Onward (2020) Movie Review

In the first quarter of 2020, Pixar released its latest film which is quite important to see the final result. Why is that? Well, this is Pixar’s first original film since they released “Coco” in 2017. Indeed, the gap is not too far. But thanks to the huge success that the two sequel films got in 2018 and 2019, namely “The Incredibles 2” and “Toy Story 4”, a kind of burden arises.

Can Pixar return to producing original stories again or not. As we also know, sequels are a pandemic of success in Hollywood and whether a studio as big as Pixar will be willing to continue to sink with that formula or not. That’s why “Onward” has its own kind of gamble.

Onward (2020) Movie Review

Judging from its human resource indicators, “Onward” has promising sales materials. Yup, who else if not the main voice casting duet , namely Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. The two Avengers members are told to be brother and sister in a fantasy world. Tom becomes Ian, a boy who is shy and tends to be afraid to try new things. Then Chris plays the passionate Barley, and is a fan of magic-themed board games .

The two brothers clearly have contrasting traits. But if you look around, this seems to be in accordance with the existing cast . Tom Holland once again plays a half-hearted teenage character, it’s just different from what he played in “Spies in Disguise”, Ian here looks more calm. While Chris Pratt is naturally full of enthusiasm, talkative, and humorous. Some gimmick dialogs from Barley’s character feel very fitting if sung by him.


The cooperation between Ian and Barley is tested when one day they open a birthday present given by their late father. How surprised Ian and Barley were when they found out that the prize was in the form of a magic wand. Complete with an orange philosopher’s stone and a spell, they try to use the gift to bring back their father.

Unfortunate, because of panic and unable to withstand the great magic power, Ian only returned the leg of his father. Based on Barley’s knowledge, this spell would last until sunset, so Ian and Barley had to quickly find another philosopher’s stone to use as a spell tool.

At the beginning of the film there is a prologue. The narrator will introduce us to the world of “Onward”, where this world used to have magic. The witches are there to help the elves and other creatures who need help. However, the more here the magic disappears.

Not because the witch was burned, but because another way has been found to help the needs of society and this method is more practical than having to learn magic. Unfortunately, “Onward” does not pay attention to this further in the film. Even so, from the existing narrative exposition, we can find out why the film “Onward” chose a fantasy world as its setting.

As a film that tells the story of a father and son, the filmmaker of “Onward” had to find a way to make sense of how the son would be able to meet his father again. It is clear that you cannot make use of the real world to make this happen. It would be utterly absurd.

Review onward

Therefore, a fantasy world is created. A world that used to have magic. These tools are put to good use because the causality of the film’s story is strong. This fantasy world is also used for a number of small things that are personal in nature. Because the inhabitants of this world are fairytale creatures, then because the world is getting more and more modern here, films use it to bring out the next value, namely being aware of one’s own potential.

Along the way, this magic element will also develop the arc of Ian’s character. Regardless of the existing mantras, in general we can learn from this that we must be confident in our own abilities.

The magic that exists, although not the type that can be memorized once heard, but has various uses. Luckily, movies can harness the power of some magic effectively in the confrontational stages. This was very necessary because magic became a necessary tool at the resolution stage, more than one could imagine.

There are many sequences that stand out in using magic. The story written in the scene manages to optimize the magic elements so that the gong will create a certain emotional response. There was an uneasy feeling because there were times when Ian and Barley would fight as brother and sister, which was perfectly normal.

Then there was a feeling of excitement mixed with laughter because of the ridiculous behavior exhibited by the two elf siblings. Starting from here, the audience must be observant because what we have seen before can be our prediction that “Onward” will tell a story about A, then this perception may change.

Unfortunately, even though there are things that are already optimal, there are also quite fatal weaknesses. At the confrontation stage, Ian and Barley begin their quest to a place in the middle of nowhere inhabited by a creature called the Manticore. We will see that the film’s narrative overlaps what was originally told with the current events in the place.

