Nimona (2023) Movie Review – A simple and barebones but enjoyably predictable adventure

A simple and barebones but enjoyably predictable adventure

Nimona is the latest animated project on Netflix and it’s… fine. The story is serviceable, predictable and leaves little wiggle room for surprises. The CGI is a mixed bag, swinging between great facial animations and a uniquely flavorful cyberpunk/medieval mash-up, to questionably rendered backdrops and scenes with a muted, minimalist and dull colour palette.

There’s really nothing particularly outstanding here, although to be fair the film does have a nice message at its core. Next to so many other animated projects out there though, Nimona doesn’t do anywhere near enough to stand out.

Ballister Boldheart is our protagonist, and he’s on the verge of becoming a knight. However, he’s worried about not being accepted by the masses. On the night of his ceremony, he’s framed for killing the Queen from a tainted sword that he’s handed. Wanted for treason and dubbed “Queen Killer”, Bal is forced to leave his knight partner and lover Ambrosius to go on the run.

While hiding out, Ballister ends up in a workshop, where a plucky, boisterous rebel called Nimona decides she’s going to try and be his villainous sidekick. It turns out Nimona is a shapeshifter, who can turn into anything the plot calls for to get Bal out of trouble. As the pair go on the run, they set out to try and clear their names, but that’s easier said than done when everyone is after them.

Predictably, there is a bigger conspiracy behind everything, and you’ll spot this coming a mile off. In fact, most families – kids and adults alike – are going to guess who the big bad is around 30 minutes in. And their reason for doing this? Well, they’re just evil. The story is not exactly one for nuance and at times, it feels like you’re moving from one orchestrated story beat to the next. All of this crescendos into the final fight and the “acceptance” part for our characters on their simplified journey of self-discovery.

While the themes explored along the way are a nice addition, most of the characters are archetypal one-note players and don’t really deviate from that path. You’ve got the usual goofball foe to our hero, a corrupt, evil antagonist who’s bad because they are, the romantic love interest complete with the misunderstanding trope, and the hyperactive child tagging along with a reluctant hero. All the tickboxes are here and save for a few great emotional beats toward the end, there’s little that allows anyone to stand out.

Aesthetically, Nimona is a bit of a mixed bag too. As mentioned earlier, the character animation is pretty good, but some of the scenes here are genuinely ugly to look at. The muted colours and sheer lack of detail in some scenes is actually quite shocking too.

In the picture above, there’s no shading on the coffee table or flowerpot, but there is for the sofas. Furthermore, the door has no definition to it and nothing to show two doors, despite the handles revealing as much. Plus, the walls are barebones with no shading or detail. Granted, this is during a chase scene but the picture below is from a static scene and shows the exact same problem.

Everything down the middle of the screen blurs together, with the pale shade of white showing a shocking lack of detail. The bannisters in particular have no definition and are simply painted one colour. There’s no shading, no definition and no lighting, making everything just look flat and lifeless.

The drastic differences in colour, shading and lighting in this film swings between sloppily minimalistic (like above) to genuinely excellent and aesthetically pleasing. In fact, compare the two pictures above and below and it’s almost as if two different art teams were working on this and the final product is unfinished.

The comedy is another winner here, with a great blend of slapstick and chaotic energy from Nimona’s constant hyperactive bouncing. She has great banter with Ballister, and the bond that the pair share across the run-time is a definite highlight.

But even with all this in mind, Nimona just doesn’t do enough to stand out. Themes of acceptance, understanding and empathy are nothing new in the realm of children’s animation, and this is a film that’s more interested in getting those themes nailed on and sparkling than it is about telling a memorable and interesting story that does more than hit conventional story beats.

Unlike something akin to the excellent Klaus or the animated beauty of stop-motion gems like Kubo and the Two Strings, Nimona is unlikely to be an animation you’ll return to in a hurry.


Read More: Nimona (2023) Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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