Due to my hectic traveling work schedule, I often spend a lot of time alone in hotel rooms. Most of these have limited streaming options, with some having none and most others only have Netflix. Sure, I can login to all of my current services on my laptop, but I have an irrational aversion to watching movies on a laptop screen. It’s a silly thing that limits my watching abilities, but one that forces me to scour the depth of a single streaming service that has a recent history of mediocre to unwatchable options.
Thank god for “Nimona,” a breath of fresh air both in its narrative and dazzling animation. It is easily one of the best films Netflix has to offer this year, and makes the case for one of best animated films of the year, too. As someone who has seen just about everything the service has to offer, I can categorically say you won’t find a better film than “Nimona.”
Based on the graphic novel of the same name by ND Stevenson, “Nimona” is directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane from an adapted screenplay by Robert L. Baird and Lloyd Taylor. The film has quite the checkered behind the scenes development story, much of which surrounds Disney’s acquisition of 20th Fox Studios, the shut down of Blue Sky Studios, and the controversy surrounding the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that had a profound effect on the completion and release of “Nimona.” Long story short, the film was revived by Annapurna and Netflix and after near 5 years in development and studio ring around the rosy hell, is available to watch. “Nimona” is set in a futurist medieval kingdom in which the greatest knights honor the legacy of defending the city from the monsters that lay outside the walls. The Queen makes a controversial decision to allow a commoner to join the ranks of the most prestigous defenders (a rite belonging to only the elite and birth right legacy…MESSAGE), and during the ceremony and knighting of one Ballister, he seemingly kills the queen with a blast and destroys the arena. Nimona is a shapeshifter looking to bring down the whole system, and seeks out the wanted “villain” to be his sidekick. Of course, nothing is as it seems, and their budding friendship will challenge not just their beliefs, but the very foundation of which the kingdom is built on.
“Nimona” is rich with subversive undertones and emotional resonance, powered by a sharp script that tackles the complexity of current events under the guise of fantasy adventure and unlikely friendship. It uses its tropes and cliches to its advantage, and paired with its unique animation style reaches deep into the feels and connects the audience to its characters. “Nimona” is simultaneously everything you’ve seen before and unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It packs a wallop of heart, but is also laugh out loud hilarious and constructed with a sort of controlled chaos that is simply wonderful to watch. It is both sincere and irreverent to the fairytale genre, with some similarities to “Shrek” in its clever use of genre playfulness and slick delivery. It also sports one of the best representations of a same sex couple in an animated film to date, one that handles the relationship with care and purpose instead of a corporate check the box approach. It enhances the story instead of distracts from it, and “Nimona” clearly cares about both the characters involved and the narrative at hand. It is just consistently delightful, and has enough of everything you love from animated stories and fairytales to be a can’t miss film.
I’ve long been a fan of Chloe Grace Moretz, who voices the titular character Nimona. But this is some of the best work she’s done since “Kick Ass,” and her voice performance here is pure perfection. Moretz is a lynchpin with her work in “Nimona,” perfectly channeling the anarchy and impulsive nature of the character. She is a joy to behold, and chews through scenery at every single turn. Aside from the stellar animation and moving story, Moretz’ Nimona is a key reason the film works so well. I seriously can’t say enough about how good she is here, turning in a career best and instilling instant wonder and connection to Nimona. She understands all the complexities of the character, and really digs deep to capture the heart and wonder of her story. Riz Ahmed as Ballister is fine, which isn’t exactly what I would want from an actor who typically doesn’t miss. He’s doing his best in “Nimona,” but isn’t tapped into the same wavelength as Moretz who runs circles around him. Together, they add that extra bit of magic needed to make “Nimona” work as well as it does, with Moretz doing most of the heavy lifting.
Bruno and Quane directs with such confidence and control over the chaotic and impulsive story, and clearly have a passion for the “Nimona” source material. There is a genuine reverence for Stevenson’s graphic novel, and through their unique animation style and carefully crafted storytelling keep its heart and purpose in tact. Whether or not the younger audience will be able to understand the deeper themes of belonging, acceptance, loneliness, and allegorical current climate commentary of dated institutions and fearmongering of “the other” never gets in the way of “Nimona” being fun for the whole family. Like the better animated features before it, the film is able to deliver enough wonder for the younger minds to be enthralled while also giving adults some deep introspective ideas to chew on. I can’t say enough about how unique the animation is. Sure, it’s nothing like “Across the Spiderverse,” but “Nimona” is an example of a film following in its footsteps. This is what happens when we push boundaries and let creativity thrive instead of stifling it with the cheap circumvention of AI and cookie cutter familiarity.
Case it point, we need more films in animation like “Nimona.” It is so smart and entertaining, and demonstrates what can happen when we stop trying to exclude filmmakers and lifestyles from the cinema and embrace the diversity of the current landscape. This is LGBTQ in animation done right, serving the story instead of distracting from it and delivering a must watch spectacle that hopefully ushers in a new era of animated filmmaking. I hope more people check this film out, because it needs to be seen by as many people as possible. “Nimona” is on the cusp of something new even as it retreads the tropes of the past, paving the way for more unique visions and heartfelt stories that are just waiting to be told.
I’m not even going to sugar coat it, “Nimona” brought me to tears by the end. Yes, it is that emotionally resonant and that well made. It is truly one of the best animated features of the year and easily the best Netflix has to offer currently. Take it from someone who has seen it all on the service, “Nimona” is as good as Netflix gets and is a must watch for anyone and everyone. “Nimona” is delightful, funny, adventurous, and heartfelt, a must see for any lover of cinema.
Don’t skip this one folks. Something, something, something, “Nimona” wins. Metal!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
“Nimona” is now streaming on Netflix. You can watch the trailer below.