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Nimona 2023

Credits

In Theaters

Cast

Home Release Date

Director

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Reviewer

Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

Around 1,000 years ago, a kingdom was attacked by a wicked monster, but it was routed by the great warrior Gloreth. Knowing that the kingdom would never be safe so long as monsters could emerge from the dark, the kingdom trained a group of knights to protect the land, and it decreed that the descendants of said knights would protect the kingdom for generations to come.

Well, generations did come—and go! Because after 1,000 years, the knights still stand, trained and ready to fight whatever monster may come over the walls of their now futuristic city. But this year, the induction ceremony is causing some controversy: for the first time ever, Queen Valerin is allowing a non-noble, a man by the name of Ballister, to join the knights’ ranks.

“He doesn’t come from a noble bloodline,” Queen Valerin tells the media, “but he might just have the heart of a hero.”

But when Queen Valerin knights Ballister, his sword suddenly shoots a laser blast out of its hilt, surprising even Ballister and killing the Queen instantly. It seems someone’s tampered with his weapon. And now, he’s on the run for a crime he most certainly did not commit, his boyfriend is reluctantly hunting him, and the city has reaffirmed that only nobility can be knights.

That’s when Nimona knocks on the door of Ballister’s hideout, hoping to snag a sweet gig as his sidekick. Because like Ballister, she knows what it’s like for the whole city to call you a monster. She’s a shapeshifter with a heart for chaos.

And because both of them have come to see the truth about each other (that they’re not monsters), perhaps they’ll get others to believe it, too.

Positive Elements

Nimona’s reason for helping Ballister in his time of need is simple and selfless: It’s because everyone currently hates him, and she knows what that feels like. While she initially thinks that he’s a villain, she slowly comes around to helping Ballister clear his name when she finds out that he’s innocent. We also see Nimona save the lives of a few other people, too.

Despite the entirety of the city being against Ballister, he remains hopeful that he can fix and explain everything. It’s a mentality that he’s carried with him even before he was framed for the queen’s murder, optimistically persevering in his quest to become a knight even when many of the city felt it was wrong. And to that end, Queen Valerin certainly does good in pushing back against such a class system.

Spiritual Elements

Over the last 1,000 years, after Gloreth made her knightly proclamation, the warrior has become deified by the city, with people saying things like “may Gloreth forgive you,” “in the name of Gloreth” and “the will of Gloreth.” The Director, who heads the Institution of which the knights are a part, speaks about having a prophetic dream about monsters breaking through a crack in the city’s wall. Furthermore, the Institution that the Director leads conducts itself with a near-holy reverence.

This is likely no accident. Nimona is based on a graphic novel by author/cartoonist ND Stevenson, who was raised in a Christian household and discusses, in interviews, the “battle against the gender essentialism of [Stevenson’s] Evangelical upbringing.” As such, the Institution is likely supposed to represent the Christian church.

Nimona transforms into a young boy and pretends to act like she’s possessed as she torments a man. She floats after the man with her limbs hanging limp at her sides and her eyes pure white, causing the man to scream that a “little demon baby is after me!” Nimona later transforms into a gargantuan shadowy beast.

Sexual Content

Both the film and the graphic novel on which Nimona is based are inherently about “transness and gender fluidity at its heart,” according to Stevenson’s interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The eponymous character’s shapeshifting ability is used as a way to convey her not having her own true identity. When Nimona shapeshifts into a male child, Ballister comments on Nimona now being a boy.

“I am today,” Nimona remarks.

“I am Nimona,” she says simply, refusing to ever elaborate further into questions of her identity, calling such things “small-minded.” And in the case that anyone might call the film’s interpretation ambiguous, Nimona breathes fire in the end credits which turns into a heart colored with the same colors of the pride flag.

To this end, it is relevant to note that Nimona author ND Stevenson identifies as both “transgender” and “bigender.”

Ballister and Ambrosius are in a gay relationship. The two kiss once. Another man admits to having feelings for Ballister. Nimona crashes through the roof of a bathroom and lands next to a naked man. She glances at his offscreen critical bits and makes a reference to its size based on the chilly air, and the man covers himself with his hands. A knight jokes that a statue of someone’s uncle fell on the rear of his grandma’s statue.

