10th Aug2023

‘Nimona’ Review

by James Rodrigues

Features the voices of: Chloe Grace Moretz, Riz Ahmed, Eugene Lee Yang, Frances Conroy, Lorraine Toussaint, Beck Bennett, Indya Moore, RuPaul Charles, Julio Torres, Sarah Sherman | Written by Robert L. Baird, Lloyd Taylor | Directed by Nick Bruno, Troy Quane

Adapting the 2015 graphic novel from ND Stevenson, Nimona was originally a production of Blue Sky Studios before Disney’s acquisition of Fox resulted in Blue Sky’s closure and the cancellation of this film. The project was thankfully revived by Annapurna Pictures, with Netflix providing worldwide distribution, allowing for the release of one of 2023’s best films.

Within a medieval-futuristic kingdom, Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed) is about to make history as the first commoner to become a knight. He is a beacon of hope for those not of noble blood, establishing that “anyone can be a hero”, which makes his crowning glory even more horrifying when he is framed for killing the queen. After losing his right arm and being hunted by the Institute, Ballister dons a prosthetic arm and sets about proving his innocence. The only one who can help him is Nimona (Chloe Grace Moretz), a teenage shapeshifter who hires herself as Ballister’s sidekick.

Following up 2019’s Spies in Disguise, co-directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane combine a medieval style with a futuristic world for a fascinating setting full of personality. This is brought alive with a vibrant animated style which feels comic-book-inspired in eye-popping ways, from chase sequences to Nimona’s fiery-eyed grin. Rounding off things are Christophe Beck’s score and an excellent mix of contemporary music, with each tune played to tremendous effect amidst the fun being offered.

Bringing alive the characters are phenomenal performances, with Ahmed and Moretz exceptionally conveying the chemistry and hilarity shared between these polar opposites. While Nimona is quick to break stuff and ready to murder, Ballister is more cautious as he tries to find the path of least resistance towards uncovering the truth. A touching relationship is formed between the pair, as they rely on one another through the tough times.

It is what Ballister needs after the events leave him framed for regicide. The pressure mounted on him due to the media and the kingdom’s people struggling to accept him, all because the aspiring knight wished to better himself. He was reassured by his lover, the excellently named Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang), although their lovely relationship leaves the heartbreak to resonate as events split them apart.

Drawing Nimona to the former knight is her considering him a kindred spirit, also seeking revenge on a cruel government firstly focused on maintaining the status quo. The shapeshifter has been burned by how the world negatively views her, considering her a monster because she is not limited to a socially acceptable visage of herself, when she just wants to be accepted for who she is regardless of what she looks like. While others may ask what she is, the titular character firmly repeats that she is Nimona as it is all she needs to say.

After being framed, Ballister is depicted as the villain all were previously painting him as for not being of noble blood. It does not matter how untruthful that is, the misguided fears run rampant courtesy of those in power and overrule any logical thinking, tragically leading their targets to potentially become self-fulfilling prophecies. It holds unfortunate relevance to how the media regularly demonizes the Transgender community for existing and makes it clear that those in power must be held accountable for the innocents they villainise to maintain outdated ways of thinking.

It is clear why Disney did not finish this project, as the company’s lacking attempts at queer representation looks pitiful compared to the same-sex kiss and themes provided in Nimona. What has been provided is a perfect middle finger to bigots and transphobes, but it also helps that the film is utterly brilliant.

***** 5/5

Nimona is available to watch on Netflix now.


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