Onward – a step backwards?
Disney Pixar has been riding a rocky road lately. Other than the cash cow that is Frozen 2, there haven’t really been any memorable films lately that have grabbed our attention since Toy Story 4 last year.
So when I first saw the trailer for Onward I had high hopes.
I am a fan of fantasy, as a writer of fantasy and sci-fi I was happy to see the genre getting some long over-due ‘Disney-fication’ instead of another Narnia or lord of the rings reboot.
The story is delightfully simple (warning here be spoilers)
From left: Ian, Laurel, and Barley
Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) is an elf who has just turned 16. He lives with his older brother Barley (Chris Pratt ) and his Mum. They live in a suburban neighbourhood where magic was once commonplace but has now faded into obscurity. Ian is timid and meek mannered compared to his brother who is bigger, louder and more confident to the point he doesn’t care what people think of him. On his birthday, Ian is bestowed a staff that belonged to his late father and finds a spell with it. The spell is said to bring deceased people back for one whole day, giving loved ones a chance to spend time with them one last time. Ian accidentally discovers he has a magical gift as he begins the spell and begins to summon his father. Unfortunately, the spell goes wrong and Ian only ends up summoning legs and torso. He discovers he needs a legendary Phoenix Gem to complete the spell and restore the rest of his father, so he and his brother embark on a quest to find one, not knowing that the recovery of this gem will spark a curse placing them in grave danger.
Now I’m not going to say the film was bad. I enjoyed it. The storyline was original and it had all the elements of a Disney Pixar film, it made me laugh it made me sad, I just felt it lacked… something. The films run time is one hour forty minutes and I personally feel that if they had made it to two hours, they could have filled in more plot and made it a little better. That said I loved the relationship between Ian and Barley, they are chalk and cheese yet their relationship that develops through the film is both funny and touching. Ian’s development as a character is great and his meek and mild demeanour is what keeps you rooting for him as he discovers his strange new powers. Barley provides most of the comedic elements supported by a loveable cast of other characters including Officer Bronco – their mum’s boyfriend and an overworked, stressed out Manticore.
The setting of the film reminded me slightly of Zootopia, it was fun to see all these mythical creatures living and working in a big city; from accountants to police officers to construction workers, I wonder if that’s the sort of vibe the studio was going for again.
Did it break down any barriers? Only one. One very minor “blink and you’ll miss it” gay reference. A first for a child-friendly film but I felt it was shoehorned in. It certainly doesn’t affect the plot in any way but is getting bad reviews and being boycotted in some countries because of this. I must admit I found the story quite deep for a supposed ‘kids film’ it dealt with a lot of complex and grown-up issues and I can’t imagine its target audience, really getting the deeper meaning.
In general, this film is an enjoyable romp. Easy to follow with endearing and relatable characters, but I do think it could have done with a little more development but also understand that kids films are time-restricted due to limits with attention span. If you like fantasy, there’s plenty of stuff for you to enjoy and lots of little clever easter eggs and puns and will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy at the end… after the inevitable tissues moment (damnit Disney – again?)
Keep moving Onwards.