From its opening scene, Nimona takes viewers on a colorful, riotously funny, inextricably queer, and deeply moving adventure. And things only get more colorful, more funny, more queer, and more moving from there.
Nimona, adapted from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power creator ND Stevenson’s award-winning graphic novel of the same name, stars Riz Ahmed as Ballister Boldheart, a knight-in-training who is accused of a terrible crime and must go on the run. That's when he meets Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz), a chaotic, and massively powerful, teen girl/shapeshifter. The two team up with Nimona’s chaos being the only way Ballister can prove his innocence and find out the true evil.
As the two new friends try to uncover the secrets of the Institute, they learn that you can’t always judge a monster by their fangs, and that with an open heart and open ears, love can beat anything.
The film has an incredibly powerful message for queer and trans youth. Nimona’s shapeshifting makes her an easy trans allegory, but the movie goes further by having her actively talk about how every form she takes is the real her, even if it's a boy. She also describes what it’s like when she’s forced to not shape-shift in a way that anyone who has ever felt gender dysphoria will deeply relate to.
Some changes to the original comic were made, but all of them work wonderfully. The movie is also more queer than the comic, with Ballister and Ambrosius’ relationship being explicit from the start and a wonderful new background story about Nimona as a young girl.
When the film reaches its climax, emotions and stakes couldn't be higher. It's a delicate set up, but this movie nails it perfectly, never being too heavy-handed and always saying and showing just enough.
Directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, Nimona takes place in a visually stunning techno-magical world that gives us our favorite mashup of science fiction and fantasy since Star Wars. It’s a refreshing departure from the Disney, Dreamworks, and Illumination style of computer-animated movies we’re used to, and the stylized details make the world and characters pop even more. It’s a sumptuous film that leaves you swimming in beautiful detail.
The voice acting is also one of the best parts of the movie. Ahmed and Moretz perfectly bring to life their characters and make the relationship between Ballister and Nimona feel like a real one. Eugene Lee Yang as Ambrosius is also a standout. The scenes where Ballister and Ambrosius get to talk are full of subtlety and nuance and make you feel like you’re listening in on an old married couple. Supporting performances by Beck Bennett and Julio Torress, among others, add a lot of terrific humor to the film.
Nimona is not just the best animated movie of the year, it is one of the best movies overall of 2023, and its skillfully and artfully executed message about what makes monsters and heroes will help it stand the test of time as one of the best queer movies of the last five years.