Onward Almost Captures Lightning in a Bottle

"My gut knows where to go. Don’t you, boy? Yes, you do."


Photo courtesy of IMDB

Solomon Kenworthy

     This is nearly the Spider-Man, Star-Lord crossover film you didn’t know you wanted. 

     Onward was released on March 6, 2020, and was directed by Dan Scanlon. The animated film features voices of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When two brothers discover a magical staff left by their deceased father, they embark on a journey to find out if there really is such a thing called “magic.” 

     The voice acting provided from all actors is wonderfully fantastic. Holland and Pratt stand out. Holland, as the voice of Ian Lightfoot, especially brings much heart-felt emotion; his character is very relatable and a great lead for the film. Pratt voices Barley Lightfoot, Ian’s older brother, who is just a cool guy overall, which makes you root for him and want to see him succeed and overcome his faults.

     The script makes you understand and connect to each of the lead characters, so it feels natural to see their conflicts affect each other and the story. However, the script takes from several other films. This wouldn’t be such an issue if it wasn’t so constant. To name a few of the borrowed films there’s some Indiana Jones, a little Guardians of the Galaxy thrown in the film. 

     For example, there are some very clear winks to the fact that Holland and Pratt were Spider-Man, and Star-Lord respectively, within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This can be seen with some dialogue and camera angles. There was one shot that was ripped directly out of Guardians of the Galaxy, and even features a boombox and cassette tape in the frame. 

     Octavia Spencer voice’s The Manticore, a warrior turned waitress. Her character is terrible. She’s not written well, her character development (or lack thereof) is not well done, and at one point she goes off about helping the two leads even though she didn’t. She’s there because the script needed a flat character to tell the leads where to go, and that’s where her character should have ended. 

     Chekhov’s Gun, the idea taught in film that if you’re going to shoot someone in the third act, you introduce the gun in the first, is used so smart here, to the point where you don’t even notice it. When all the many elements come together in the 3rd act, it’s incredibly satisfying, and entertaining to watch. All of the action is well done. 

     There were some small continuity issues. For example, in one shot there was a blanket covering more of a staff than in the next, but nothing to take you out of the film, unless you’re really looking for them. 

     The film’s animation is great. The uses of situational and environmental comedy within Onward are fantastic, and it succeeds at blending fantasy and modern worlds together. There are several funny moments where you wouldn’t think about it in the way things are portrayed in the film, because we don’t live in a world with magic, that makes certain moments even more humorous. For example, the main characters have a pet dragon that is quite funny. 

     Onward proves that Pixar can still use magical spells to create great characters, and worlds. The film’s wonderful story, and humor save the script’s clichés and missteps. 


[My grade for Onward is a B-]