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The Media Man Reviews: Ladybug & Cat Noir: The Movie

Title card for the review

Ah Miraculous Ladybug. What can you say about it? I can say MANY things about it, but very few of them are positive.

For anyone who's been living in a cave for the past few years, Miraculous Ladybug is a French animated series created by Thomas Astruc and produced by Zagtoon Studios. Released in 2015, the show has become a worldwide phenomenon and has spawned a franchise that includes a TV series, a toyline, comic books and more. It's arguably one of the most popular shows in recent years with kids and adults everywhere enjoying the show for its colourful animation, superhero action and quality writing...

(bursts into hysterical laughter)

I'm so sorry, I couldn't say that with a straight face! That's asking too much from me! XD

The show has also become one of the biggest talking points on the internet and not for the reasons Thomas Astruc hoped for. The show has been constantly panned and dissected in numerous of blogs and video-essays for its poor writing, abysmal pacing, rancid morals, wretched handling of several characters (looking at you Chloe Bourgeois) and a ship that got more annoying than appealing to watch with how they just keep teasing and teasing us with it while also going nowhere. The writing is so atrocious that the show has become well-known in the online community for spawning numerous fanfics dedicated to fixing the show's flaws (one of which was made by a good friend of mine and you can read it here) or just creating salt fics that are basically salty fans venting their frustration about it! It's NOT helped at all by Thomas being the most stubborn and egotistical manchild ever to walk the Earth to the point ANY criticism instantly earns you a block, even if it's constructive, and he's so infamous for his behaviour that an entire blog dedicated to profiling his terrible behaviour was formed on Tumblr! How sad is your life when you're reduced to a cautionary tale on a Tumblr blog on why you shouldn't be a jerk to your fans?

For those who are curious, yes, I am among the many, MANY fans who quit this show thanks to the abysmal writing that caused it to go downhill. And yes, Season 3's Chameleon was the final straw for me just like everyone else. And given the atrocious ending to Season 5, it seems I haven't missed anything worthwhile. I'm forever confused how a show with writing as terrible as this manages to become a global hit that runs for five seasons while a show with great writing like The Owl House gets cut short. What a world we live in...

So you may be wondering "Well if you hate the show so much, why are you watching the movie?" Simple: this is a retelling of the origins episode of the series and it's going to be written and directed by Jeremy Zag, the founder of Zagtoon. So naturally I'm curious to see what his take on the franchise will be and how a Miraculous story without Thomas in the writer's chair will be like. The trailers showed plenty of promise so I had to check it out and see what it's like.

So does the movie give Miraculous Ladybug the quality it deserves? Or is this movie just one of Hawk Moth's evil akumas we need to de-evillize? Everyone grab a Miraculous and transform for we're diving into this superhero flick...

Section 1: The Story

Important disclaimer: I watched the English dub of this movie so if there's any differences in the French dub or any differences between the two versions, I don't know about them so I'll strictly be basing this review on my thoughts on the English dub.

The story follows two teenagers named Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste. Both are teens who live different lives but have the same problem: their lives are troubled. But things change forever for the young heroes as they're bestowed the power of the Miraculous, magical items that grant them incredible powers. Together, they must band together to stop the threat of the villainous Hawk Moth before his akuma army brings Paris to its knees...

Right off the bat, the biggest problem the story has is that it's as paint-by-numbers as you can get. It's your very, VERY typical superhero origin story like what we've seen a million times throughout the big superhero movie craze of the 2010s. It follows a lot of the same beats that you get in these kinds of movies: we meet our heroes, they're very average people who get extraordinary gifts, they struggle with their powers at first but get better as they go along, a romance develops (in this case between two superheroes), things don't necessarily work out but then they have to come back together for a climactic battle against the villain. It's formulaic as all hell...but remember, formulaic doesn't equal bad. Yes the story is incredibly basic by superhero movie standards, but is it at least TOLD well? Absolutely.

Unlike the show where the writing showed promise at first and just got worse and worse as time went by with increasingly baffling decisions made that only hurt the show more in the long run, the movie tells its story well with a tightly paced, action-packed plot that also manages to tug on your heartstrings in a lot of emotionally effective scenes. It also even retells certain aspects from the show but does it in a way that's an improvement over what we got. Ladybug and Cat Noir's relationship? Actually appealing for once with Marinette's problematic stalker tendencies completely gone and the two even have some adorably flirty banter that's actually fun and endearing. Gabriel Agreste's grief? Actually done well and he's considerably more sympathetic than he is in the show. Gabriel's eventual fate? He actually gets punished for his actions and doesn't get away scot-free like in Season 5's finale. The Love Square with Marinette, Adrien, Ladybug and Cat Noir? Gets resolved at the end of the movie and Adrien and Marinette's relationship gets to go somewhere instead of remaining stagnant. It literally feels like Jeremy Zag wrote this movie with the primary goal of fixing all the problems people have with the show and it's pretty glorious to watch as a result.

