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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Nimona ****

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Riz Ahmed, Eugène Lee Yang, Frances Conroy  

Directors: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane 

Country: USA

UK Release: Netflix


Based on the 2015 graphic novel of the same name, this animated adaptation of queer fantasy quest Nimona was hotly anticipated before release and has subsequently received attention from the Academy Awards. Centring on a shape-shifter, the whole film is a thinly veiled trans allegory with a gay romance at its centre. And it’s everything a LGBT+ tween could want!

Ballister Boldheart (Ahmed – The Sound Of Metal, Rogue One) is training to be a knight in a futuristic medieval kingdom. At the investiture ceremony, his weapon unexpectedly discharges at the queen, killing her in front of an audience of millions. With the entire kingdom believing him to be responsible, he goes on the run to try and prove his innocence with the help of a volatile shape-shifter called Nimona (Moretz – Kick-Ass, Let Me In). But when the knighthood’s Director (Conroy – American Horror Story) enlists Boldheart’s boyfriend, Ambrosius (Yang), to lead the search for him, their quest becomes even more personal.

You can easily tell that this is a post-Across The Spiderverse movie because its animation is stylised and it’s loud, flashy and exceptionally bright. The heyday of Pixar anime-realism has long gone and if you’re a fan of this zeitgeist manga-esque animation, Nimona doesn’t disappoint. Barely a moment passes in which some form of visual trickery occurs, but that’s par for the course with this recently evolved genre. It might feel like an assault on the senses at times, but this movie encapsulates this overtly visual medium with everything from shape-shifting rhinos to knights duelling on the backs of hover-bikes.

The gay romance at its centre is, of course, delectably refreshing with Boldheart’s relationship placed unflinchingly front and centre. This is the first mainstream animated release with a gay lead, going far beyond Disney’s arbitrary inclusiveness in supporting roles that can be edited out for eastern markets. We even see the two knights kiss! But beyond that, the character of Nimona is gloriously queer, with shape-shifting depicted as a trans identity. And, of course, while this begins as a subplot, the film is named after this character, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the shape-shifting will become central to the story too eventually.

This ticks all the right boxes for those wanting a flashy and entertaining animated film. It does, however, fall into the trap of most box office movies nowadays, descending in its final act into merely a display of visual effects over any narrative complexity. It has fight after battle after skirmish after fight, which is certainly exciting but feels somewhat formulaic. But then, what else could possibly happen in a futuristic medieval kingdom? You couldn’t expect the knights NOT to fight each other, could you?

UK Release: Out now on Netflix


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