Movie Review: Spies and Ninjas and Popcorn, Oh My!


Corey McConaughy, Contributing Writer

HEADS-UP: The following article contains spoilers for Kingsman: The Golden Circle and The Lego Ninjago Movie, among a few similar films.

If you ask me, 2017 has been yet another great year for the film industry. I think my friends won’t be surprised to know that the majority of what I’ve seen thus far were superhero movies including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and even Captain Underpants, a childhood favorite of mine. And although it was released and the end of last year, Hidden Figures was a brilliant start to this year. Don’t even get me started on the upcoming films I’m looking forward to: Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, Coco, Wonder, Murder on the Orient Express, The Shape of Water, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi to name a handful.

When I learned there would be a sequel to one of my favorite spy movies, and another installment starring one of my favorite childhood toys, I naturally became ecstatic and vowed I’d watch both on opening day; something I’ve never done before, and I’m content to say I would love to do it again.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Like its predecessor, The Secret Service, this blend of action and comedy is not for audiences who are more comfortable with the “PG-13” rating. There’s violence and gore, never mind strong language laden with f-bombs, as well as brief moments of partial nudity.

“What’s it about, then?” you may be asking yourself. The Kingsmen, a cross between MI5 and MI6, are an intelligence agency who monitor suspicious activities globally and stop them before they harm the public. Both movies follow Gary (aka “Eggsy”), played by Taron Egerton, a young Londoner who follows in his late father’s footsteps as a new member of the spy collective. The Golden Circle depicts his and his allies’ efforts to stop Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a drug lord who strives to kill her customers unless the President of the United States halts the War on Drugs initiative, ultimately leading to legal exemption for Adams and her cartel, which is marketed as a pharmaceutical business.

The Golden Circle surprised me at points with the return of a main character, the deaths of a few other characters, and two instances of someone literally turning into a hamburger, which I’m glad to say wasn’t as grotesque as I feared. What I believe will surprise everyone who sees it is the cinematography for fight scenes; the shots are quick, immersive, almost hypnotic at times, and successful in presenting audiences the sheer impact of every combat move, exceeding all of my expectations. Another, less exciting surprise, though, is the film’s runtime: more than two hours; so if you want to watch another movie afterwards, plan accordingly.

Overall, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an emotional roller coaster for audiences, jam-packed with great action, some comedic and dramatic moments, and even an exaggerated drug PSA. To viewers unfamiliar with the series, however, I advise watching its forerunner beforehand.

The Lego Ninjago Movie

            I was pleasantly surprised by The Lego Movie, I loved The Lego Batman Movie, and I’m happy to say Ninjago is no exception. It revolves around Lloyd Garmadon, a teen who everyone blames when his estranged father wreaks havoc upon the city of Ninjago. Why? His dad is a villain known as Lord Garmadon. Lloyd, however, along with his friends, are ninjas who pursue mastery in the martial art and protect the city from Lord Garmadon’s attacks.

The animation is stellar, the comedy is fast and fun, and the voice cast is brilliant, but what sticks out to me the most are the messages and representation. With his friends toting elements like earth, water, ice, fire, and lightning, Lloyd feels out of place with the kind of ninja he is, which is “green.” His troubles carry into his school life, as every fellow student mocks him, stares at him with contempt, and even refuses to sit on the same side of the school bus he’s on.

I can see viewers seeing themselves in him, as well as relate to his dad’s absence from his life and being excluded by others for being different. The film depicts Lloyd’s inability to throw, referring to the traditionally father-son game of catch. There is also a brief scene in which Lord Garmadon gives him driving advice. Their dynamic relationship captures the purpose of being a great parent and how beneficial it is on their child’s development.

Despite the mixed reception, The Lego Ninjago Movie is not bad compared to its predecessors. Rotten Tomatoes claims the film “suggests [the] franchise’s formula isn’t clicking like it used to,” but it depends on your tastes. If you ask me, Ninjago has the same passion and thought-provoking themes the other movies do, and I’m satisfied with the final cut.