At long, long last the day has finally arrived. The adaptation of ND Stevenson’s graphic novel Nimona is officially out in the world. The film has been many years coming but hit release date limbo in 2019, with Disney effectively cancelling its release after the studio behind Nimona – Blue Sky Studios – was shut down. Annapurna Pictures eventually saved the project, acquiring it to release on Netflix.
The feature centers on Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed), a knight whose reputation is swiftly destroyed after he’s framed for killing the queen. As he works to clear his name, a mayhem-loving shapeshifter named Nimona (Cholë Grace Moretz) arrives at his doorstep, eager to work with him. So, despite Nimona being a creature Ballister is sworn to destroy, he agrees to team-up with her, as she is the only person in the kingdom who isn’t against him.
For starters, the world of Nimona is a visual feast, a stunning blend of the futuristic and the medieval. The film brings a rich, vibrant kingdom to the screen, expanding what Stevenson initially created in the graphic novel. It places the story in a unique setting, embracing its fairytale elements but instead turning said elements on their head, ushering in a modernized (and then some) world where cell phones, flying cars, and other technology are just as normal. In doing so, the world informs the story, using each individual aspect to emphasize the various ways in which the kingdom has now rejected the once noble Ballister.
Of course, you can’t have a good movie without a good cast, and Nimona’s voice cast pitch perfect. Ahmed and Moretz encapsulate Ballister and Nimona so wholly that it’s near impossible to imagine anyone else in the roles. Ahmed brings just the right intensity and frustration for Ballister, with a grounded nature that balances Nimona’s chaotic energy. He and Moretz have a fitting banting that shines on screen. Similarly, Moretz brings her all as Nimona, hitting every beat whether it be Nimona ready to cause trouble or more somber moments. Paired with what viewers watch on screen, Moretz adeptly unleashes every shred of Nimona’s confidence and rage just as easily as she does her deep-rooted insecurities and trauma. Eugene Lee Yang as the kingdom’s poster knight and Ballister’s love Ambrosius Goldenloin offers up exactly the kind of character you would expect Ambrosius to be. He’s torn between his duty to the kingdom and his prior loyalty to Ballister, both of which starkly come through. The stellar voice cast also features Frances Conroy, Beck Bennett, Indya Moore, RuPaul Charles, Julio Torres, and Lorraine Toussaint.
Nimona is everything you could want from an adaptation and more. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised (extremely so) to see how the film differed from the graphic novel in how the plot unfolded. It takes a different route in the crime pinned on Ballister but does so in a way that still holds a mirror to society in how quickly perceptions are changed – for better and for worse. There are layers upon layers to Nimona, poignant and nuanced that force viewers to consider who the real monsters are and why others are painted as the bad guys. It gives Stevenson’s story the space to be unapologetically queer and trans and is told in a deliberate and increasingly relevant way. It’s wickedly funny, a glorious showcase of pure chaos, filled with emotion, and so deeply, significantly affirming. We never should’ve waited so long to get Nimona, but it was well worth it.
I see you, Nimona. And you’re not alone.
Nimona is streaming now on Netflix. Watch the trailer below: