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The Media Man Reviews: Nimona


Nimona title card

Originally I was going to watch the new DreamWorks movie Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken for this post but me and my brother ended up saving that for another week. So to make sure you guys aren't left high and dry and we still get to cover a new 2023 animated film, I did this instead. Yes readers, it's my turn to review the new Netflix exclusive animated flick, Nimona.


Based on the 2015 graphic novel of the same name, Nimona was actually a movie that was being produced by the now defunct Blue Sky Studios before Disney pulled the plug on the company. It seemed that the movie was going to be cancelled but some time after Blue Sky's closing, Netflix picked up the project and allowed it to continue. Honestly, it was for the best this happened for some Blue Sky Studios employees even spoke up about Disney trying to push back the LGBT themes they wanted to include here so Netflix was the best chance they had to get out the movie THEY wanted to make.


I must confess right off the bat that I have NEVER heard of this franchise before hand. I've never read the comics or even heard of them. Anything I know about Nimona comes from this movie and its production history, nothing else. So this review will be from the perspective of a newcomer to the series and I'll be looking at it as a movie by itself, not as an adaptation. If you want to know how faithful it is to the comic, don't ask me. Ask a fan of the comics instead for I can't help you on that. ^^;


So is this a movie that tells the story of great heroes worthy of legend? Or should Nimona shapeshift into a better movie? Let's get metal folks for we're reviewing Nimona...


Section 1: The Story


Nimona tells the story of a knight named Ballister Boldheart who was framed for the death of the queen. Ballister is on the run as a result of this and he's working tirelessly to clear his name and find out who set him up to take the fall for this crime. He meets a shapeshifting teenager named...well, you can guess, and the two work together to find out who the real criminal is while also forming an unlikely bond together along the way.


I'm sure some of you reading this might already be groaning the moment I said that last part. Yes, it's one of THOSE movies again, the typical "duo that don't like each other at first but form an unlikely bond along their adventures" story that so many animated films nowadays seem to tell. HOWEVER...the execution of the story here is what matters most and I can say that the execution worked wondrously here. Nimona's story is both engaging and fun to watch. I'd even say it's one of the most fun animated movies we've had in a while with a lot of wacky shenanigans with Nimona's shapeshifting abilities, her dark sense of humour, some crazy action scenes and more so this is a movie where you're certainly never bored by what's going on here. I was having a good time throughout thanks to the action and humour on display that makes what might sound like a dull premise really enjoyable to watch.


Speaking of the humour, there's a lot of it to be found here and most of the time it's VERY effective. There's a lot of humour on display here from puns to slapstick to black comedy and especially visual gags. They make the most out of Nimona's shapeshifting powers by using them to pull off cool action scenes and funny gags at the same time and Nimona's overly sadistic nature is just a riot that manages to emphasize the humour more than the darkness, as dark humour should be executed in a comedy like this. Also the banter between Ballister and Nimona is a great double act of the straight man and the comedic sidekick and the two are hilarious to watch throughout the movie together, especially when we get Ballister's exasperated reactions to Nimona's antics. Comedy gold I tell ya. XD


The story is also not afraid to get dark in places too. This takes us to the themes this story presents. Nimona is ultimately a story about bigotry and hatred and being ostracized by a corrupt society. This decade alone has already made these kinds of stories WAY more relevant than ever before so I welcome these themes here. The world its set in is not as glamorous as it seems and the characters even point out how messed up it is at times, especially in regards to Ambrosius cutting Ballister's arm off. Also take in how nobody goes past the wall in fear of what's outside the borders of their city. That's a rather depressing metaphor for how some groups out there fear what's different to them and just want to stay in their safe space and lash out at what they don't understand. It's topical and insanely relevant in this day and age, which will only give this movie a more timeless feel in the long run. These themes also play well into Nimona's backstory and arc but I'll cover that later.


