In my last press event before the pandemic closed everything down, I snuck a look at the storyboards for Nimona in a room at Blue Sky Studios. My eldest son had followed the webcomic by ND Stevenson from its’ earliest days and insisted I read it. (Aside: one of the best parts of being a geek parent is when your kids crave to share their fandoms with you.)
Nimona looked amazing then, as did all of Blue Sky Studios. Our tour brought us through the offices of the creators and I use the term “office” loosely because they’d decorated their creative spaces to an incredible degree, from jungle sections to resembling the interior of a TARDIS, and myriad other fandoms. When the news broke that Disney was shutting down Blue Sky, I remembered all of the bright, talented, engaging people from that press event who now had lost not only their jobs but their creative spaces too.
And I remembered Nimona.
So what’s the plot of Nimona? It’s a fairy tale of a sort. It begins with a prologue about a great hero (Gloreth) defeating a great monster. Fast forward to 1,000 years and we enter a society full of modern technology but still dependent on a brotherhood of knights with swords to protect them from the monsters. Our main character is Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed), the first commoner to be allowed to join the knights. Everything looks bright for Bal, despite the jealousy of the noble-blooded knights, because he’s going to achieve his dream and he possesses the love of the noble golden knight, Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang).
Things go very wrong. Enter Nimona (Chloë Grace Moritz), who is best described as an agent of chaos. Nimona offers to become Bal’s sidekick in assumed evil. Bal at first wants only to find out why he’s been set up to be a villain. Nimona wants to wreck stuff. Nimona gets all the fun lines, of course. They set out, each in their way, to retrieve Bal’s good name and solve the crime.
That’s only the basic setup to avoid spoilers. It does differ somewhat from the plot of the comic but basically to streamline it.
I said Nimona is an “agent of chaos” but you could call her a true punk, a crusader against the system that condemns people for not fitting in, that has a whole societal system based on making some amorphous monster the villain. She’s utterly irreverent, and sometimes seems immoral, and I love her.
She’s everyone that looked at the way things are and said “This is messed up.” Her methods are a little extreme but, hey, that’s part of the charm of the character.
Animation wise, the movie is drawn in a clear, crisp style for the most part, though some sequences are stylized for effect in flashbacks. There are some truly stunning moments, especially at the climax, where everything has gone wrong and there’s the image of Bal with an arm up, against the darkness.
The animators clearly had a ton of fun with Nimona’s various selves, especially her facial expressions. (I predict “that’s so metal” will become a catchphrase.) There’s a lot of physical comedy along with truly epic battles and the movie excels in the close-ups and the longer shots. My favorite scene has to be a montage of Bal and Nimona dancing. It’s adorable, sweet, and amazing. There are also drawings made by Nimona herself included in the movie that come straight from Stevenson’s comic.
I think everyone should watch Nimona. It’s a terrific story of friendship, trust, loss, and acceptance. There are truly heartbreaking moments, showing how the ones we care about are capable of hurting us the most but also the only ones capable of helping us.
Our group at home–me, the husband, and our twins (24)–watched it for family movie night. The twins know nothing of the webcomic, though they were aware of the long saga of getting the movie released. They fell in love straight away with Nimona and with the whole of the movie.
The movie is rated PG but there’s no swearing in it or nudity, though there are a few jokes that adults will get that will go over the heads of kids. In essence, the movie is a showcase for compassion, for questioning what “has always been,” and for acceptance, and that is appropriate for all ages.
As Stevenson said on his Substack, “I hope this unstoppable dragon girl means as much to you as she does to me.”