But that's as an adaptation of the show. How is it as its own story? Honestly, it's still very good in my eyes. The movie tells its story in a way that newcomers to the franchise can get sucked in easily without being overwhelmed by everything else about the series. The movie follows its own continuity and isn't set anywhere between the series so the setting and characters are all introduced as if this is someone's first time watching anything Miraculous Ladybug related. There's not loads of complicated lore to take in and there's not too much strenuous world-building here. It's done in a way that gives enough details on the world and characters so the audience can get some idea behind what's going on but is light enough so there's not too much exposition being dumped on the audience at once while also leaving things open for any potential sequels should there be any. I mean that mid-credits scene clearly hints they're up for potential sequels in the future...

The story itself isn't just a fast-paced, action packed superhero flick though. It's also at its heart a story about two people who are coming to terms with their own insecurities and trying to become something greater. Marinette is a socially awkward girl who balks when trying to interact with anyone and her clumsy nature doesn't exactly win anyone over while Adrien is the sheltered son of a millionaire who's still grieving over the loss of his wife. Adrien especially gives us much of the emotional core of the movie with his mother's loss weighing heavily on him to the point he even wanders into the old theatre she used to perform at to, in a way, be close to her again. Those scenes are very effective and make our protagonists relatable and sympathetic so we root for their struggles throughout the movie. It all comes to a head in the ending when they're able to grow into stronger people and save the day in the end. It's cliché, but it's effective and is always a great piece of emotional story-telling. Also the film's theme of "the power of love" is cheesy as all hell but stays true to the tone of Miraculous Ladybug and is done so earnestly that you can't help but love it anyway.

As a superhero flick of course, there's plenty of action to go around and the action scenes are done very effectively here. I'll talk further more about them in the animation section but here, I'll say that those who enjoy some slick superhero action will be thoroughly entertained during those scenes.

So is there anything in the story that's NOT so miraculous? Aside from the story being as standard as it gets, I do have some slight problems here and there but nothing too major. First of all, the musical numbers feel like they're not always that necessary. One or two feel used right but there are some that didn't need to happen really. There's especially one musical number that felt very ill-timed. There's chaos going on at a funfair and Marinette has to gear up and become Ladybug again in order to stop it...and then a song begins. Like come on Marinette, lives are at stake! Now's not the time for a musical number! =P I think this movie would've been better if it wasn't a musical myself but that's just me.

Also, was it really that necessary to have Ladybug and Cat Noir start off as rivals? That plot point is even resolved as quickly as it's introduced so I even question why it's here at all.

And the climax, while emotionally well-handled, does feel a bit underwhelming narratively. I mean Ladybug and Cat Noir barely even fight Hawk Moth before he's defeated. He just knocks them aside, takes Ladybug's Miraculous and beats up Cat Noir until he destroys part of his mask and sees that it's Adrien...and that's enough for him to stop the fight and give up. I'm not saying it's a bad climax but it would've been nice if we got to see the heroes and villain fight a bit more before the ending is all. I mean they had a bigger fight scene with Mime and Magician for crying out loud! It just made the climax feel rushed overall with how they paced it. Maybe if they devoted more time to it and less time to musical numbers, this wouldn't have been an issue.

Oh and the movie doesn't even bother with Chloe and just makes her as much of a lost cause as she is in the show. Like come on Jeremy, you fixed everything else wrong with the show so why not fix Chloe too while you're at it? Ah well, maybe a sequel will do the trick...

As is, I have very few complaints about the movie, which is more than I can say about the show, that's for sure. Its story maybe a tad familiar, but it's told very well and is a great alternative way to experience the story of Ladybug and Cat Noir...

Section 2: The Characters

I imagine for many people, the biggest draw to watching this movie was seeing new takes on these familiar characters that many fans hold dear to their hearts and hate how the show has tarnished them over the years with bad season after bad season causing the characters to get worse over time. They'll certainly be happy with these depictions of the characters.

We have our heroes of the movie starting off with Marinette Dupain-Cheng/Ladybug (voiced in English by Christina Valenzuela). As mentioned before, Marinette is a girl who is racked with confidence issues due to her overly clumsy nature and social awkwardness. As someone who also has confidence issues, I know what that's like. Her arc is as straight forward as it gets, but it's still an effective one and makes for a likeable, sympathetic protagonist who learns that she's more capable than she thinks she is. Marinette is more endearing here than she ever was in the show (especially as her more problematic tendencies are gone) and truly feels like the hero she was meant to be. She's a lot of fun while also adorably pitiful at times and I enjoyed this movie's take on her a lot.

