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Quick Reviews: 'Nimona', 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' | Colourful Adventures, Adaptations

Ballister Boldheart and Nimona about to shake hands, Mario surrounded by gargantuan mushrooms
Nimona (L), The Super Mario Bros. Movie (R)


What must've happened to humanity when someone could've actually changed their name to The Director and it wouldn't stand out in the crowd? Something magical, I reckon. After a tumultuous production history, sci-fi adventure Nimona has indeed arrived to the big screen by way of adaptation as it's based on a graphic novel of the same name by ND Stevenson. Written by Robert L. Baird and Lloyd Taylor and directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, the film introduces us to Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz) who's a shapeshifting teen who meets Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed), a knight who gets framed for murder. Set in a futuristic-mediaeval kingdom, the two become unexpected allies as Ballister attempts to clear his name and Nimona wants to help him by causing mischief.

There's a little bit of touch-and-go at first with the film as its introductions, mission and even plot mechanics later on do seem quite similar to other animated movies of recent years but the writing does eventually find its own voice too. That's great because it meets the standards set by the visual palette which combines all kinds of shapes, compositions and cyberpunk aesthetics, all of them drenched in gorgeous lighting designs that create memorable silhouettes and reflect the characters' emotions.

It's rather important because the characteristics slowly reveal themselves, exploding like a supernova in a beautiful sequence that shows Nimona's journey from way back to where she or it is now. Both Nimona and Ballister are distinctive visually and intellectually, as are other characters like The Director (Frances Conroy) and Ballister's boyfriend and fellow knight Ambrosious Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang).

Nimona's sonic landscape is joyous from relevant song choices to composer Christophe Beck's punk-inspired score, and to outstanding voice performances by Moretz and Ahmed. Their characters' bond carries the film and both actors portray the rollercoaster of feelings with significant range and honesty. It's almost like the said honesty, courage and alliance are very powerful forces in the fight against prejudice, corruption, loneliness and autocracy.

Smileys: Voice acting, characterisation, lighting

Frowneys: Some issues with premise


Ballister Boldheart and Nimona about to shake hands in red glow


Ayyy, I'm plumbin' ova here! Can't you see meh plumbin'? Your most famous Brooklynite exports are back and that would mean that The Super Mario Bros. Movie, based on the video game franchise from Nintendo, has 90 minutes of comedic adventures to offer for your entertainment. Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are two brothers from the New York City neighbourhood who run a plumbing company with questionable success. One day, they end up transporting to an alternate dimension, landing in Mushroom Kingdom and Dark Lands, respectively, where the tyrant Bowser (Jack Black) kidnaps Luigi as he also plans to invade Mushroom Kingdom if its ruler Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) doesn't marry him. Mario and Peach team up to rescue Luigi and protect Mushroom Kingdom.

Once we get past less interesting building blocks and a somewhat hilarious slapstick scene, writer Matthew Fogel's script leads us to the colourful and energetic mode that you were probably expecting. You can see the script and animation style working well together when it comes to the slapstick comedy but other than that, adventures filled with video game references and secondary characters often feel messy, even sometimes pandering to one's awareness of pop culture.

Directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic seem to be lost in the corporate world and its vague understanding of blockbuster filmmaking which therefore impacts the outcome. The movie is lively but instantly forgettable as song choices are both predictable and mismatched, its story is the exact opposite of why the games are so popular and when you want the most mediocre score imaginable for your film, you call composer Brian Tyler. Voice cast is perfectly okay — except Jack Black who actually shows range in his performance, giving his character some, well, character — but most of it just doesn't stick; it's sadly just another product in the Warp pipeline.

Smileys: Jack Black

Frowneys: Soundtrack, story


Mario surrounded and surprised by gargantuan mushrooms
Universal Pictures

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