobic setting (the length of a snowbound train), its immense cast of characters and the degree to which misdirection is employed to keep us guessing.

But all these are assets of the original story, not of this film. Branagh is perhaps a finer actor than he is a director, and he puts on a brave face as Poirot, but his film lacks in ingenuity and freshness. I can’t think of a single reason to see his version and not the Lumet classic, which had Finney scuttling down the corridors of the train like a frenzied crab. Branagh’s Poirot is unusually calm and chipper, which might have been a fun new take on the part if he had buckled down and took it to the edge. Poirot, like Sherlock Holmes, is a character of extremes. A detective of unusual intelligence who is easier to admire than befriend. To play him as anything less than a feverish snob is to miss the point.

Around him is assembled a cast of veritable class, which includes but is not limited to Michelle Pfeiffer as an uppity American socialite; Willem Dafoe as an Austrian professor; Daisy Ridley as Miss Mary Debenham; Leslie Odom Jr as the handy doctor; Penélope Cruz as a faithful servant of the Lord; Judi Dench as the Princess Dragomiroff; Johnny Depp as the despicable businessman Ratchett; and Josh Gad and Derek Jacobi as his staff. Any more and I suspect the train would’ve toppled off the ridge.

Pity, then, that such great talent should go unchecked by a story as rich as this. Everyone plays their parts as if they know the end before the beginning. There is no thrill, no embracing the unexpected. It’s all just cogs turning in rhythm to the screenplay, which can be fatal for a mystery like this.

So I leave you rather nonplussed, unable to praise Orient Express enough to make you go see it, unable to exploit its weaknesses enough to turn you away. I don’t prefer it to some of the earlier iterations, but I suspect if you’ve never heard of Poirot and his impossible moustache, or perhaps even Christie, this movie might do the trick. But just barely.

Murder on the Orient Express is available in Australian cinemas from November 9.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox 2017

Movie Review – A Bad Moms Christmas

Christmas will soon be upon us and along with it a new batch of seasonal films for the whole family – or sometimes just for the adults. A Bad Moms Christmas offers a variety of crudity and vile humor that aims to be as gross as it does shocking. If only any of it was remotely funny.


Josip Knezevic

Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn reprise their roles from the first Bad Moms (yes I can’t believe they made a sequel as well), but this time they’re met with their equally bad counterparts – their own mums. It seems like this will be the trend for this year’s Christmas movies, with the upcoming Daddy’s Home 2 set to do much of the same thing, just with the opposite sex.

A Bad Moms Christmas seems to take the most basic form of monkey humour but branches it out to a platform that we haven’t seen before; motherhood. We don’t expect mums to be seen in such a light and that’s what’s meant to make it funny. It was the same reason Bad Santa was so popular but making something original doesn’t necessarily make it automatically hilarious. A bad joke is a bad joke, no matter how you polish it, and this is ultimately where the Bad Moms franchise is lacking.

Dialogue about penises or vaginal waxing feel only thrown in as an attempt to gather up laughs from shock value. Reactions of “oh my god I can’t believe a mum just said that, she’s not supposed to say that hahaha” are heavily relied upon throughout, but this doesn’t make the jokes genuinely hilarious. Soon enough, this whole routine becomes just tiresome. When humour that isn’t based off vulgarity does arrive, they’re mostly predictable from moments ahead of time or are simply yet another eye roller. This coming from a man who loves dad jokes. But maybe not just of the bad mum’s kind.

Aside from the humour, the overall plot follows a formulaic affair that, whilst touching on some heartfelt moments, isn’t anything special enough to be considered good. Not only have you seen the same moments in other Christmas films but they’re executed so much better elsewhere. And I’m not just talking about the classic Christmas flicks of Home Alone and The Santa Clause; Bad Santa manages to become a better antihero to enjoy on-screen. This is because his character is as believable as he is heartbroken and funny. He’s a nice balance between the bad that we can laugh at and the good that we ultimately sympathise with.

None of these aspects are found in A Bad Moms Christmas. What we are left with is another poor excuse for a chick flick that represents another missed opportunity for a genre that continues to add cheesy Christmas movie after cheesy Christmas movie. In a time where focus on women empowerment is at the forefront of so many films this year, A Bad Moms Christmas is a failure for many of those powerful leading examples and for women in general. Mums do amazing things for us and unfortunately, in this case, they deserve better.