And our secondary hero is Adrien Agreste/Cat Noir (voiced in English by Bryce Papenbrook). Adrien is the emotional core of the story thanks to his lost mother weighing heavily on him and he feels like this new life of a superhero that he's been granted gives him more freedom than he's ever had. It's like he truly feels alive again after dealing with one parent whom he's lost forever and another who is emotionally neglectful. He is equally as sympathetic as Marinette and it's quite heart-wrenching to see him walk into that old theatre his mother used to perform at as a means to be close to her in spite of her absence. Also like Marinette, his problematic tendencies from the show are absent too so he comes off as a more heroic and likeable hero as a result. Put in the fact the two have really adorable chemistry together and you have two heroes that make for one cute couple.

And then we have our villain of the movie, Gabriel Agreste/Hawk Moth (voiced in English by Keith Silverstein). Hawk Moth is a formidable villain with great power at his disposal and is the prime example of what happens when you let your grief cloud you judgement. He uses his power as a means to draw Ladybug and Cat Noir out so he can get their Miraculous and bring back his dead wife and it's only when he ends up hurting his son in the climax that he comes to see how far his actions have driven him, which causes him to give up in the end. That felt like the proper way to wrap up his story and unlike the show where he's an emotionally abusive and controlling parent who lost any sympathy the fans once had for him anytime after Season 2, THIS Hawk Moth manages to remain a sympathetic villain who genuinely does seem to care for his son and that his grief is what drove him to commit the crimes that he did. It also helps how unlike the show, this Hawk Moth isn't a twist villain so right off the bat he can be set-up as a sympathetic villain whereas the show had him change goals on a dime just so the twist wouldn't be spoiled beforehand (which failed anyway because it was obvious from the very first episode he was Hawk Moth!). He was a great villain here and an example of how execution is what makes or breaks a character.

We also have Alya Césaire (voiced in English by Carrie Keranan) and Nino Lahiffe (voiced in English by Zeno Robinson). They're just Marinette and Adrien's friends who not-so-subtly have a thing for each other too, which is a neat little Easter Egg to the show for the fans to pick up on. They don't have a huge role in the story but they do come off as well-meaning and supportive friends to their respective friends and it was nice to see them playing a nice supporting role to the two.

And of course, we have everyone's favourite example of wasted potential, Chloé Bourgeois (voiced in English by Selah Victor). She has no purpose in this movie other than just "bully". That really stinks for me as I'm among the many, MANY fans who hate how the show wasted any potential she had and just made her worse over time so I was hoping the movie would improve on her too. Instead, she's just...bully. Who knows, maybe if the film gets a sequel they can improve on her next...

We also have Master Wang Fu (voiced in English by Paul St. Peter). He's the mentor of our heroes but he really isn't in the movie all that much and he doesn't really do that much mentoring. It honestly feels like they could've left him out entirely and just let Tikki (voiced in English by Mela Lee) and Plagg (voiced in English by Max Mittelman) do the mentor roles on their own. They act more like mentors than he does so why even have him here at all? I get that he's the one who gives our heroes the Miraculous but still. At least unlike the show, he gets to mentor them both and isn't just focusing on Ladybug like he did in the first two seasons.

There's no one else to really cover in terms of characters. Many of the school students from the show at best get a cameo so those who have a favourite among them might be disappointed we don't see much of them, Marinette's parents and Nathalie don't have much to talk about and the akuma villains are more obstacles than actual characters, though Mime and the Magician were a pretty cool pair of akuma villains to watch in action so they're memorable at least.

As is, the characters are for the most part superior versions of their show counterparts and as characters in their own right, they serve their roles well for the movie and have some depth to them that'll make them interesting and memorable for even newcomers to the franchise. I'm sure fans and non-fans will find something to love about these characters in this movie...

Section 3: The Animation

I cannot make this clear enough. This movie. LOOKS. GORGEOUS!!!! Putting it on Netflix especially feels insulting because this movie belongs on the big screen with this level of quality to the visuals! And yes, before anyone comments I know the movie was released in theatres in countries like France. Over here in the UK, they should've done the same because this movie looks too good to be a streaming exclusive.