The timing between before and when Ian and Barley enter the ‘Manticore lair’ is very different, and this is understandable given that “Onward” is a family film. What’s unfortunate is that the conflict escalation at this stage is less intense. We can’t feel a strong turning point from the Manticore.

Movie onward

This possibility arises because the dialogue is not quite right. Linear storytelling like “Onward” certainly has to be colored by various kinds of emotional games so that the film doesn’t feel boring. Unfortunately, at this difficult part, the film begins to experience problems at the confrontation stage.

What the film wants to highlight in that section is the fun element because we can see how wild Manticore is. Unfortunately, it cannot be felt in its entirety, in contrast to other parts of the confrontation stage. As a result, the audience may fall asleep until the confrontation stage of the film enters the funny or tense part, which is in the film. Entering the cinematic aspect, Dan Scanlon’s touch is really felt in this film. As a director who rose to fame through the film “Monsters University”, of course Dan had already visualized creatures in a fantasy world like that.

This is evident from the existence of a one-eyed police character in the film and if you take a closer look, the head shape of Barley’s character reminds us of James P. Sullivan’s character. It’s just that, his body shape is that of an elf so it’s clear that Barley as well as other elf characters don’t have fur.

Talking about fantasy creatures, what’s unique about them in the movie “Onward” is their style of dress that is similar to our world. This further reinforces that the world is a metaphor for something from our world, which was mentioned earlier which is unfortunate because the point was not discussed clearly.

These fantasy creatures dress up in shirts, sweaters, leather jackets, uniforms. Anyway, like humans in general. Then the next outstanding visual shape is in the resolution stage. The real antagonist appears here and looks pretty awesome. Films do not take the traditional way of embodying these creatures as we know them. Rather, making it happen through building pieces and pieces, all of which are set with a good narrative.

Small and side matters are not simply thrown away in building the integrity of the narrative elements of “Onward”. Then for the supporting actors, they will stand out in their respective sessions. What is most obvious is the mother’s character which is made different from the character of most mothers when her child is lost somewhere. The mother figure here is certainly not a “damsel in distress”. Then the mother also actually becomes a key factor in the confrontation stage. But still, the main dish is about the relationship between brothers and sisters.

onward movie

“Onward” mixes the usual conflict in brother-sister relationships into something touching with the help of the arc of Ian’s character who wants to be reunited with his father. Little by little the most striking values ​​are revealed, where sometimes we don’t realize that there are people who always support us or push us to be better but we don’t like that person.

It is very well placed at the second turning point and it is not impossible that we will need tissues at these times. There is a powerful dialogue here, namely when Ian convinces Barley when they will meet their father. The words he said show character development that has touched the plenary level.

As an original film (not a sequel, prequel, or spin-off), “Onward” can still be watched by the whole family. Especially if we watch it with our brothers or sisters, the feeling becomes more pronounced. The director’s personal experience enriches the story because the next conflict seems so personal.

An example is in a sequence where the character Ian speaks to his father’s recorded voice. It’s not powerful . Indeed, what is the main conflict of this film is not highlighted. It’s a bit confusing because the two big conflicts feel balanced. Straight-forward stories also feel boring at the confrontation stage. Mature audiences will “comprehend” more because the fantasy elements from all the magic spells and Barley’s favorite board game story dominate.


Zephyrine is an experienced film critic who has worked for many magazines and websites specializing in cinema. She has a deep education in film history and theory, as well as a passion for classic and independent films. Writing style: Zephyrine always evaluates films objectively and honestly, not influenced by external factors such as the fame of actors or directors. She often focuses on the content, screenplay, technique, and personal feelings to provide insights and reviews of the film. Her writing style is easy to understand and familiar to readers, but also professional and profound. Notable articles: "Step Up" - Success comes from the perseverance and relentless effort of young people "The Social Network" - A fantastic documentary film about the birth of Facebook "Moonlight" - A touching story about love and the essence of humanity "Nomadland" - A poignant journey of a mature woman "Parasite" - A sensational film of Korean cinema with profound social messages.

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