And of course, the movie has another strong aspect that makes for an engaging story. And that is, the heart. The film is very funny, action packed and topical but it can also be a heart-warming movie to watch as well, especially in regards to Ballister and Nimona's growing bond. Both are seen as the villains by the public and they only really have each other to rely on in this unforgiving world. They see the best in each other and in the end, they become best friends and have a bond that ultimately wins out against those that ostracize them. It's wholesome stuff and very engaging throughout the movie.


Nimona shapeshifted into an impressive movie but even it has some flaws that Nimona herself can't cover up. First of all, the story can be pretty predictable at times. We have the usual annoying, cliched as hell third-act-break-up which I'm getting so sick to death of at this point and this movie really didn't need one in order to work. Also it's VERY obvious who the villain is. No joke, I called it very early on and I wasn't even surprised I was right. It was THAT obvious. Gabriel Agreste turning out to be Hawk Moth was less surprising than this, so why did they even try to make it a twist villain when anyone could've called it? And people gave Disney flack for their twist villains. XD


Also the movie can have moments, albeit very rarely, where the comedy can kill the mood at times. The most obnoxious example for me was when Thaddeus and his men hear an ominous rumbling in the background and he feels the need to joke about it, like "Did you hear that? It sounded like a umblblblblblblblblblb." It really wasn't necessary and again, it just kills the mood.


Also while I get this story is about a man being framed for murder, the way he gets framed is...questionable. Like somehow nobody took note of Ballister being as shocked as they were as his sword turned into a weapon that shot the queen dead. I think if anyone looks confused their own sword did that, that should be a sign that something's up guys! Also it kinda stretches credibility for me that somehow the sword is programmed to activate at exactly the right time to fire the beam and kill the queen at that moment. In hindsight, this plan was risky as hell and required a VERY situational moment for it to be successfully executed. It could've easily gone wrong is all I'm saying!


Still, the film really has very little to criticize overall and it's still by and large a fun, enjoyable, charming, action-packed flick that Disney should be sorry they lost because they could've hit it BIG with this movie. The story may sound dull and generic but the execution makes it anything but and is a good time from beginning to end...


Section 2: The Characters


I dunno what these characters are like in the comics but here in the movie, we have some good ones on offer and I guarantee you'll find a favourite among them.


Let's start with the titular character herself, Nimona (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz).

A picture of Nemona

NOT THAT NEMONA!!!

A pic of Nimona

There you go. ;)


Nimona is an absolute riot throughout the movie. Her overly sadistic and bloodthirsty personality is outright hilarious to watch and somehow never gets old. She's so full of energy and enthusiasm, as you'd expect from a powerful little kid like her, and despite her bloodlust, she isn't overly sadistic for the sake of it and even has a soft side to her which is mostly displayed around Ballister. She's also VERY tormented by her past and with how people just see her as a monster because of her abilities. They don't see her as who she is and just assume she's a monster solely because she can shapeshift, which I imagine will resonate heavily with many audiences, especially LGBT audiences where they're ostracized by society solely because of their sexuality or gender. With how much Nimona's been treated by crap throughout her life, it's no wonder she's as jaded and cynical as she is and just wants to cause mischief, strife and chaos but upon meeting Ballister, she finally finds someone she can truly call a friend and the bond between them makes for some wholesome viewing. Nimona's the star of the show, no questions asked and is easily the best thing about this film.


And we have our secondary protagonist, Ballister Boldheart (voiced by Riz Ahmed). Ballister is equally as sympathetic as Nimona as a guy who's had his life turned upside down thanks to being accused for a crime he had no intention of committing. Everyone's after him and has turned on him, including his boyfriend, and it's really sad to watch him be reduced to this sorry wreck that knows he's innocent but can't convince people otherwise. It's easy to root for this guy and see his name get cleared at last and I especially find the toughest scenes with him being anytime he and Ambrosius have to battle each other. You really want to see them get back together in the end and for Ambrosius to see that Ballister's innocent. Also, as mentioned above, his bond with Nimona's a big highlight for this movie and I enjoy watching his reactions to her crazy antics and bloodthirsty personality. His straight-man antics are so funny and make him as hilarious to watch as Nimona at times.