Anyhow, the animation already caught me eyes just from seeing screenshots of it when the movie was being made and seeing the finished result is just a thing of beauty. This movie is almost like watching a Pixar movie with how beautifully crafted and animated it is. Let's start off with the CGI itself. The show was already very good looking due to having a budget bigger than most cartoon shows do though some feel the visuals have taken a dip in quality just like the show's writing did. This movie shows us what Miraculous Ladybug on a movie-sized budget looks like and it's glorious eye-candy from beginning to end! The visuals are beautifully detailed and perfectly rendered so that everything looks very well done and with how high the quality is, the visuals look almost hyper-realistic at times with the lighting effects and how it reflects off of the characters and surfaces, how realistic all the textures look, how the water in the river looks like actual water and so much more. It's almost like they filmed this movie in real locations and added in CGI characters with how convincing everything looks!

The backgrounds are gorgeously detailed and look great with Paris being beautifully brought to life in this visual style and the more fictional locations like Marinette's bakery, the Agreste mansion and the school Marinette and Adrien attends looking very true to the show but now they look more realistic because of the improved visual style. The textures on everything looks about perfect from the stone on Notre Dame cathedral to the hair on the character's heads to the metal on the cars, to the costumes the characters wear and so much more. I can't imagine this animation was easy to do and it must've taken a while to make it look so good so I give major kudos to all the patience and hard-work that clearly went into making this movie for they nailed it!

And now let's talk about the characters and the character animation. The characters all have a visual upgrade compared to their cartoon counterparts with more realistic proportions, more realistic looking eyes that are naturally reflective and avoid any uncanny valley feelings, more details in their clothes and hair and their facial animation looks more convincing and not quite as stiff as in the show. The characters all express a lot of character in their movements and facial expressions whether it's Marinette's clumsiness, Adrien's sadness, Hawk Moth revelling in the joy of his villainous actions or Chloé's over-the-top bratty behaviour. It's just stunning to see how a movie-sized budget made these characters look even better than they already did and seeing them brought to life like this is a treat for the fans as they see their favourite characters depicted in big-budget CG visuals. I also liked seeing the superhero costumes depicted here with Ladybug, Cat Noir and Hawk Moth's costumes looking more detailed than before and with more realistic textures. Though much like the show, they really could do more with Ladybug's costume than just making it a skin-tight bodysuit that uncomfortably shows off the body-shape of an underage girl...just saying an upgrade in design to the superhero costumes would've been nice to see.

But what is VERY nice to see here are the action scenes and musical numbers. The animation gets very energetic and creative during these scenes with the musical numbers playing a lot with dream sequences and colours to make them a fun time like one song showing Marinette jumping on the Ladybug spots as she catches up to Tikki, the romantic ballad with Ladybug and Cat Noir going all out on the romantic, sappy visuals or Hawk Moth's song showing him going into some kind of medieval dungeon to gather his akuma army while bathed in green lighting as if this was the film's version of Be Prepared from The Lion King. The action scenes are the highlights overall for me. They made them look so good here with great battle choreography, a creative use of powers and the right amount of intensity to make them exciting and thrilling to watch. You feel the impacts of the punches thrown and blows received and the battle at the fairground especially goes all out on the wackiness with a giant balloon monster destroying buildings, a rollercoaster flying through the air, a Ferris wheel rolling away and horses on a merry-go-round galloping off! That was my personal favourite action scene for how crazy it got and it's just what you expect from a superhero movie.

The visuals are nothing short of fantastic here and easily the franchise looking at its best here. This is animation that deserves an award in my eyes because they really knocked it out of the park with them!

Section 4: The Songs

This movie is also a musical so let's talk about the songs. The show itself has been hit-and-miss with its song numbers so does the movie do any better? Eh...mostly? The songs themselves are nice to listen to and don't feel like cringeworthy junk you'd hear on the radio these days but they're not all that memorable. I didn't find myself singing these tunes again after they were over and the songs end up being weird to listen to regarding Ladybug and Cat Noir because for some reason, Christina and Bryce don't do their own singing and they have dubbed singing voices here. So anytime Ladybug especially sings, it NEVER sounds like her! It's so weird because Christina Vee CAN sing and sing VERY well no less so why didn't she do her own singing in this? Cat Noir's singing voice sounds more convincing at least but Lou just sounds NOTHING like Christina Vee so it never sells me that Ladybug is singing.

Anyway, for the songs we start off with "If I Believed In Me" which basically serves as Marinette's big introductory song that's about how if she believed in herself, she could be even greater than she is now. It's a very typical song used to introduce a protagonist and the subject matter is a generic subject for a song, but it's a nice song to start off with and I like how the singer even somewhat acts like Marinette herself during certain scenes when she's acting clumsy to make it sound more authentic, like it really is her singing right now in this scene and not just a singing voice that's disconnected from what's going on.

