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Nimona (2023) Review

This is a review for the 2023 movie “Nimona”. Based on a graphic novel of the same name and after around years of turmoil, this movie has finally found a home on Netflix. Was it worth the wait?

What is Nimona about?

The meta story of Nimona

I think a lot of people will look at Nimona and immediately write it off as a generic entry in the “look at this quirky little girl” genre. Netflix have been struggling with the quality of their film output this year and they’ve seemingly forgotten to market this one, which can easily be overlooked as just as another miss. This movie deserves so much better.

It took a lot to get this movie released. It started development in 2015, under Blue Sky, but upon Blue Sky’s acquisition from Disney – the project was canned, despite being nearly complete. Ex-staff of Blue Sky claimed that this was because of the presence of a same sex couple in the movie. The film was dead in the water, until Netflix picked it up in early 2022. Now we’re here, and we can say that it was worth the effort.

The actual story of Nimona

I tend to see queer themes in every piece of media, but I promise you – it’s not just me with this one. Nimona is a unashamedly queer story, which centres around two characters: Ballister Boldheart and the titular Nimona. Boldheart is an openly gay man, who was once a hero, but has been cast aside by society after he was framed for the murder of the Queen. It’s set in some future-medieval-knightpunk world, it’s cool; don’t think about it too much. Speaking of the Queen, the second she opened her mouth – I was sold on this movie, what a hilariously inspired choice by a casting director.

Nimona, on the other hand, is a “monster”. She’s a shapeshifter, who can take many forms and is an outcast of society. When she meets Boldheart, she assumes that he is rebellious like him, only to find that he simply wants to clear his name. Nevertheless, the two work together; battling a deeply prejudiced society that sees anybody different as evil.

It’s not the most original story in the world – but it combines a unique setting, with some likeable characters, unashamed theming and a fast-paced, funny plot.

Nimona (2023) Review

As it stands, Nimona may be my favourite movie of the year so far.

That may change as time passes and I reassess my feelings, but at this moment in time – it stands alone in terms of movies that have impacted me so strongly, this year. In a year where the best-selling animation movies are soulless video game cash grabs and film adaptations of the Spider-Men pointing at each other meme (harsh, but fair), it’s so good to just have some original, creative animation – that has something to say. Yes, it’s inspired on existing property (it’s based on a Tumblr web-comic, turned graphic novel) – but you don’t need me to tell you how that’s different.

The two main characters are very likeable and both have a fun dynamic, which feels natural. The movie makes some decisions that I don’t particularly agree with (it’s far too forgiving towards some characters and does settle into some overly familiar tropes); but it does what it sets out to do well, and is, ultimately, a movie that wants to be accessible to families. It’s all the better for that.

There are a few stand-out scenes that I won’t spoil. One scene in the final third of the movie had me audibly gasp, with one word that just achieved scales of world-building that might take other pieces of media hours to establish. I did, also, find the final five seconds of the movie hilarious.

Themes of Queerness

Nimona is a character who is looked down on by society, due to her ability to transform. As a result of this, she’s been ostracized by friends; physically attacked; radicalized and told to comply with society’s standards, even by people who are supposed to be her friends. If the connotation here wasn’t obvious enough here, you’ll probably have caught on by the third time that we hear the words “just be a girl!” echo in her head. Nimona is clearly trans-coded, with a focus on non-binary identities and fluidity.

I can’t help, in my head, but compare it to last year’s Turning Red – which evoked similar themes in me. Both movies used the metaphor of magical transformation as a metaphor for queerness and I think both movies do this very well, in slightly different ways. Turning Red was excellent as showing familiar relationships and how parents can be shamed into making their own kids feel unaccepted. Nimona takes a look at society, instead, and looks at how society treats people who are different. There’s a particular attention towards how kids treat Nimona. Typically, the trope here is that kids haven’t yet formed prejudice. We see it all the time with awful “aww look how my kid doesn’t know that his friend is black!” social media, “feel good” posts. Nimona subverts this by saying, actually, kids are reactionaries too – they’re also products of society and in a way, are the final bastion of acceptance.

Who should watch this movie?

I’d strongly recommend this movie to anybody who even remotely thinks they’ll like it. I promise you, this isn’t just medieval “Wreck-It Ralph” or whatever. It’s a creative and fun, but simple, movie that has a lot to say and is passionate about saying it. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best movie that Netflix have released this year. A slightly more unpopular opinion, it may be the best animated movie of the year and I really hope that it, at least, gets a nod at the Oscars – even though it deserves more.

This was a review for the 2023 movie “Nimona”. Did you enjoy this movie? Let us know in the comments below.

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