There's not many other characters to talk about as no a lot of them have as big a role as our leads. Still, we have Ambrosius Goldenloin (voiced by Eugene Lee Yang) who is Ballister's love interest and a man who is torn between his allegiance to the Institute and his love for Ballister. He feels he's doing the right thing but he soon sees that things aren't what they seem as the movie goes on. I felt sorry for him as well as our leads because he clearly doesn't want to think or believe his boyfriend's a murderer but what else can he believe and even if he's misguided in who the real villain is, he is clearly a good man overall and just wants to do his duty.


We also have The Director (voiced by Frances Conroy), our villain for this movie. And no, that's not a spoiler. It's DEAD obvious that she's the villain here. They try to make it a twist but no, it's no twist. She's obviously the villain and as a villain...she sucks. She's just your typical bigot who fears the unknown and is willing to go to extreme lengths under her own misguided idea of "saving humanity". Yeah, I'm sure many of history's greatest villains thought they were the good guys too, missy. =P They really could've given us a far better villain than her in my eyes.


There's also Thoddeus Sureblade (voiced by Beck Bennett) who is the secondary antagonist of the movie and is absolutely not worth talking about because he brings nothing to the table whatsoever. The movie could've dropped him entirely and nothing would change, he's that much of a waste of space.


We also have Gloreth (voiced by Charlotte Aldrich) whom serves as an inspiring figure that the world looks up to and is renowned throughout history. She has a bigger role to play than you might think and even has a connection to our leads that I didn't expect, though like with The Director being evil, I called it that Gloreth's not as pure as she's presented as so that's another obvious twist they gave us. They could've done without that since it was just too easy to do in my opinion.


Aside from that, there's no other characters that need covering really. While we have a lame villain who was too obvious and a secondary antagonist who is utterly useless, our main leads and Ambrosius are great and are worth watching the movie for. This is a movie where quality wins over quantity for just our leads are all you need for an enjoyable movie...


Section 3: The Animation


Now THIS will be a fun segment to cover.


The animation was what really grabbed people's attention for this film. Blue Sky Studios in its prime was notorious for really giving their films interesting, unique and cool art styles and designs that made their movies more visually distinctive compared to other animated movies in the mainstream with Ice Age, Epic, The Peanuts Movie and Rio being prime examples of what they're capable of. Nimona is no different in that regard for it's a visually stunning movie to look at and looks like no other mainstream computer animated movie out there.


During production, Blue Sky was closed down and a blueprint of the animation from Blue Sky was given to the new animation company DNEG to follow from and they finished off the animation that was started by Blue Sky. Their work sure paid off for this movie is GORGEOUS. The art style itself looks like its emulating 2-D animation with a more 2-D design going on with the characters closer to what you might see in old Disney films or a 2-D DreamWorks film and given this a film based on a comic, I imagine this was intentional as a way to homage its comic-based roots. Heck, the art-style itself could be seen as a comic coming to life in that sense.


This style gives the film a unique look and allows for some creative and expressive character animation that makes for a fun watch. The characters can convey a wide arrange of expressions with just their faces and body language with Nimona especially showing a lot of personality from how she's animated. I know I love it whenever she has that big evil grin on her face for how much it shows her hilariously sadistic character. And it's not just the means that are expressive either. No, even The Director gets to show a lot of difference expressions too, especially horror when the recording of her confessing to the queen's murder is shown on the news and she sees her world is starting to fall apart. It really gives the impression that the animators loved working on this film and wanted everybody to be animated and full of character no matter how small their role was. Even the background characters are full of life!