Next we have "Alone Again" which is Adrien's first song that he sings in the movie. It's pretty much him just singing about how alone he feels thanks to his dad's neglect and his mother's disappearance. It's very short, literally clocking in at about 1 minute and 38 seconds so it's over rather quickly but it does get the point across nicely in just how lonely Adrien feels in his current life.

And after that there's "You Are Ladybug", which is a duet between Ladybug and Tikki that has Tikki explaining and showing Marinette what she can do now she's Ladybug while Marinette remains sceptical. The song is a rather fun duet between the two but...did this scene need to be a song? There was no need for it to be a musical number when they would've gotten the point across more sufficiently if it was a spoken scene. It would've been over with quicker and the time could've been better spent on the story instead of wasting it on an unnecessary musical number. Also why did it sound like Tikki was trying to rap at one point? That was silly. =P

Then we have "My Lady" which is basically just Cat Noir singing about how head-over-heels he is for Ladybug. Much like the previous song, this did NOT need to be a musical number when Cat Noir could've gotten the point across much more sufficiently by just telling us he loves Ladybug. It's also another really short song, barely clocking in at two minutes, so it only further highlights why it didn't need to be a musical number.

Hawk Moth also gets his own musical number with "Chaos Will Reign Today". The song is like a villain song you might see in a Disney Renaissance movie with how it starts off slow and then gradually builds up and gets more chaotic over time. Keith Silverstein shows off some impressive pipes during this song and it's easily Hawk Moth's most fun scene, but this song tonally just doesn't fit with Hawk Moth's character. I mean Hawk Moth is NOT a theatrical, over-the-top kind of character, or at least THIS version of him isn't and he's certainly NOT a performer so this song just kinda comes out of nowhere for him. He doesn't act like this anywhere else in the movie so why does he have this musical number where he's singing and showboating about how chaos will reign and he's gleeful about it? It'd be like giving Death from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish an out-of-nowhere musical number despite his character not being a theatrical, over-the-top kind of guy, it just doesn't gel with what we've seen from Hawk Moth in the movie! If we needed a villain song, then his akuma minions should've sung it, NOT him.

Then we have "Courage In Me", the one musical number that feels the most ill-timed of them all in this movie. I get what the song's about, it's Marinette singing about how things are going hectic and she doesn't know what to do and needs to be motivated to take action. It's just the fact that everything going crazy with a funfair in chaos and villains attacking the city is NOT a good time for a musical number! I mean how much carnage were Mime and Magician causing throughout all this time Marinette was singing to herself?! Priorities woman, come on! =P

And of course we have our romantic couple ballad with "Stronger Together". As love songs go, it's sweet and lovely to listen to thanks to the great singing voices and some melodic piano work at the start and the song does have a nice slow build up that picks up the pace as we go along. Seeing Ladybug and Cat Noir play and tease with each other throughout is also fun too. The rather sad way the song concludes is also appropriate and segue ways well into what happens next afterwards.

And then we have our final song "Reaching Out". Once again, this scene didn't need to be a musical number. We get it, Marinette's sad about how things aren't going well in her romance life, we don't need an entire musical number about that! This song felt the most pointless to me and shouldn't have been there.

And what's no doubt a treat for the fans, we hear a new rendition of the classic Miraculous Ladybug theme song over a montage of our heroes beating akuma villains. It sounded alright I guess but nothing too special.

The musical numbers aren't bad per say, but at least three of them are scenes that didn't need to be a musical number and would've been better as spoken scenes while the rest are fine as they are. They're not the most memorable songs ever, but they're pleasant to listen to so at least they're not horrible to listen to. It's just if the movie had less musical numbers, it would've been better paced and could've used the time spent on the pointless numbers towards more important things in the story.


This movie feels nothing short of...well, miraculous. Who knew that a different writer could make all the difference in telling the story of this franchise? The story is a little formulaic but still very engaging and well-told, the writing is an improvement over its predecessor, the characters are fun and engaging, the animation is an absolute feast for the eyes and the songs, while generic and bland, are at least nice to listen to. If there's any piece of Miraculous media I can actually recommend you watch, it's the movie. Just ignore the show entirely and only watch the movie. You'll have a MUCH better time with this than the show and that's a fact! I hope if Miraculous Ladybug continues, we get more of THIS version of the franchise for it's truly a step in the right direction for Ladybug...

And that's it for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and feel free to share your thoughts down below. Did you enjoy Ladybug and Cat Noir: The Movie? Did you not enjoy it? Feel free to tell me yourself. Next week I'll be doing another history essay on a famous Robot Wars contestant and counting down my Top 10 Favourite Pokémon Girls. See you then media fans!

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