Onward (2020) Ending Explained (In Detail)

Spoilers Alert:

A magical world from which magic has long since disappeared – that’s the idea behind it ONWARD – NO HALF MEASURES, which forms the background for a solid adventure road movie. But we’ll reveal in our review whether that might not be enough for Pixar.

Ian and Bailey try to make their father “whole” again…

The plot summary

New Mushroomton is a world full of magic and wonderful creatures. Or rather: she once was. Unfortunately, the magic has almost completely disappeared from the tranquil suburb. Garbage-eating unicorns are now part of the cityscape and magical creatures such as dragons can only be found here as pets. But one day the brothers Ian and Barley are given a unique chance by their mother to at least let a touch of magic into their lives again: with the help of a magic wand, they can bring their dead father back for a whole day. But something goes terribly wrong during the attempt. And so the two of them have to pull together for the first time in a long time and complete a series of dangerous tasks on an adventurous road trip before they can hug their dad again…

Onward Movie Meaning of ending

Things are happening in quick succession: two works from the Disney/Pixar production house appear in the USA within just three months. Now in March, the film company is releasing the magical adventure road movie “Onward – No Half Measures”, followed by “Soul” in June, which according to previous announcements is something like “ Everything is upside down” , only with the soul at the center. In this country, this tight launch schedule is being streamlined a little due to the significantly later release date of “Soul” in October. But that doesn’t change the assumption that people at Pixar are perhaps not entirely convinced of the quality of the latest upstart and are hoping that in the shadow of “Soul” they will soon forget that. There was even no major marketing offensive for “Onward” in advance; a few (lousy) commercials on the Disney Channel here, a billboard or two there. But of course that is nothing compared to the advertising attacks and the plastering of public buildings, as we experienced shortly before the cinema release of “Finding Dory” or, most recently, the remake of “The Lion King” . Of course, the company always takes a slightly bigger risk with original materials (most recently “Coco” and before that “Arlo & Spot” ) than with sequels from well-known brands. You already know the characters, you just have to recall them to potential viewers. In the case of “Onward” it is once again important to establish characters and the world in a completely new way. The fact that this is only moderately successful is one of the shaky scaffolding on which the film is based. Because even if “solid” still means “good” to a certain extent at Pixar, “Onward” is definitely one of the weakest entries in the recent history of the production company.

Ian Lightfood (originally voiced by Tom Holland) doesn’t have an easy time at his school.

The idea behind “Onward – No Half Measures” is not only quite creative, it is also quite contemporary in a morbidly amusing way. What if in a (magical) world magic gradually disappears, people are no longer impressed by magic and all that nonsense, magical unicorns degenerate into rats and people have long since taken cute dragons as pets for granted? It doesn’t take much mental effort to understand the state of New Mushroomton as a bit of a commentary on our real world. In times when it feels like we can’t be excited by anything anymore because we’ve already seen everything and ironic refraction seems to be the only way for many people to not deal with current pop culture completely dumbfounded, it’s somehow just right The screenwriter trio of Dan Scanlon (“Monster University”) , Jason Headly (“A bad idea gone wrong”) and Keith Bunin (“Horns”) takes this “de-magization” to an amusing extreme. The first damper on enthusiasm: The examples mentioned above are almost the only ones showing what the makers know what to do with this setting. One time you see unicorns eating out of a garbage can, another time a group of flightless fairies have joined forces to form a hardcore rocker group on motorcycles, and what was once a dangerous knight’s castle has become a harmless family restaurant. These are all creative ideas that you would somehow expect with a topic like this. But the “more” that is actually typical of Pixar, with which the company’s films have set themselves apart from the increasing competition for years, cannot be found here.

This also applies to the actual plot, for which “Onward – No Half Measures” follows the dramaturgical patterns of common road movies. The two protagonists Ian and Barley are given a task (they are supposed to find a magic stone with which they can completely put their father back together, who was only half conjured up), go on a number of adventures on their journey and complete tasks until they finally grown together as a unit and reach their goal. Of course, that’s not objectionable simply because Pixar has always only marginally changed its winning formula. But where the company usually fills the stories with lots of creative ideas – whether in terms of visual design or narrative – the focus here is too much on genre tropes, so that there is hardly anything to discover, even visually, where the Pixar -Worlds of images are usually overflowing with ingenuity. And although we know that this comparison is no longer an exclusive criticism today, we still allow ourselves to be drawn to it: If we knew better, “Onward” could easily pass for a Dreamworks Animation movie. Conversely, this also means: The gags are mostly right, the pacing is excellent, the design of the supporting characters (the Manticore is a real scene-stealer!) is successful and, tonally, the film balances tension, humor and emotionality.

And if you think that “Onward” is the first Pixar film since “Cars 2” to leave you completely cold, those responsible manage to pull off a congenial move in the final act that could cynically be described as “‘Frozen’ for brothers”, but retroactively shifts narrative accents so smartly that you can’t really be mad at him for it. For a long time, the focus of “Onward – No Half Measures” was primarily the father-son relationship between Ian and his dad, who died before he was born, who hopes that the trip will allow him to experience everything with his father, at least for one day , which he was not granted as a child, it is above all the brotherly bond between him and Barley that plays the biggest role in the story. The realization of this really gives you goosebumps, as it works through tiny gestures and the subtle facial expressions of the main characters, who hardly need a word to communicate with each other. Nevertheless, this very calm and intimate final note almost seems to contradict the rest. Although a dragon in particular (!) made from the rubble of a school makes a huge impression on the animation front, its rowdy appearance is symptomatic of the action scenes in “Onward”. Overall, these remain just as interchangeable as the road trip itself and try to create an impression through great fanfare rather than through delicate choreographies. The constant alternation between fast-paced adventure moments and the fundamentally likeable interaction between the brothers continually confronts the viewer with the film’s high and lowlights. How fortunate that “Onward – No Half Measures” ultimately ends on a high note.

Conclusion: “Onward – No Half Measures” routinely pushes the tried and tested Pixar emotional buttons. But in a film about magic, of all things, the magic that is conjured up does not materialize. What remains is a solid adventure road trip that unfortunately falls short of its potential as a smart commentary on the increasing brutalization of humanity.

“Onward – No Half Measures” can be seen in USA cinemas nationwide from March 12th.

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