(Netflix) NIMONA, the illustrated comic series this film was adapted from, immediately opens with shapeshifter Nimona ingratiating herself on the super-villian Ballister Blackheart by simply knocking on his door and insisting that she becomes his sidekick.
She’s alone in the very first panel, spryly sidling up to his hideout.
The filmed adaptation of NIMONA doesn’t reveal her for 15 minutes.
Despite being the titular character, with NIMONA — the film — there’s a character imbalance. This feels more like it’s Ballister’s story (now named Ballister Boldheart instead of Blackheart), not Nimona’s, which is a goddamn shame. ND Stevenson’s original comic did an astounding job of balancing both Ballister and Nimona’s stories, how one needed the other, their push-and-pull, how they mirrored each other while also being completely separate individuals.
Sadly, what’s worse is that Ballister feels sanded away from the thornier, more morally ambiguous, more complicated character that resides in the books. Granted, while Nimona is the one who gets a richer back story later on in the film, it still feels like she’s often only there to bolster Ballister, to right his wrongs. In the comic, while Nimona constantly posits that she’s merely his sidekick, they’re more or less equals; they balance each other.
You got betrayed by someone you trusted.
I’ll note that these are disgruntled remarks from someone who expected a bit more fidelity from this adaptation. If you ignore the source material, it’s a progressive and entertaining film that is a breath of fresh air compared to many contemporary animated efforts. Nimona is brazen and fearless, with one hell of a sly grin, but still has her own insecurities and often feels like an aberration. Ballister and Goldenloin are still very gay. (Finally, a family animated feature that isn’t afraid to show two men kiss!)
The world kicks you around sometimes. But together, we can kick it back.
It’s also a visual marvel with a style all its own, even if it’s far denser than Stevenson’s evocatively simple thin line work. They capture Nimona’s wild expressions perfectly, and there’s a fluidity here that helps to recreate the kinetic nature of the original work. It feels like it’s a labor of love, encapsulated by the attention to detail paid to the end credits, of all things.
Hopefully this film will have legs, and will become the sort of work that is nostalgically discussed twenty years from now by those who stumbled upon it at a very young age. It traffics in characters that are seldom seen in family-friendly works; queer and monstrous characters who are just trying to be themselves, but are ostracized for being who they are.
Because once everyone sees you as a villain? That’s what you are.
Lastly, I’ll note that the trailer features a song from THE TING TINGS: That’s Not My Name, which I previously featured in a prior post!