Nimona is a remarkable animated film in a year with commendable animations. It’s a must-watch, blending humor, excitement, poignancy, and captivating visuals. I cannot stress enough how much this film deserves your attention.
I think I’m echoing my own words, but it’s just that good.
Let’s start by talking about the book and then into the movie.
What Is The Nimona Book About?
Nimona often appears as a young human girl but can metamorphose into any human or animal. This unique ability could make her an invaluable asset to any group.
But her reckless nature often challenges Ballister Blackheart, the antagonist she eagerly wants to serve as a sidekick. She often chooses chaotic paths, ignoring Ballister’s more defined moral compass.
What’s Ballister’s goal? To take down the Institution – his former employer from his knight days, where he lost his arm in a duel against its top champion, Ambrosius Goldenloin.
As he works to expose the Institution’s hidden truths and damage its reputation, the Institution’s Director orders Ambrosius to eliminate Nimona and stop Ballister. Yet, Goldenloin appears reluctant. And just as the Institution does, Nimona also keeps her secrets.
Is Nimona A LGBTQ+ Book?
“Nimona” is a distinctly queer graphic novel. Ambrosius Goldenloin’s hesitance to confront Ballister Blackheart stems from their past, hinting at a deeper bond beyond friendship. Their relationship mirrors that of Adora and Catra from ND Stevenson’s “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” evolving from friends to enemies to lovers.
Nimona, with her unique identity, deeply resonates with queer and trans readers. Her past is riddled with rejection and accusations of not being her true self. The Institution views her identity, her queerness, as a threat to its contrived stability. They, along with Ballister, face persecution for challenging the Institution’s version of “order.”
Yet, Nimona stands as a beacon of empowerment, especially for YA readers. She represents fluid identity, defined by and for herself. Similarly, Ballister transitions from being seen as a mere antagonist to a societal hero.
Saved from Cancellation
“Nimona” is the eagerly anticipated adaptation of ND Stevenson’s 2015 graphic novel, initially serialized on Tumblr.
Soon after its print release, 20th Century Fox’s animation division picked it up. The adaptation had progressed significantly when Disney’s acquisition of Fox led to Blue Sky Studios‘ closure, halting “Nimona” even though it was 75% done.
Some insiders suggest Disney’s reservations about the film’s LGBTQ content and a same-sex kiss played a role in the halt. However, much like other interrupted Fox animations, “Nimona” found new life through a partnership between Annapurna Pictures and Netflix. After an eight-year odyssey, the film has proved to be worth every moment of anticipation.
Quick Plot Intro
In a futuristic kingdom, the land and its inhabitants are shielded by an institute of knights. These knights honor traditions inspired by their heroine, Gloreth, who, according to legend, defeated a beast to save a village. Ballister Blackheart (Riz Ahmend), without noble lineage, strives to become one of these knights.
His ambition is fueled by the Queen’s (Lorraine Toussaint) endorsement and the support of his fellow knight and romantic interest, Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang). However, when falsely accused of assassinating the Queen, Ballister becomes a fugitive and loses an arm in a conflict with Ambrosius.
As he seeks the truth behind the conspiracy, he meets Nimona (Chloe Grace Moretz), a shapeshifter eager to align with a “supervillain.” Ballister insists he isn’t one, but together, they begin to uncover the real story.
Nimona & The Art Style
The creative team masterfully adapts Stevenson’s charming comic art style in “Nimona,” showcasing visual brilliance. They combine cel shading with shadow techniques, making the film resemble a living graphic novel.
These dynamic designs are truly marvelous. Nimona’s animation stands out, especially her fluid transformations and movements, which are executed flawlessly.
The characters’ faces express a wide range of emotions, enriching the viewer’s experience. Aesthetically, the “Nimona” kingdom boasts a “Medieval Futuristic” design. This design brings to mind a “Princess Bride meets Blade Runner” atmosphere, merging fairy tale motifs with futuristic elements like holographic billboards and hover cars, resulting in a world that pulses with life in every detail.
“Nimona” doesn’t solely rely on its visuals; they beautifully complement a captivating story with intriguing characters. The creative team, while making necessary changes to adapt the episodic graphic novel into a film narrative, retains the essence of the story.
They’ve streamlined details and side characters to offer a sharper narrative focus. Riz Ahmed excels as Ballister, and his bond with Ambrosius, portrayed superbly by Eugene Lee Yang, draws the audience in. The film begins more uniformly in tone, contrasting with the original Nimona that starts whimsically and gradually darkens — not a critique, as both versions shine in their unique ways.
Chloe Grace Moretz, embodying Nimona, stands at the narrative’s heart with her impeccable casting and performance. Moretz’s sharp, fierce delivery pairs perfectly with the animation, reminiscent of the seamless blend of animation and performance in Robin Williams’ portrayal of Genie in “Aladdin.”
While Moretz offers moments of humor through Nimona’s chaotic tendencies, she also unveils a poignant layer, hinting at the character’s concealed pain. These narrative threads and characters converge in a deeply gratifying climax that I won’t dare reveal.
Nimona Main Characters
In her usual human appearance, Nimona sports short rose-red hair with extended side fringe, rose-hued eyes, and fair complexion. Her ears are adorned with silver earrings and simple studs, including a star-shaped one on her left ear.
She dons a crimson tank top with a stitched center and a violet skirt or a lengthier violet top. Beneath these, it appears she layers with long scale mail attire, possibly both a shirt and shorts.
Sir Ballister Boldheart is a valiant knight and the significant other of Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. Wrongly accused of assassinating Queen Valerin, he allies with Nimona to vindicate himself. While Ballister often displays determination, he can become anxious in large gatherings.
The weight of the false murder accusation heavily burdens him. He can exhibit a stern demeanor when distressed, yet he’s deeply caring and upholds the values of honesty and honor.
Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, a distinguished knight, is the partner of Sir Ballister Boldheart. When Ballister is seemingly implicated in Queen Valerin’s death, Ambrosius chases after him and his companion, Nimona.
Ultimately, Ambrosius discerns the deceit of the Director and challenges her when she threatens the realm.
Gloreth is a revered hero in the Kingdom of Nimona, credited with erecting the city’s protective wall and instituting various laws. Many residents venerate her to an almost divine status, and symbols representing her can be found scattered throughout the city.
The Nimona Cast
The silver screen welcomes Nimona with a dazzling ensemble of stars. Chloë Grace Moretz, known for “Kick-Ass” (2010) and “The Peripheral” (2022–), delivers the voice of the fiery Nimona. Riz Ahmed, from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016), animates Ballister Blackheart, while Eugene Lee Yang of YouTube’s “The Try Guys” captures the essence of Ambrosius Goldenloin.
The stellar cast also includes Frances Conroy from “American Horror Story,” Lorraine Toussaint of “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” Beck Bennett and Sarah Sherman from “Saturday Night Live,” RuPaul Charles of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Indya Moore from “Pose,” and Julio Torres of “Los Espookys.”