‘Onward’ review: Dungeons, dragons and dramas

Oggs Cruz
‘Onward’ review: Dungeons, dragons and dramas
The movie is armed with enough nostalgic elements to counter passages that feel like fillers

Without a doubt, Dan Scanlon’s Onward is fun.

The movie juggles delightful — if not totally expected — spectacle with a sprinkling of episodes that are potentially heartbreaking. It is an effortless visual and wit-fueled treat, one that would leave the kids in awe of the all the spectacles and the adults either guffawing at the clever jokes or reminiscing of the time when they were beholden to Dungeons and Dragons, and its many iterations across various media.

Ingenious in parts

Onward reinforces that the age of Pixar as an innovator is over. 

The film, while truly ingenious in parts, is too reliant on the convenience of familiarity to really tread new grounds. It’s explicitly another riff of the trusty Pixar formula, where emotionally potent and very human experiences are spun into fables involving inanimate objects or pop culture relics that are granted life or modern-day flavors.

In Onwards case, Pixar focuses on brotherhood, grief, and other related noble virtues, setting its story of two brothers on a quest to allow them to make new memories with their father who died before they had any time to know him, in a fantasy world that has gotten rid of magic for the ease of technology.

There is enough room to play around with a discourse on civilization shifting its attention towards secularism and technology, as faith and magic loses its appeal because of the inherent inequity it places upon society. 

MAGIC. Ian and Barley discover magic left to them.

Mundane but relatable matters

However, Onward keeps its own attention towards more mundane but very relatable matters, ensuring that its fable is one that pleases the majority, without ruffling any feathers along the way. Thus, Scanlon keeps whatever more intriguing implication the world he built out of a fantasy that has gotten rid of fantasies in the periphery to focus on a more accessible drama. 

It is all good, as the drama that unfolds with enough urgency to be exciting and with enough surprises for added thrills. It really is an endearing trifle, one that wouldn’t rock the world but pacify it enough with its eager distractions. 

The movie is armed with enough nostalgic elements to counter passages that feel like fillers. It is stuffed with quick-witted eyecandy, purposefully one-upping a lot of its slapstick-like antics with subject matter gags that are bound to amuse anybody who’s wasted a few hours being engrossed on Tolkien-inspired role-playing games. 

What is apparent however is that the movie is too much of a crowd pleaser to be an indelible experience. Sure, it is brimming with mirth and overflowing with so much positivity. However, it also feels a tad mechanical, in a sense that this is exactly what is to be expected from Pixar. It doesn’t push envelopes and lets go of fully embracing the extent of its ambitious world-building to arrive at an experience that is beyond erstwhile tears and giggles.

Harmless and heartwarming

Still, Onward comes highly recommended.

It is harmless and heartwarming. Although there are unexpected twists and turns here and there, its affect is as predictable as any other Pixar product. – Rappler.com

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass.

Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.

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