Review – Onward (2020)

Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland, left) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt, right) are brothers destined for adventure in Disney/Pixar’s Onward (2020)

Release Date: March 6, 2020

Director: Dan Scanlon

Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Rating: 3.5/4 Stars

[The following review is spoiler-free]

With its 22nd feature film to date, Pixar has accomplished what very few studios have been able to do in 25 years. Having recently been released for subscribers to stream on Disney+, the folks at Disney have bestowed upon viewers a gem of a film sure to invigorate joy and adventure in all those who take the time to venture onward.

Barley (Pratt) and Ian (Holland) seek to find the location of the Phoenix Gem with the help and guidance of The Manticore (Octavia Spencer) in Onward (2020)

The film opens up with a narrator telling us of a tale long ago in a land unlike ours when magic was alive and well. With the rise and advent of technology and innovation, magic soon became a relic of the past as convenience and the pursuit of immediate gratification became of utmost importance. Fast forward to the present day, we meet two brothers on different sides of the same coin: Ian (shy and unconfident) seeking to mark his place among peers, and Barley (bold albeit reckless) seeking to remind others of the past. Upon Ian’s sixteenth birthday, both brothers are gifted a staff and spell from their deceased father promising to resurrect him from the dead for one full day cycle. As the spell is disrupted from casting its full effect, both brothers embark on a comical and perilous journey to attain a gem that will aid them in completing the spell and bringing their father back to life before time runs out. As they trek the quest, their relationship as brothers faces challenges spurred on in true Pixar-fashion that not only stands the test of time, but beckons us to look upon those who have made an impact in our own lives.

Fairies, such as those pictured above, litter and take to the streets in Onward (2020)

With a whimsical story balancing both attention to detail and subtext, Onward not only entertains viewers but brings forth to the surface timeless themes related to family and friendship. Much of the narrative is dedicated to the interplay between brothers as they laugh and fight their way through the odds in both personal and harrowing ways. Chris Pratt and Tom Holland make wonderful pairings as brothers, and the adventure they set upon is as charming and thrilling as you’d hope to see. Colorful characters fashioned after folklore and myth liven the fantasy element in both dramatic and comical effect reflecting upon ways and people we’ve come across this side of reality.

Yet again, the animators responsible for bringing the world to life do an excellent job as settings become further photorealistic lending believability to a world purely generated out of the most imaginative of minds. Character animations are top notch, and the delivery of human performances stirs up every bit of emotion as the action and drama unfolds. Aside from a few small and underdeveloped plot threads, the story remains ever so focused (and rightly so) on the adventure and familial ties at the center of this spectacular film.

Brothers in progress, Barley and Ian, dance around their semi-resurrected, half-bodied father in Onward (2020)

In the end, Onward is a winner of a film and a wonderful detour into fantasy and heart-warming human territory. Delightful and immensely entertaining, it catapults itself into the higher echelon of animated adventures. While not amongst my all-time favorites in Pixar’s ever-expanding catalog of films, Onward definitely remains to be seen again and again whether alone or shared amongst family and friends. There’s a little bit of everything for viewers to latch onto, and don’t be surprised if Onward tugs at your heart-strings during its pleasant and evenly-paced runtime. I shed a tear or two, and for those of you who may see someone they can relate to or project onto, I suggest the same can be predicted for you as well. Be sure to grab your tissues with your snacks, and buckle up and sit back as you enjoy the ride.

Onward is rated PG for action/peril and some mild thematics elements, and is available to stream through most digital platforms for rent or purchase as well as being included in the film library for Disney+ subscribers.

Far From Home: Spider-Man, and the End of an Era

Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Some relationships simply just end. People do often change despite what some may believe. Even in those seemingly static relationships, times change and we can either change with it or fight against it. We’re entering into new eras all the time, and yesterday marks another key event for Hollywood and fans of Spider-Man alike. For now, it seems like all is lost; but then again, things can and do change.

When I first got news that Spider-Man may be leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I was stunned. For someone like myself who has enjoyed (for the most part) the cinematic iterations of the wall-crawling, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, yesterday’s news brought to mind the sober reality of breakups. I’ve had my fair share of breakups and disappointments in the past, and for those whom I have encountered in life whether personally or professionally, there’s one thing about break-ups that resonates as a hard truth: breakups are rarely ever easy. Relatively speaking, I’m referring to the emotional experience one goes through when breaking up. Sometimes pain is to be expected, and sometimes there is relief and cause for reinvigoration. There can be the dread of feeling lonely, while at times there’s a hope for freedom and opportunity. With the reported split between Marvel and Sony in their partnership to share Spider-Man with each other, many feelings arise not too far from the realities of our own similar experiences with breakups.

For me personally, I’m bummed. I like Tom Holland, and thus far I’ve enjoyed his take on the web-spinning hero since I first saw him leap onto the screen in 2016’s Civil War. For many who have followed the MCU’s Spider-Man, it’s a surprising turn of events considering how well-received and successful the partnership between Sony and Marvel has been. This is our third cinematic Spider-Man in the past two decades, and we have to at least consider the real possibility that we may be getting an all-new lead filling the role. Every one has a particular Spider-Man they revere more to than others, and for those who hold Tom Holland with a special place in their hearts, today is nothing but saddening.

As bummed as I am, and as uncertain as things can appear, I find myself holding onto the hope that both Sony and Marvel can come to a more amicable agreement that not only satisfies both parties involved, but gives the fans what they want. You don’t have to look hard to see that people are enjoying what is being offered thus far as Spider-Man and Co. continue to flourish and astound in popularity and profit. With some time, thoughtful consideration, and respect to the other, not only am I hoping that a mutual agreement is reached, but I’m rooting for everyone involved to have their fair share. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll be there as the show must go on.

What are your thoughts and feelings regarding the current situation with Spider-Man and his possible exit from the MCU? Please comment below, and be sure to subscribe and follow as the story continues to develop.