The 2023 of animation will be all about a confrontation, perhaps not definitive but certainly fascinating and epochal, between the technological and avant-garde overkill of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (here is our review of Across The Spider-Verse) and the honor and respect of tradition with Hayao Miyazaki’s How do you live (which, after knowingly avoiding all major world festivals, will be presented in Japan starting July 12 with an already cult-like promotional campaign that stakes everything on the master’s fame: no images or any trailer before theatrical release, unthinkable in today’s entertainment world). A little place at the bottom of the heart, however, will also have to be found for Nimona, signed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, in his second directorial effort in animation after 2019’s Undercover Spies, produced by Blue Sky Studios, Fox’s former animated studio.
And Nimona itself, after all, was born under the Blue Sky umbrella but took a big risk after the merger between Disney and Fox, suffering one postponement after another because of LGBTQ issues addressed chest out and deemed too ‘hot’ for an animated product. Even, Nimona was permanently cancelled when the House of Mickey Mouse decided to close Blue Sky Studios.
But thanks to Annapurna, which decided to bet on the work by buying the rights, DNEG Animation, which provided the animation, and of course Netflix, which after performing well in recent years in the field of animation (with works such as Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, but also Klaus, The monster of the seas, Wendell & Wild, Where is my body? and The Mitchells vs. The Machines) decided to purchase its global distribution rights: like a happy fairy tale ending, Nimona has finally come true.
Nimona, a colorful propaganda fantasy
Based on ND Stevenson’s graphic novel of the same name (published in Italy by Bao Publishing) and played, in the original version, by Chloë Grace Moretz as the title character of the play and Riz Ahmed as the knight Ballister Blackheart, the film tells a story of friendship destined to be born in the worst period of the lives of the two protagonists and to endure in the dark times traversed by the Regno, a futuristic city-world in which the Queen and citizens are protected by the Knights, a guardhouse somewhere between police and real celebrities (complete with ceremonies at the stadium for knighthood and requests for selfies from those lucky enough to meet them on the street).
It must be said that the absolute least convincing thing about Nimona is just the medieval-futuristic world, in every way similar to ours (though more technologically advanced) except for this special military corps, the use of 1200-or-so clothing, and, of course, Nimona, a pestiferous shape-shifter who belongs to the Monsters, the other race that inhabits this fantasy Earth and whom humans have obviously grown up with the diktat that they must hate and, possibly, kill. Beautiful, however, is the character design, which coupled with the graphic style closely resembles that of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (or that of Breath of the Wild, you name it).
Netflix has politely asked us not to reveal salient plot passages, so we will try to address the following paragraphs with some verbal contortionism. However, Nimona and Ballister will find themselves teaming up. and he (a homosexual and in love with fellow knight Ambrosius) will slowly begin to understand her (a societal outcast with a tragic past, eager to become a renowned criminal after spending her whole life in hiding) point of view.
But, surprisingly, Nimona’s focus is not so much that (evidently taken for granted) of the recoupment of the different, as much as that of the strength and danger of propagandaand the manipullation of news, and thus of the images and the way in which this power, darker than any spell, succeeds in bewitching the masses without possibility of appeal. The kaiju-style ending, just to close the loop with the Japanese animation mentioned in the opening, reminded me a lot of Mamoru Hosoda’s films, which is why I loved Nimona even more.