Review: Nimona


It’s been well-documented that I’ve been a fan of Nate Stevenson and his work for years. I was first introduced to his unique style with his adaptation of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which has become one of my favorite animated shows of all time and I’ve been eagerly awaiting his next work for years. He was a writer for Ron’s Gone Wrongwhich was fun enough, but I wanted something more substantial. Something that undeniably had more of Stevenson’s unique charm and personality. Enter Nimona. 

The production history of this movie is actually a bit complex and it’s something of a minor miracle this film was even released. It was originally developed by Blue Sky Studios, who were mostly known for the Ice Age movies. However, due to Disney buying Blue Sky’s parent company, Fox, as well as alleged resistance by Disney regarding the film’s LGBTQ+ representation, the film was canceled in 2021. However, it was eventually revived by Annapurna the following year who also announced it would be released by Netflix in 2023. Production was not scrapped from when it was canceled thankfully, and the new team at Annapurna was able to restart the project, leading us to right now.

And thank God that this movie was able to see the light of day because it’s an enjoyable movie that reminded me why I like Stevenson’s work so much.

Nimona | Official Trailer | Netflix

Director: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
Release Date: June 30, 2023 (Netflix)

In a futuristic kingdom that still bases itself on medieval culture, Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed) is set to become a knight in service to the queen. His appointment is one of contention, though, since he is the first commoner to ever become a knight. His friend, love interest, and fellow knight, Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang), assures him that the ceremony will go off without a hitch and the people will love him, but Ballister is framed for murdering the queen immediately upon his knighting. Now an outlaw, he’s visited by a spunky shapeshifter named Nimona (Chloe Grace Moretz), who thinks he’s a villain and wants to be his sidekick. Despite the label, Ballister agrees to the partnership in an attempt to discover who framed him for the queen’s murder and set things right.

Right off the bat, it’s impossible to not at least not address the LGBTQ+ elements that are present in the film. Sure, there’s the obvious relationship between Ballister and Ambrosius, one that is handled fairly well, but that isn’t even scratching the surface of what Nimona wants to address. Nimona is a trans allegory. Nimona, the character changes, her identity freely and whenever Ballister questions what she is, Nimona just replies that she is what she is and chooses not to delve any further into the matter, something that Ballister eventually accepts. It’s not an obvious reading of the film, but one that’s hard to not acknowledge given how Stevenson transitioned over the production of the film.

Nimona, herself, is probably the best thing about the movie. Not only are the aforementioned trans themes a compelling direction to take her character, but her characterization is deliciously chaotic, always looking for violence and destruction at every turn. Sometimes it can be a bit too much, with Nimona’s jokes and reactions not really gelling with the tone of the moment. There’s a scene midway through the movie that is supposed to have a significant dramatic effect on the viewer, but the mood is ruined by Nimona’s exaggerated reaction to it. With a bit more restraint, her character would have had virtually no issues.

Review: Nimona

Copyright: Netflix

The world in which Nimona and Ballister inhabit is a fascinating one. I love the modern sci-fi aesthetics blended with medieval fantasy. Knights function as the police force and the whole city looks like a kingdom, complete with castles and walls. The society doesn’t really embody any elements of medieval culture, but rather a more authoritarian state. The knights are led by a stern and controlling leader, known only as The Director (Frances Conroy), where all society is subservient to what she and her knights say.

At first, Ballister is all for supporting the status quo, since that’s what he’s known for all of his life. His training has taught him that the state is always correct and looks out for the people. But as he begins to view the society created by The Director from the outside, he turns towards toppling the system and revolutionizing the world. I only wish that this was a bit more of a focus of the plot. We see how this society started up and the legends surrounding a great hero named Gloreth, but it feels like there are a few dots missing that are needed to complete the message. It’s as if the film is missing the how of its world-building.

Nimona’s animation is solid though. It’s hard to judge an animated film’s animation after how Across the Spider-Verse just redefined what an animated film is capable of, but Nimona still has very strong visuals. There’s not really any setpiece moment meant to wow audiences and the action scenes are a bit underwhelming due to the hectic camera movements, but the fluidity of Nimona’s transformations is bright and energetic. Each character has their own unique appearance and I like how easy it is to distinguish each character from one another. They look lively and personable when compared to animated movies made by companies like Disney, which seem sanitized and neutered in comparison. You can tell that there was love and effort into making the film look as good as possible.

Review: Nimona

Copyright: Netflix

That love is very evident, by the way. This is a movie where the creators poured their hearts and souls into making it and it’s an excellent family movie. There are some goofy moments for the kids to enjoy and a few moments for parents, but most importantly, there are universally enjoyable morals that anyone can appreciate. The film has a poignant ending, too, but it doesn’t stick the landing as well as it could have. The film spends the last third centering on Nimona’s character and how revelations about her past affect the cast, building to an effective climax. However, once the film reaches that point, it tries to force another climax that undermines the poignancy of the previous one.

At times, Nimona is so incredibly close to being a fantastic film that it hurts me that it isn’t. The animation is wonderful and the characterization and setting are also great, but the movie is missing just enough components to prevent me from giving it unqualified praise. Sometimes the characterization clashes with the tone of the given scene and while the setting is great, parts of the world feel incomplete and not fully fleshed out. The metaphors present within the film and its positive LGBTQ+ messages so help to alleviate some of these, however. Having a movie that directly addresses topics associated with trans identity issues is important, and for that alone, I have to respect what Nimona attempted.

It’s not a flawless movie, but it’s a movie I can see myself enjoying more and more as time goes on and I forget about the smaller nitpicks present within the film.




While it has issues with its comedy and worldbuilding, Nimona ultimately has enough enjoyable character moments and positive messages to be a valuable watch for any family or members of the LGBT community.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.