Pixar’s ‘Onward’ an emotional masterpiece

Nolan Fullington, Columnist

“Onward” is the latest film from the garlanded Pixar. Though many have awaited this tear-jerker since its initial trailer, the main conversation of recent has been around its openly gay character, voiced by Lena Waithe.

The very brief appearance by such a character has led to the film’s banning in many middle-eastern countries. However, the main voice acting is led by Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer.

When Ian (Holland) finally turns sixteen, his mother hands down a gift from Ian and Barley’s (Pratt) deceased father, which happens to be a wizard’s staff. Ian and Barley embark on a brotherly quest to find a replacement jewel that will bring back their deceased father for just one day.

By the trailer alone, you get the essence that this world is odd.

Initially, the film did appear to be paralleling Netflix’s “Bright” with the fairy tale and modern elements clashing. However, once the film gets by the first act, it begins to really find its footing.

The director, Dan Scanlon, said he pulled from his own life to pour his heart into this project, and boy has he!
This animated pastiche of “The Lord of the Rings” and “Indiana Jones” is set in this fantastical world where magic and wonder has been replaced with the ease of technology and other things in life we all take for granted.

The film itself is very self-reflective of film and society today in that the wonder and awe of film that is rarely present anymore. Long gone are the days of a Steven Spielberg tear-jerker or something that just makes you stop to have a look of wonder as if you were 7 years old again. However, “Onward” has done just that.

Very similar to that of “The Lord of the Rings” or “Indiana Jones,” this film is not about the destination, but rather the journey and what the characters discover about themselves on said journey.

Ian finds that out through hardships of his own as he searches for what he lost, instead of looking beside himself at what he already has in the form of a sibling.

The script itself is that of the highest tier when it comes to Pixar. It does feel quite scatter-shot at first, but the ending ties all these loose elements together rather well and quite subtly.

The ending, I might add, is one of the least cynical, evocative and whole-hearted experiences I have had in several years. Every ounce of cynicism was drained from me as the final fifteen minutes or so was mostly wiping tears away to clear my glazed eyes.

It’s also a film about what courage can do to those around you. Whilst Ian goes on this quest and discovers his own self-confidence, the people closest to Ian are impacted by his sense of courage as well.

Cleverly enough, this film accomplishes both the flat and positive arc through the character of Ian. He also has wants and needs in the film (the mark of a great character), and it’s this very tight script that allows multiple things to be communicated on different levels of the film.

The score is also something to highlight because it’s the very first thing you hear and it is very mystical and adventurous. Later on, the score also reflects a Morricone tone as if these two brothers were gunslingers walking together along the endless desert.

I had almost zero interest in seeing this film, but the film completely spun me around. I always say, a good children’s film is not just meant for kids, but rather to bring the kid out of you.

I found the film to be superb and easily falls into top-tier Pixar. It’s an emotionally resonating film that takes the wallpaper of the hero’s journey and adds its own personal touch to it.