GRAPHIC BY CHARLOTTE DRESSER AND NINA ROGERS
**NOTE: This review contains spoilers for the movie “Onward”
Especially in an unknown and stressful time like the present, everyone can use a small escape to a magical world. Thankfully, Pixar’s new animated movie “Onward” immerses its audience in a whimsical world full of elves, sprites, unicorns and magic.
The movie follows two elves, quiet and reserved Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) and his adventurous brother Barley (Chris Pratt) who are on a quest to find the special phoenix gem that will bring their late father back to life. In this race against time, the brothers encounter many surprises along the way, and Ian learns how to become a more confident and powerful wizard and finds a role model in his older brother.
On Ian’s 16th birthday, he gets a wizard’s staff from his mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) that can bring his deceased father back to life for a day. But Ian can’t cast the spell entirely, so he and his brother need to find the phoenix gem within the next 24 hours to bring back the top half of their father. They go on a crazy journey in Barley’s van, Guinevere, and eventually succeed in finding the gem and bringing back their father for the few remaining minutes they have before sundown.
The contrast between the characters of Ian and Barley presents an interesting message throughout the film. Barley is a very daring and bold character. He is always ready to jump into the next quest and take a risk. On the other hand, Ian is more cautious and longs to be more confident. However, the compelling aspect of their dynamic is that neither of them would have been able to complete the task if the other brother hadn’t been there, which creates a touching message.
As Ian and Barley embark on their journey, Barley encourages Ian to practice his magic in preparation for the resurrection of his father. At first, Ian can’t perform a simple spell, but Barley tells him that he has to use his “heart’s fire” in order to perform the spell. Pixar uses this phrase as a metaphor for confidence, to show that all Ian needs to succeed in his magic is courage and determination.
At the beginning of the movie, Ian makes a list of all of the things he wanted to do with his father, such as laugh together, have a heart to heart and tell his father his life story. As time runs out and Ian loses hope of seeing his father, he also loses hope of accomplishing those goals. Yet at the end of the movie, it dawns on him that he actually had completed them but with his brother instead. He had laughed with his brother, had a heart to heart with his brother and grown up with him. He realized that he, in fact, didn’t need to see his father — his brother was all he needed.
This shows that the important people in your life are the people you share important experiences with. Ian looks for a role model to help him become a more confident person and someone to share his experiences with, and it was really moving to see how that person was right next to him the whole time.
These messages of confidence and finding yourself are very inspirational and motivational. Overall, this movie has a heartwarming sense of positivity and happiness and serves as an uplifting respite in the midst of the turbulent times we find ourselves in.