It’s not been the easiest of roads for Nimona. There was the pandemic in 2020, and after that, Disney shut down Blue Sky Studios in 2021. But all those involved didn’t give up on the film, finding a home for it in Annapurna, and a studio partner in DNEG Animation. And now, we get to watch it on Netflix, which is gaining a reputation of being a streamer with some underrated animated gems. That creative love which steered this project to completion is clearly seen in the end product. Nimona is a labour of love, and the perfect way to conclude Pride Month.
Sir Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed) is the first commoner who’s been given the opportunity to serve as a knight. On the day of the knighting ceremony, he worries about how he will be received by the public – will they love him or hate him? The visuals of the space show everything we need to know about this society. The presence of the knights and medieval imagery reflect a traditional, conservative mindset, which exists in contrast to the futuristic aesthetic of the city. In other words, there is technological progress, but the beliefs and perspectives of the people lie very much in the past.
Ballister’s boyfriend, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang), assures him that they will love him, much like he does. The animated film takes a bolder stance on the relationship between Ballister and Ambrosius, making it clear that they are lovers, when it was more subtext in the source material.
As it turns out, Ballister’s fears are allayed and then are immediately proven true when he becomes implicated in the queen’s death. How can he prove his innocence, when villainy is all anyone sees, and expects? Noting the chaos that surrounds him, Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz) ingratiates herself into his life, to partake in said chaos. She’s eager to see things burn, and is ever ready to contribute to the mess as his villainous sidekick. Nimona is a shapeshifter, able to morph into any being she desires. Her shape-shifting abilities, and the way she describes the experience – as a kind of freedom – reads as an allegory for queer experience. Why does she saddle herself with Ballister, and what’s hidden in the past that she doesn’t want us to see?
Moretz does a fantastic job on the voice acting, making Nimona this relatable, spunky ball of chaos. She’s fun, but there’s some darker pain within her, which we see glimpses of the moment Ballister prods her a little too much. The friendship between Ballister and Nimona blossoms because they are both othered by society, looked at as villains and monsters. We other what we cannot fathom and understand, and even Ballister is guilty of doing this to Nimona when he first learns of her shape-shifting abilities.
The movie is really funny with memorable lines (“Arm-chopping is not a love language!”) but it also dives into dark spaces, as we consider the consequence of hate and where that leads. Nimona is proof that sometimes a little love and kindness can go a long way.
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Nimona is a riotous romp that isn't afraid to offer its own take on the source material.
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