Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Your Sidekick Has Arrived!

A few weeks back, Belghast wrote a post about stuff he'd been watching. He opened with an extremely strongly-worded piece of advice:  

"I feel like all of you need to stop what you are doing right now and watch Nimona."

to which I would just like to add

 "Go on! Do it! What's keeping you?"

Not that I took Bel's advice myself, you understand. I didn't get around to watching Nimona until yesterday and even then only because I had four hours to kill, sitting in my room at a local clinic, waiting to be called in for a hernia repair operation. (Back home the same day, feeling pretty good, thanks for asking.)

I did kind of know something about Nimona before I heard about it from Bel. I didn't know there was a Netflix adaptation, just that there was a graphic novel of that name. We usually have it in at work and I've put it on the shelf a few times but I've never really looked at it. My loss.

In his rave recommendation, Bel compares Nimona to Lumberjanes, another graphic novel series we often have in. I've had a flick through a few of those but I don't know it well. He also benchmarked Nimona against the new incarnation of '80s Saturday morning great, She-Ra: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. I never watched the original series and inexplicably I haven't yet watched the new one, even though there are five seasons on Netflix and it comes up as a 98% match for me so I have no excuse. It's on the watchlist now.

I'm not sure what I'd compare Nimona to. It might just about the most openly allegorical movie I've ever seen. I mean, the Narnia stories are positively elliptical compared to this. Nimona herself is pretty much a living metaphor, whose entire back-story is a plot point. 

All of that could be off-putting - no-one likes to be hammered over the head with subtext. In the case of Nimona, though, it just works.

There are several reasons why, one of the strongest being that, as Bel mentioned, it is "exceptionally well-written". It really is, even though I would say the bar for Young Adult writing these days is very high indeed. cf The Owl House et al. Op cit. (That's enough Latin. Ed.)

The plot is mostly coherent (There were a few moments...) but the dialog is positively scintillating. I laughed out loud several times. The visual gags are absolutely top class throughout and they just never stop. Characterisation is nuanced and subtle for something of this length (I'm increasingly of the opinion that it's just asking too much of movies to match the depth of characterisation of TV series. They just don't have the time to do it, even the really long ones.) 

I count visual gags in with "writing", generally, because someone has to script them. If we're going to talk about the actual visuals, though, Nimona is about as good as I've ever seen. If you want a full breakdown of just why it's so good, Flying Walrus says it better than I could.

The sense of movement is stunning - kinetic barely begins to cover it. In the city scenes, everything seems to be moving, all the time and yet nothing ever feels awkwardly "busy". The fight scenes are just batshit insane.

On the surface, everything seems sharply stylised but behind it sits an almost overwhelming depth of world-building detail. The entire movie, from the bait&switch opening to the elegaic ending hits precisely the right visual note to match the tone of the writing. It's just a joy from start to end. 

The soundtrack is a joy too, from the original music to the licensed songs. The movie also has more quotable lines per minute than just about anything this side of Withnail and I. I know I'm going to be using "Something, something, something... we win." over and over, along with "Let's break stuff" and "Metal!" although I might find it a bit harder to shoehorn "Who do you want to kill first?" or "This is the part where you run" into general conversation.

Perhaps the greatest of Nimona's many strengths, though, is the voice acting. Everyone is great - there's a lovely cameo from RuPaul -  but the two leads are just absolutely perfect. 

Riz Ahmed plays Ballister Boldheart, about to be the first commoner ever to be raised to the rank of Knight, until something goes disastrously wrong at his dubbing ceremony (No more spoilers!) His slightly underplayed sense of anger, confusion and exasperation drives the plot forward perfectly, plus he has great comic timing.

Riz also plays superbly off Chloë Grace Moretz as Nimona, as she tears the roof off (Literally, more than once.) in what is quite possibly the most Chloë Grace Moretz performance in the most Chloë Grace Moretz role of all time. She says it's her favorite and I believe her.

Seriously, if you have even the smallest admiration or affection for Chloë Grace Moretz, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Nimora is a Netflix production so I was very confused as to why they seemed to want to keep it a secret. If there's one thing you can say for the streaming services, it's that they're never behind in coming forward where their own productions are concerned. Both Prime and Netflix are constantly pushing their badged product in front of everything else so why did I have to wait for Bel to do Netflix' job for them before I even knew it existed?

According to IMDB, the film, while in production for Netflix by Blue Sky Studios, "was cancelled following Disney's shutdown of the studio in early 2021". It was "revived by Annapurna and Netflix the following year." when "DNEG Animation completed all visuals for the finished film, including the titles, animation, and End Credits." 

I guess, with a history like that, it just kind of fell through the cracks. As Bel says "it sounds like it is a sheer miracle that this came out at all." That it ended up being so very good is... well, whatever comes beyond miraculous. 

And after all that, it would be just rude not to watch it, wouldn't it?

So what are you waiting for?


  1. Oof. Sorry about the hernia, but I'm glad you're feeling better. (Do I want to know how it happened?)

    The Owl House, eh? Hmm.....

    1. Inguinal hernia - just happens with age. I had the left one done about six or seven years ago and they told me then I'd need the right side done at some point. The last one was fine so fingers crossed this one will be too. Thanks for asking!


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