A Bad Moms Christmas is available in Australian cinemas from November 2.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017

Movie Review – Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is by no means the finest Marvel movie, but it does a fine job of keeping up with the pack.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 
Zachary Cruz-Tan

If there is one thing true about the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s that Thor is about as interesting a movie hero as the dried up skin flaking on my heel. It’s the failing of any mythological figure – they are bound by the limitations of their respective traits. Medusa cannot do anything other than turn infidels to stone. Ares knows only how to wage war. No matter how many family squabbles you throw at him, Thor can still only command lightning. So what do you do? Run with it and make it as much fun as possible, I guess.

Thor: Ragnarok is a delightful step up from the first two movies because it proves Marvel is capable of running self-diagnostics. Thor and Thor: The Dark World were horrendous. You don’t take a boring mythical juggernaut and dump him in New Mexico. That’s like trying to treat depression with Schindler’s List. As a result, Ragnarok is damage control. Its director, Taika Waititi, whose What We Do in the Shadows had me guffawing like a buffoon, is the emergency physician. His remedy is simple: Thor is a hulking lug without brains or a character to develop, so I shall construct around him a world that is infinitely more exciting. And it is.

This is the kind of movie that knows precisely what it is and what it isn’t, what it can and cannot do. For example, it can deliver amazing action set pieces and some truly beautiful imagery, but cannot be as deep or insightful as Batman Begins or Captain America: Civil War. Waititi’s approach is fundamentally helpful. He doesn’t try to beef up the lousy characters or outdo more successful superhero films but simply lets the chemistry of his cast flow with the outrageous dialogue.

Thor is once again played by Chris Hemsworth. This time, his home of Asgard is under threat of destruction by Hela (Cate Blanchett), another mythic figure bound to her eternal moniker of “goddess of death”, which is unfortunate because no matter how hard she may try, she cannot play anyone else but the villain. Thor, meanwhile, is stranded on a faraway garbage planet, ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum in Goldblum overdrive), who enjoys pitting superheroes against each other as some kind of intergalactic blood sport. So you can imagine Thor’s consternation and beastly grunting when the Grandmaster forbids him from saving his home.

Let’s face it, this isn’t a compelling plot, least of all because Asgard as a fantastical ethereal paradise looks more like the blown up internal mechanisms of a wristwatch. Hela’s dialogue is all exposition and snark and very little intelligence. The scenes on the garbage planet are colourful and alive, but after you’ve seen one fight-to-the-death arena presided over by a psychotic dictator, you’ve seen them all, especially if the movie’s trailers have already given away all the best bits.

So the plot is merely serviceable. We know the characters are thin soup. And yet I had a really good time with this. I appreciate an action movie that can make me laugh earnestly, that doesn’t betray the idiosyncrasies of its quirky director, that adopts an approach and sticks with it for better or worse. I can’t recall a single memorable quote (except perhaps “the devil’s anus”) but I remember laughing a lot, being impressed by the quality of the entire production, and thanking the Norse gods for finally giving Darcy the day off.

Thor: Ragnarok is available in Australian cinemas from October 26 

Image courtesy of Marvel Studios 2017

Movie Review – The Mountain Between Us

An admirable attempt at an adventure film falls short with a misplaced focus on a weak romantic subplot.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahil

When Ben (Idris Elba) and Alex’s (Kate Winslet) small charter plane suddenly crashes, the pair must battle the snowy wilderness to find their way home. While making the treacherous journey, they begin to develop affections for each other, as they come to realise they may never make it home…

Winslet and Elba may be in fine form here, but this adaptation of Charles Martin’s romantic adventure novel squanders its potential by not making full use of their acting calibre. What could have been an incredibly uplifting story of survival, instead only breeds disappointment and exasperation. Director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now) pushes the bounds of what you’re willing to accept, with some of the more dramatic moments entering unconvincing territory.

Meanwhile, the romantic chemistry between Winslet and Elba is stale and contrived. Winslet is supposed to be a photographer who frequents war zones, yet her reaction to their crisis is erratic and irrational; not what you’d expect from someone who is regularly surrounded by intense situations. Elba balances her out by remaining cool and collected, but in doing so he almost becomes too emotionally disconnected. Beau Bridges’ appearance is quite memorable, although short-lived, but the best performance comes from the dog. Aptly named Dog, he playfully leaps through the snow and explores nooks and crannies, regularly providing cheerful relief.

Thankfully, Abu-Assad at least gets the visuals right, with cinematographer Mandy Walker pulling out all the stops. Filmed on location in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, Walker makes full use of the landscape; dramatic sweeping shots highlight the volatile nature of the location, while Walker’s gentle touch simultaneously magnifies the beauty of the mountains. She’s developed a bit of a trademark for breathing life into natural scenery through films such as Australia, Tracks and Red Riding Hood.