Violent Content

Ballister’s sword shoots a green laser beam, which kills the queen. Ballister’s arm is cut off, though the motion results in little-to-no blood. We also see many explosions and swordfights. At one point, Ballister looks bruised and beat up from an interrogation. A car is shot up with futuristic arrows. People are hit by and flee laser blasts.

Nimona takes an arrow in the leg, and Ballister pulls it out, causing some blood to squirt from the wound. A knight is hit in the crotch. Someone is stabbed through the abdomen, and we watch as they slowly collapse to the ground. Someone is hit by a car, and another person crashes his flying vehicle, causing an explosion. A suicide attempt is prevented at the last moment. Someone is vaporized by a massive laser beam.

Nimona mistakes Ballister for a villain and asks if his investigation wall is a “murder wall,” asking who Ballister wants to kill first. In fact, Nimona frequently takes joy in the idea of tormenting, hurting and killing others. When knights attack, Nimona grabs an axe and exclaims that Ballister’s “one-arm club is about to get some new members” (but she never gets the chance to expand the roster). She makes drawings of stick figures being killed in a variety of ways; they’re all covered in red marker to signify blood. Nimona also toys with a scared mouse before eating it. Nimona bites a man. Someone is kidnapped.

Crude or Profane Language

At the end of the film, an s-word is cut off. We hear a misuse of God’s name. We also hear a couple other words like “heck” and “dang.” People additionally say things like “oh my Gloreth.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

An end credits song sings about being “crazy on meds.”

Other Negative Elements

A man laughs because Ballister thought he was apologizing for the way he treated Ballister growing up. But the man has no attention of apologizing, causing others around him to laugh, too. Nimona vandalizes and breaks many things. Nimona laughs at a knight who urinated in his armor out of fear. People call Nimona a monster due to her ability to shapeshift, attacking and hurting her.

Conclusion

I’ve always been a fan of the 1999 animated movie The Iron Giant. It tells the story of a robot that crashes to Earth and is befriended by a young boy. The robot is equipped with lots of dangerous weapons and is seen as a threat to humanity, but the boy teaches the robot that it doesn’t have to be a monster if it doesn’t want to be; it gets to choose.

In some ways, Nimona parallels a lot of that story, as both Nimona and Ballister are labeled monsters by a society that refuses to see them as anything but—even when they do their best to show that they’re good.

But it also deviates in many ways: for instance, while the Iron Giant doesn’t actually want to hurt anyone, Nimona often gets joy in thinking about tormenting others—so while Nimona might not be a monster due to her shapeshifting, her psychopathic tendencies merit some sort of diagnosis.

But Nimona ultimately takes The Iron Giant’s story of choosing whether to be good or evil (regardless of what people think you are), and it turns it into a political statement. Nimona is about people in power oppressing those who identify as gender fluid—”those in power” are part of a church-like monarchy who call such “shapeshifters” monsters. The irony of Nimona releasing at the end of Pride Month—when the powers in our own society celebrate such identities—isn’t lost on us.

But even if we sidestep the film’s socio-political allegory, Nimona has some other concerns that parents will want to consider. Some of the violence in it can get a bit dicey, as someone is stabbed through the abdomen, Ballister loses an arm mostly offscreen and later has to pull an arrow from Nimona’s leg. We also see someone trying to attempt suicide. As well as these issues, we’ll see a couple same-sex interactions between a couple main characters and a few sexual jokes.

That’s quite a litany of issues for a PG film obviously aimed right at kids.

Nimona doesn’t just have a story to tell; it has an axe to grind and an agenda to push. It makes a valid point in that we should not treat anyone—no matter how much we might disagree with them—as monsters. But, in the words of Nimona, we should “question everything.” And that means holding everything up to an objective standard, which can ultimately only be found through biblical scrutiny. And when stories run so counter to what we know to be true—especially stories designed for our children—we should kindly turn off the screen and gently show them the door.

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Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”