In a retro-futuristic world where dynastic knights are treated like celebrities and pizza is a commonly consumed food; a world where people commute on flying machines shaped like horse-drawn carriages, and jumbotrons broadcast news of kings and queens, a teenage girl and an outcast knight embark on an epic quest after forming an unlikely bond. Based on ND Stevenson’s graphic novel, which originated as a web comic published on Tumblr, the new animated movie Nimona is a truly gripping LGBTQ+ parable that hides its surprisingly brooding heart behind disarmingly brutal humor and dazzling visuals.
And partly because of its themes, the movie has had a tumultuous road to release. Nimona was originally planned as a Blue Sky project, but when the animation house closed and employees were laid off in the wake of Disney’s takeover of 20th Century Fox, it was revived by Netflix. The film debuted on the streamer on Friday after a rather rushed production that took a fraction of the time it normally takes to create animated projects of this scale.
But instead of emulating the visual style of large-scale productions from the likes of Pixar and Illumination, directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane have opted to (smartly) make the most of their lack of resources. While at first glance Nimona may seem unusually flat to an audience accustomed to the lavish, richly detailed worlds of the Kung Fu Panda and Toy Story films, it embraces these limitations to deliver a more refreshing experience than anyone anyway expected. While entirely computer-generated, Nimona uses an almost artisan animation style reminiscent of early period DreamWorks – older viewers may be reminded of The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado from the late ’90s.
Chloë Grace Moretz brings great personality to the titular Nimona, a shape-shifting teenage girl with the combined chaotic energy of Courtney Love and Dee Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory. A punk rock-inspired mid-movie montage to the tunes of Metric’s “Guns, Gold, Guns” perfectly captures her spirit. Nimona enjoys scaring unsuspecting children and wreaking havoc in virtually any room she enters. When a beloved young knight named Ballister is framed for the murder of his mentor, she feels an outlet for her pent-up fear and offers her services as a “quality sidekick” in his quest to clear his name.
But behind her brash appearance, Nimona has a crippling inferiority complex. She is convinced that her shape-shifting powers make her a “monster.” In the misunderstood Ballister, voiced by Riz Ahmed, Nimona finds a fellow outcast. It’s quite a pointy same-sex allegory, versions of which have previously been seen and appreciated in everything from the X-Men series as well as Pixar’s Brave. In a poignant scene midway through the film – after we’ve been in awe of the slapstick visual anarchy and whip-smart one-liners for about an hour – Nimona wonders what’s scarier: “The fact that everyone in this kingdom wants a sword to use.” through my heart, or that sometimes I just want to leave them.
Moments like these elevate Nimona to a higher pedestal than most of the entertainment aimed at kids today. In this era of snackable ‘content’, the film offers much of the necessary eye candy and humour, but it never loses sight of the message it aims to convey to impressionable young minds. In fact, this theme is ingrained in the film’s plot, conditioning an entire generation of kids to hate anything and anyone that doesn’t look like them. Nimona is far from perfect, but it’s a small movie with a big heart that will work for kids and their parents alike.
Drivers —Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
Form – Chloe Grace Moretz, Riz Ahmed, Eugene Lee Yang, Frances Conroy
Judgement – 4/5
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