Overall, the film is passable as a survival story, but the romantic elements don’t hold up, and lead to corny moments that jar with the rest of the experience, despite the best efforts of all involved.

The Mountain Between Us is available in Australian cinemas from October 12

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Movie Review – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Director Matthew Vaughn returns with another action packed film, but can America and Britain really put aside their egos and come together to save the world from devastation?

⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

When the Kingsman headquarters are destroyed, the two remaining Kingsman, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong), travel to their brother spy organisation in the US. The two elite secret organisations must now band together to defeat a common enemy who is holding the world hostage.

Director Matthew Vaughn delivers another adrenaline-filled adventure, following the success Kingsman: The Secret Service, and his early works, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. The humour remains as crude as ever, and at times you wonder if it’s he’s trying to create some Guinness World Record for the amount of times the word ‘fuck’ is said in a film, but his fight scenes are some of the best in the comic book genre. Well-choreographed and edited to high-tempo music, these scenes get your heart racing, and you’re more than willing to suspend your disbelief to enjoy the spectacle.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is packed with A-list actors, including Colin Firth and Taron Egerton who return to reprise their respective roles. Firth’s Harry “Galahad” Hart lacks the grit and unexpected crudeness of the first film, purely because his character is criminally underutilised in order to make way for a range of newcomers.

Julianne Moore gives a disturbing performance as the seemingly sweet, yet power-hungry villain Poppy, who has no issue with threatening billions of lives to receive recognition for operating the biggest (unknown) drug cartel in the world. Halle Berry plays the US secret service’s version of Merlin, continually saving the agent’s lives with her nanobot technology, yet finds herself constantly undermined by her US co-workers, and Channing Tatum plays hotshot US spy Tequila. While none of them put in award-winning performances, they all seem to be having a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, the film lacked stability for me. Compared to the first Kingsman,which was slick and filled with dry British humour, this one just has far too much going on. Constant flashbacks are needed to help set up the story, plus there’s the introduction of a whole new spy organisation filled with a number of different characters. Add in the clash between American and British humour, and it all ends up a little bit muddled.

While humorous, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is nowhere near as funny as its predecessor. It relies heavily on a large amount of assumed knowledge from The Secret Service, so good luck if you haven’t seen the first film! The ultimate downfall of this film is in taking the story to the US; its British quirks are completely lost, and the tone shifts into typical, American territory.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is available in Australian cinemas from September 21 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

 

Movie Review – The LEGO Ninjago Movie

The Lego franchise has previously won audiences and critics alike with The Lego Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, but could The LEGO Ninjago Movie be the end of its successful run?


Elle Cahill

When the bustling Ninjago City falls into the hands of evil warlord Garmadon, a team of five ninja warriors must go on a journey to discover the ultimate secret weapon to save the city. With the guidance of Master Wu, the five ninjas have to come together to release the power of Spinjitzu and save Ninjago City from devastation.

Following the success of its predecessors, I had high hopes for The LEGO Ninjago Movie… unfortunately what I saw was a film that fell flat on its face. You could argue that I’m not its target audience, but the film just isn’t funny – even for children. The humour is very American and a lot of it is lost on international audiences who don’t have the context necessary for the joke to carry. Most of the jokes rushed to the punchline; before you even realised there was a joke in play, it was over… and the few that did manage to land were very weak, making you feel obligated to chuckle.

There is no doubt that the animation is amazing and its incredible to think how far animation has come in the last ten years, but there’s nothing new here to what we’ve already seen in the other two LEGO movies. There’s also a serious lack of new material surrounding the fact that the main characters are operating in a Lego Universe, which was utilised very well in the first film.

Jackie Chan voices Master Wu, a sort of Mr Miyagi from Karate Kid type, and does the best he can with the material he has been given. Meanwhile, Justin Theroux voices the evil warlord Garmadon, and gives the character as much range as possible, but disappointingly, the character’s arc is very small, despite him having the most to learn given his damaged relationship with one of the ninjas.

In short, the film is a huge disappointment, and a bit of a stain on what was turning out to be a good run for the LEGO franchise. Some parts of the film are sensory overkill, and make you feel like you’re staring directly into a strobe light, while other parts need an audience cue to let you know when you’re supposed to laugh. I would advise parents to give this film a miss this school holidays, or prepare for the inevitable disappointment.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is available in Australian films from September 21

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films