We review Netflix’s animated adaptation of ND Stevenson’s classic fantasy graphic novel Nimona, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, and more!
PLOT: After an ostracized knight in a futuristic, medieval world is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, the only one who can help him prove his innocence is Nimona – a mischievous teen who’s also the shape-shifting creature he’s sworn to destroy.
REVIEW: After years of hard work, uncertainty, multiple delays, and a damning cancellation by the Walt Disney Company, Nimona is ready to dazzle audiences with a stunningly animated adventure about defying expectations, exploration of self, acceptance, and the limitless potential of love and friendship. After being canceled by Disney and resurrected by Annapurna and Netflix, Nimona‘s arrival on the small screen is a cause for celebration. Both a triumph of animation and heart, Nimona delivers a story as powerful as its title character for a film that deserves to be seen by everyone.
For the sake of full disclosure, I’ve been a Nimona fan since the first print of ND Stevenson’s powerful graphic novel in 2015. I’ve given this book as a holiday gift on several occasions, and it won the top prize at an annual comics awards ceremony. I’ve loved Nimona for years, making me uniquely qualified to analyze the film adaptation after several years of touch-and-go production. Would it meet my expectations? Will the impact of my experience be altered by changes to the story or characters? Can a character that I hold in high regard make the leap from the printed to the screen while maintaining their uniqueness? I’m thrilled to say Nimona exceeded all my expectations, securing a place among my favorite animated films of the past decade.
Set in a futuristic, medieval world that feels like The Princess Bride is holding hands with Blade Runner 2049, Nimona invites audiences into a kingdom unlike any other. Seemingly trapped between two eras, the Kingdom is a bustling, vibrant playground for Nimona to terrorize as they shape-shift into a menagerie of different animals in service of their friend and boss, Ballister Boldheart.
When the film begins, our introduction to Ballister depicts a man loyal to the Kingdom but plagued by his heritage. Ballister is viewed as an outsider by the Kingdom despite his best efforts. Riz Ahmed gives a powerful performance as Ballister. His voice embodies someone whose sense duty overshadows the constant heckling from his peers. Ahmed is a savior of the kingdom worth rooting for, whether it’s his disbelief when fate finds him on the run after a terrible accident or as a lover whose partner stands at a crossroads when things go awry. Ahmed is a hero worth rooting for, whether it’s his disbelief that fate has him on the run following a terrible accident, or his love interest who stands at a crossroads after things go wrong. Chloe Grace Moretz gives her all for this role. Moretz’s performance is a roller coaster of emotions. She meets Nimona with her boundless energy, and then exceeds it by the power of an over-stimulated teen. Nimona appears to be a spirited antagonist who is full of a playful anger towards the citizens of the kingdom. Underneath her rage, Nimona is a person who has spent their whole life being misunderstood and seeking acceptance. People fear what they do not understand, and Moretz takes the form of someone who desperately wants to love while also being capable of unleashing untold destruction.
Trapped between loyalty to his new Queen and desire to hold Ballister close is Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, a natural leader and respected hero of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. Eugene Lee Yang plays the role of a lover-warrior caught between protecting citizens against an impossible threat, and seeing through the deception that is thrust upon him. Yang’s versatility is evident in the way he played Goldenloin as he watched Ballister’s chance for acceptance be snatched by an insidious plan. It is firmly established and normalized by the movie, which is a delightful change from the source material. Sensing that Disney doesn’t have the stones to represent the LGBTQA+ community in ways that move the needle,
is better served by finding a home with Netflix/Annapurna.While Nimona
explodes with breathtaking action, intelligent observations about subservience, and animated sequences that represent the best of what modern animation has to offer, the partnership between Nimoma and Ballister Boldheart is the glue that holds everything together. The film’s two outcasts, Nimona, and Boldheart develop a bond that is endearing throughout, leading to the most satisfying display of affection. Their bond carries a powerful message of understanding as they evolve from an unlikely duo to friends as thick as thieves.Discussing Nimona
without drawing attention to the film’s directors, Nick Bruno and Troy Quane is impossible. The directors, Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, took on the challenge of taking the film over head-on. They directed dynamic camera movements, quiet reflections, and epic displays fantasy action that were comparable to Disney’s 6Big Hero or Netflix’s Arcane . The film’s technical prowess is accompanied by a fun and bubbly score, while Christophe Beck’s score gives the adventure a sense of grandeur. Everything about the Nimona movie adaptation feels well-earned. The story changes are fluid and natural, and they meet the needs of the medium. The dialogue is hilarious and the character chemistry in the script and casting is fantastic. I laughed for what seemed like the entire film, absorbing Nimona’s dry humor, chaotic goblin energy and ceaseless snark. The story is a distillation of the explorations of fluid identity and the consequences of faith in leadership when we give up critical thinking. While animated films like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
and The Super Mario Bros. Movie are likely to get all the glory this year, Nimona is a glittering gem in an ornate crown forged from the cast and crew’s tenacity, faith in Steveson’s brilliant blueprint, and a desire to bring something honest and new to the animation stage.10