Onward is directed by Dan Scanlon and it is the story of two brothers, Ian and Barley. When Ian gets to his 16th birthday, his mother gives him and his brother a gift from their deceased father, a spell which can revive him for a single day. When the spell goes in an unexpected direction, Ian and Barley go on a magical quest to finish the spell and meet their father. Onward stars Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
When it comes to Disney Animation and Pixar, I am usually very enthusiastic and eager to watch any project they release. They’ve hit a rather rough patch right now, Disney is relying on average sequels and while is Pixar is doing the same, the sequels are of quality. I wasn’t crazy about Toy Story 4 but it was enjoyable. When I heard we’d be getting a new and original Pixar movie, I was really excited but the promotional material really left me underwhelmed and I wasn’t really the only one. No one was talking about Onward, my friends and family never even heard of this movie. When it’s release came around, the virus had already struck the country and so I never got a chance to see it. The movie had it’s digital release this month, I bought it and I loved it so much I’ve already seen it twice and I’m planning for a third viewing already. This is without a doubt one of the best Pixar movies ever and certainly one of my favourites.
Onward is a mighty entertaining quest full of heart, magic and adventure. With the brothers going on a race against time, the movie is very fast-paced but it doesn’t detract from small, crucial character-building moments. Despite the movie being set in a fantasy-drenched world where dragons are domesticated and magic is present, the movie is very grounded. It never feels out of this world and it doesn’t act like a regular fantasy movie because at the core of this movie are the Lightfoot Brothers, Ian and Barley. They are the heart and soul of this movie.
Tom Holland and Chris Pratt are great as Ian and Barley. The authentic and personal script allowed for the characters to act like actual brothers and I would know since I am an older brother. There were elements of their dynamic which are very similar to me and my brother’s dynamic. I love everything about Ian and Barley, I can see bits of myself in both of their personalities. I relate to Ian trying to find his way in the world and find out who he is and I understand his shyness and awkwardness on another level. When it comes to Barley I love how he isn’t a stereotype, usually goofy, fun characters are portrayed as dumb side-line characters but Barley stands up for himself and fought for a chance to show that he isn’t that. Despite Ian being the magically capable brother, the movie never sides with him, I truly felt like they were equals, I never felt that in Frozen II with Anna and Elsa.
Outside of its emotional weight, Onward succeeds as an incredibly entertaining adventure movie. Having now seen it three times in one week, I can happily say that I never once got bored during all three watches. Because of its fast-paced nature, Onward never has a dull moment. That being said, it’s important to note that the movie does have it’s quiet moments with the brothers which are presented as very intimate and vulnerable. There is a scene in the third act which has no dialogue but is incredibly powerful, it has never failed to bring me to tears. On that note, I disagree with anyone saying Pixar is trying to emotionally manipulate audiences. In my opinion, if you feel for the characters and you are emotionally invested then, of course, crying is more possible and the climax of Onward does it in a way which is earned just like it was in Inside Out and other Pixar classics. I was emotionally invested and the pay-off was emotional as expected from such a unique concept like this one.
Speaking of this concept, Onward makes the most use out of it’s a modern yet magical world. The first twenty minutes or so reminded me a lot of two other movies, Zootropolis and Monsters University, Dan Scanlon also directed the latter. The world created is rich in lore and cleverly utilized within the plot. The idea that magical creatures like manticores, centaurs and pixies now rely on technology and modern ways is really interesting. Octavia Spencer is hilarious as The Manticore, she gets a lot to do in this movie besides Julia Louis-Dreyfus who is also great as Ian and Barley’s mother. The Pixies even get an amazing bike chase sequence which reminded me a lot of the Incredibles 2 sequence with Elastigirl, fluid animation and genuinely suspenseful. That’s one element the movie nails, suspense. There were moments where I noticed myself getting tense because of a certain scene. The movie was also surprisingly funny, there is a scene in a pawn shop and I won’t say no more.
As to be expected, the animation is stunning. As literally, everyone else is saying, Pixar has achieved photo-realistic backgrounds and I’ve seen some people complain that the contrast of the backgrounds and the characters is jarring. I highly disagree, I think it’s part of the charm and since the world is a fantastical one, it only made more sense. There is a shot where Ian writes something on his hand early on in the movie and the skin and muscle moved just like it would in real life, even the texture of the skin. It’s insane and I can’t praise it enough. The expressions and physical behaviour of the characters is so lively and realistic yet at the same time, it’s also slightly theatrical. Even the character’s designs are great, I really do love everything about this movie. Another welcome surprise was the score by Mychael and Jeff Danna. It’s a triumphant and emotional score which I’m sure will be overlooked simply because it’s for an animated movie.
Overall, Onward is not only one of the best Pixar movies ever but it’s become a favourite of mine already. This is a movie that I got excited to show to my family and friends, it’s a movie which no matter how many times I will watch it, it’s going to get the same emotional reaction from me because of how well-told the story is. I love the characters and the story. What the climax says about brotherhood and life in general, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to buy the merchandise and get everyone else to watch it. So far, my mum and my friend loved it. I truly love this movie and hopefully by now I convinced you to watch it.