The popular kids superhero series is reimagined in a new Netflix movie.
My kids have long been fans of Miraculous, an animated superhero series that's been airing on Netflix (and later Disney+) for the past few years. In the show, two French teens (Marinette and Adrien) are entrusted with magic jewelry that lets them transform into super-powered alter-egos: Ladybug and Cat Noir. Together they battle to save Paris from an endless parade of lackeys sent by arch-enemy Hawkmoth.
Aimed at tweens, Miraculous has cartoonish violence with little real consequence. Though the city is often wrecked, one of Ladybug's superpowers gives her a big "reset" button that can undo the damage once the villain is defeated. The action is interspersed with Marinette and Adrien navigating the usual teen drama while trying to keep their super identities secret.
The core feature of the show—and its most maddening—is its romantic relationships. Not content with a simple love triangle, this series starts with a square: Marinette crushes on Adrien, but finds Cat Noir irritating; Adrien digs Ladybug, but barely knows Marinette exists. Through its five seasons, these core friendships evolve in interesting ways. But new crushes, reversals, discoveries, and time-travel undos have created a dizzying love polygon, and spawned countless ship wars and tier lists. Seriously, it's like a soap opera. The ships have completely taken over the show.
It doesn't help that the core relationship is fraught with problems. Even before they meet, Marinette has an unhealthy "boy band idol" level obsession with fashion model Adrien. At various points, she's flat-out stalking him: tracking his schedule, spying on him, and even sneaking into his house to plant a present. Adrien, meanwhile, professes his love for Ladybug while knowing next-to-nothing about her. He is also aggressively persistent even after multiple rejections. (And don't even get me started on the Clark-with-glasses stupidity about why they don't recognize each other in superhero form. I know they eventually tried to handwave that away with something about identity distortion fields, but it was too little too late.)
Despite these problematic elements, the show does have its redeeming qualities. The friendship between Marinette and BFF Alya is a sweet, supportive anchor for the series. Adrien is just genuinely a nice and sensitive guy, a welcome departure from the typical stoic hero. Secondary characters acquire interesting depth as the series goes on, and sometimes join the fray with loaner superpowers. My favorite episodes are the ones where Ladybug and Cat Noir have to team up with their friends, like a junior Avengers.
Most of all, I love that the show's "villains" are just everyday people whose negative emotions make them fall victim to Hawkmoth's super-powered manipulation. It's rare for a superhero story to make you care for both the hero and the person they're fighting. And it's ironic that Marinette is the cause of a good half of those negative emotions. As my daughter once noted, "She creates so much work for herself."
It's a decent show that's just dragged on far too long.
Improving the Original
The recent Netflix movie, Ladybug & Cat Noir is a reimagining of the series that improves on the original with a number of welcome changes.
For starters, it does away with all the troubling aspects of the core love square. Each pair—Adrien and Marinette, and Ladybug and Cat Noir—has a decent foundation for their relationship. No creepy stalking here, thank goodness.
Marinette's over-the-top clutziness and social ineptness is toned down, making her less goofy and more relatable. And though Marinette embracing her powers felt abrupt, at least they try to give her a real character arc of overcoming her fears.
The other one who gets a good arc here is Hawkmoth / Gabriel. The film humanizes him in a way that somehow they didn't manage in five seasons of the show. Side note: younger Gabriel's hair is hilariously awesome:
The animation is superb, a big step up from the series. I could have done without the musical elements personally; I don't think they add much to the story, and the songs weren't memorable enough to stand for their own sake. They weren't bad; they just felt out of place.
Cramming a multi-season story arc into a single movie was always going to be a challenge, but I think they did a pretty good job.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Pass
Learn about my Ratings System.
- Violence/Scariness: Cartoonish violence and city-wide destruction that's set right by the end of each episode.
- Language: None to speak of.
- Romance/Sex: Tame crushes and the occasional smooch; problematic stalkerish behavior.