The character designs themselves are very well done and striking to look at. Nearly ever character is distinct looking and there's a variety of different looks from the teenage Nimona to the bulky armoured knights to the regal looking queen and director and the many civilians that populate the city. Even when designing the armour the knights wear, they gave some distinct designs to them like Ballister wearing black and Ambrosius wearing silver and gold. Looking at images of the comic on Google, I can see some of the comic's art-style in these designs but there's noticeable changes to make them more fitting for a movie, namely in the eyes. For example, this is how they look in the comic:

A comic page of Nimona

In the movie, they look like this:

A pic of the Nimona film

I feel this design change was for the better for the larger more colourful eyes allow for greater expressions from the cast and the eyes just look more appealing that way. Though I do question the shapely shines in their pupils. Seriously, they're sometimes round, triangular or square depending on the scene and it just looks odd to me. Still, I feel they nailed the character designs with this style, staying true to the comic while also updating them so they're more fit for a movie. Also as is common in animated films, some of the cast resemble their actors. Ballister especially is LITERALLY a cartoon Riz Ahmed in terms of appearance. XD


When it comes to the action scenes, they go all out there too with some creative choreography, dynamic angles and fast paced action and especially whenever Nimona's using her shapeshifting powers. The animators took full advantage of her powers and used it to make the action either funny or exciting to watch whenever she would shapeshift. It was especially a neat touch for her to always be red no matter what she changed into with the exception of one form she becomes during the climax where she looks like this giant shadow monster out of a living nightmare. They made that look suitably freaky to show just how far Nimona's grief has fallen to the point she's just unleashing all the darkness in her heart. It was quite cool and also creepy to watch that transformation.


The backgrounds are notorious for a unique style that we don't often see in movies, especially animated movies. We have this cyberpunk/medieval fantasy mash-up going on and it gives us some very cool and creative backgrounds and settings for the film to take place in. We have this entire giant metropolis that's like a medieval fantasy mixed with sci-fi with old-fashioned houses, castles, drones, mechanical body parts, TV screens and so much more and it's quite fascinating to watch. But this world does raise a few questions with its retrofuturistic style. Like why is this society so advanced that they can build and use LASER CANNONS but they still use swords to battle with? Aren't swords pretty much obsolete if you can use lasers? And did we really need to reference the modern world to the point we have knights using tablets and taking selfies? Come on guys, it's cringey enough when we get films feeling the need to do that crap to be "modern" with the current audience, we really could do without that.


Still, the retrofuturistic setting maybe questionable at times but it does give Nimona a very unique identity as an animated film and it's easily among the most visually interesting films I've seen in a while. Its got a very appealing artstyle that's expressive, full of character and easy on the eyes and gives us some awesome, fun, hilarious action to enjoy and a fascinatingly creative world to explore. Let's say that Blue Sky really went out on a high note with this animation...


Overall


It's easy to see why people were excited to see this and happy that it didn't get cancelled in the end, even with Blue Sky's demise. Nimona was a fun and fascinating film to watch from beginning to end and well worth a check out. The story is enjoyable and full of humour and heart, the themes are highly relevant and timeless, the characters are charming and full of personality and the animation is gorgeous to watch. If you're a fan of the comics, I'm sure you'll enjoy this too and for newcomers to the franchise like me, this is a good starting point to get into Nimona. I may not have read the comics but I still enjoyed this film and give it a high recommendation. If you have a Netflix account, go watch it now. You'll have a great time with this movie...


And that's all I have for this movie. I hope you enjoyed the review and I invited you all to share your thoughts down below. Did you like Nimona or is it not for you? Do tell. Next week I'll be reviewing Pixar's latest instalment, Elemental. See you then media fans!



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2件のコメント


Seems like a fun movie. Shame I have no Netflix. need to look for another way to see it.

いいね!

ゲスト
2023年7月07日

I think for me the biggest twist in the story was how overly simple Nimona and Gloreth’s story was and became something which it wasn’t. If you ask me in my opinion, it’s one of the best things about the movie, you have Nimona as a young girl who’s lonely then has a friend but her friend betrays her.


With the exception of Ballister being criminalised over something which they should’ve investigated, I liked the movie.

いいね!
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