Netflix's new animated film, Nimona, tells a predictable story in an unpredictable way.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name by ND Stevenson, Nimona is about a knight in a medieval-futuristic kingdom who, with the help of his shapeshifting sidekick, tries to solve the Queen's murder that he was framed for. The animated film encountered numerous struggles during production. Initially, 20th Century of Fox bought the rights, and it was set to be produced by Blue Sky Studios and Vertigo Entertainment. When Disney acquired Fox, they eventually shut down Blue Sky, and production was canceled. After a five-year-long development and production process, a change in directors, and multiple delays, Nimona was released on Netflix on June 14th.
Nimona stars Cloe Grace Moretz as the titular character, Riz Ahmed as Ballister Boldheart, the commoner turned knight framed for the Queen's murder, and Eugene Lee Yang as Ambrosius Goldenloin, Ballister's boyfriend and honored legacy knight in charge of capturing him.
I'll admit I only watched Nimona because Eugene Lee Yang on the Try Guys is in it, and I wanted to witness his first significant acting role. I was also interested in the distinct animation style of the film; it is unlike anything I've ever seen before.
The film's plot seems simple: a commoner hand-picked by the Queen to be trained as a knight is later shunned and framed for publicly killing her during his knighting ceremony. It's the nuances of the story that make it so unique. The main character is a man of color who happens to be gay, and neither of those things are a big deal.
Nimona is pink with a funky haircut, very animated characteristics, and a chaotic personality. Stunned by her shapeshifting abilities, Ballister constantly asks Nimona what she is, and her response subtly introduces the idea of pronouns. It's never clearly defined what Nimona is; it only explains that she is not a monster.
The film's world-building perfectly balanced the fantastical with the modern. This kingdom, only described as The Realm, has a monarchy with knights, but people also have phones, and there are even cereal commercials. The entire history of The Realm relies on Ambrosius's ancestor Gloreth who fought off a monster to protect their civilization. However, as we all know, the victors write the history books. In a flashback, it is revealed that Nimona and Gloreth were friends until her family saw Nimona's shapeshifting abilities and deemed her a monster. Gloreth knew about Nimona's power but only had an adverse reaction once her parents did. Like the Trump administration's attempted tactics, The Realm built a wall around their kingdom to protect themselves from the monster, from anything different than what they're used to.
Eventually, Ballister learns the truth about Nimona, that despite her chaotic tendencies, she is kind, caring, loyal, and worthy of friendship. However, with the propaganda, training, and indoctrination from his knight school, he disregarded his friendship and reverted to thinking Nimona was an evil monster.
The film also depicts mental health in a way that children can understand. Nimona is told so often that she is a monster that she begins to believe it. Delivering one of the most harrowing lines of the entire film Nimona admits, "I don't know what's scarier. The fact that everyone in this kingdom wants to run a sword through my heart... or that sometimes, I just wanna let 'em." Watching Nimona meltdown and have her inner demons revealed to the kingdom is overwhelmingly sad.
The plot of Nimona is simple, uninspired even, but the micro aspects of the storytelling make it so unique. The nuances of the characters, their background, and their relationships with each other and their environment that's what makes this story so special.