You know the film. It’s a film you have never heard of. The cast might be composed of actors you know and love or complete unknowns. You stumble across it on streaming and wonder if it will be worth two hours of you time. This series will be devoted to reviewing films like these, the strange items that pop up when you are looking for a flick on the streaming service of your choice. This is “We Found It On Streaming”
Release Date: June 30, 2023
Run Time: 101 Minutes.
Streaming Service(s): Netflix
Rating: PG for violence and action, thematic elements, some language and rude humor.
When I cajoled FBOL Head Honcho Rich Drees to let me do this recurring feature, the main reason was so I could write reviews. Hey, I’m just being honest. I thought this would be a way to be Roger Ebert to his Gene Siskel in my own way.
But I also wanted a way to celebrate the films that fell through the cracks. Films of extraordinary quality that escaped my notice, and if it escaped my notice, it might have escaped yours as well. (And, since I am being honest, also rant about films I’ve stumbled on that are of less than extraordinary quality, too).
Nimona is one of the former. It’s a computer-animated film based on a graphic novel by ND Stevenson (which is my bailiwick on the site, making me extra ashamed I overlooked it). And it also happens to be one of the best films, animated or not, that I have ever seen.
Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed) is about to be knighted into the Institute for Elite Knights, a group of heroes who live to protect their kingdom from monsters like the ‘Great Black Monster,” an immortal beast that was vanquished to outside the kingdom walls 1,000 years prior by the legendary leader, Gloreth. What makes Ballister’s knighting special is that he is a commoner. The knights are usually chosen from the ruling class, like Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang), a descendant of Gloreth.
However, the knighting goes horribly wrong as Ballister’s booby trapped sword kills the queen during a live telecast. This brands Ballister a villain amongst the people of the kingdom, including in the eyes of Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz), a shapeshifter who is looking for a super-villain she can be a sidekick to. She offers her services to Ballister, but he was set up and is only looking to clear his name, not tear down the establishment. Nimona begrudgingly agrees to help Ballister in this quest, and the pair uncovers a conspiracy that could change the entire world if it was exposed.
I guess I should begin by saying this is one beautiful looking film. It ranks right up there with the best Pixar has to offer, and, if you are a fan of the site, you’d know that I love Pixar. The animation is gorgeous. The character design is great and the world building especially good. Nimona is a film that marries the medieval with the futuristic–castles and parapets with vid-screens and flying cars. They don’t go too far in either direction, making blend of anachronistic styles believable.
I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t plot elements in the film you haven’t seen before. I mean, antagonists who develop a mutual respect for each other that develops into a friendship? Shane Black has been paying his bills with that formula for decades. But even though you’ve seen some elements of the plot before, it doesn’t mean they don’t do it well here. The story starts quick, picks up steam, and takes you along for a ride. It leads you to what you think will be the climax, then throws a plot complication in, takes you to what you think will be another final act, throws another plot complication and by that time you are hooked.
Then it goes into the origin of Nimora right before the real climax and it is one of the most powerful scenes in the movie. It is reminiscent of the tale of Carl and Ellie’s romance in Up–mostly told with no dialogue and packing an emotional punch. It gets you primed and read for the emotional finale, and if you aren’t crying by the end of it all, you are a stronger person than me. It is a masterpiece of filmmaking.
The voice acting is also spectacular, particularly Frances Conroy as The Director of Institute for Elite Knights. She is one of my favorite actresses, and she does a wonderful job here.
I feel that I should mention that Nimona is a very political movie. Ballister is gay and in a relationship with Ambrosius Goldenloin at the start of the movie. Some people on the Internet think this is why Disney jettisoned the project when it closed down Blue Sky Studios after they purchased Fox. The relationship isn’t very explicit, so I doubt that is the reason.
However, the film’s politics go well beyond just that relationship. A big throughline of the movie is the evil governing body using fear to keep its people in line. That might cut a bit to close to some real-life governments for comfort. There is also the typical ‘we hate what we don’t understand” allegory with people’s reactions to Nimona. If you look hard enough, you can find a message in just about every aspect of the film, even the setting.
Image via Annapurna PicturesIf you are on one side of the issue, the film is preaching to the choir. If you are the other side, you probably tapped out after your found out some of the main characters were gay, and the message is lost on you. But if you are the type of person who would the messages in your movies to be at the bare minimum, the film might be a hard watch for you.
And that would be a shame. The film, regardless of its message, is an excellent piece of art, masterfully made and everything you would want from a film. I am glad I stumbled upon it. You should seek it out.
Have you found a film on streaming that you’d like us to look at? Leave it in the comments and it might appear in a future installment of this feature.