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An International Phenomenon
There’s truly no logical explanation for how an animated series from France, titled “Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir,” managed to captivate such a massive fanbase in America. But it did. This cartoon became so popular that it transitioned between multiple broadcast platforms, starting with Nickelodeon in 2015 and eventually finding its new home on Netflix and Disney+.
A Cinematic Adaptation
After five successful seasons, the television series has now expanded its reach to the big screen with “Ladybug & Cat Noir: Awakening.” While the movie received a theatrical release in parts of Europe, it’s coming exclusively to Netflix for audiences in the United States, where they can already enjoy several episodes of the show.
At its core, the series revolves around Marinette (voiced by Cristina Valenzuela) and Adrien (Bryce Papenbrook), two ordinary teenagers who receive magical jewels that transform them into superheroes – Ladybug and Cat Noir, respectively. Their mission is to safeguard the city of Paris from the clutches of a villain named Hawkmoth (Keith Silverstein).
Hawkmoth continually schemes to obtain the powerful jewels that grant Ladybug and Cat Noir their extraordinary abilities, all while relentlessly searching for their true identities. To wreak havoc, Hawkmoth transforms unhappy citizens of Paris into monstrous beings until Ladybug and Cat Noir intervene to save the day.
A Web of Secrets
The intricate narrative is further tangled by the fact that Adrien’s father, Gabriel, is secretly Hawkmoth. However, neither Adrien nor Hawkmoth are aware of each other’s dual lives. Complicating matters even more, Adrien and Marinette both attend the same high school. They are strictly forbidden from discovering each other’s true names by the man who bestowed upon them their magical powers – Wang Fu, an ancient guardian (voiced by Paul St. Peter).
Matters of the Heart
Adding to the story’s twists and turns, Marinette harbors a deep crush on Adrien, while Cat Noir is hopelessly in love with Ladybug. However, their lack of knowledge about each other’s complete identities obstructs any chance of expressing their true feelings.
And so, this “will they/won’t they” storyline, intertwined with magic, zany adventures, and unexpected emotional depth, drives the show throughout its remarkable five-season run.
“Ladybug & Cat Noir: Awakening”
Confusingly, this movie serves as a kind of origin story. It deviates from the initial episodes, bringing unexpected changes to the plot. While loyal fans of the series might have preferred a film that provided a satisfying conclusion, similarly to how “Serenity” did for “Firefly,” the creators opted for a broader approach, resulting in a loss of the project’s original identity.
While the television series occasionally exhibits less impressive animation, the film sets itself apart by pushing the boundaries of 3D animation. The characters and their movements are now rendered with a much smoother and fluid style, creating visually stunning art.
Unfortunately, the positives end there. “Ladybug & Cat Noir” disappointingly lacks the charisma displayed by its lead heroes in the original series. The movie reduces Marinette to a timid girl plagued by self-doubt, while Adrien comes across as an arrogant jerk throughout the entire film. Although Marinette faced challenges in the TV series and Cat Noir occasionally exhibited charming arrogance, these traits never defined their characters completely.
In essence, the film simplifies the protagonists to the point where they lose their depth and any redeeming qualities.
A Musical Misstep
The movie’s musical aspect is another letdown. “Ladybug & Cat Noir” attempts to emulate the Disney movie formula, but the lyrics fall flat, lacking originality. One would expect the creators to have learned from the Christmas special, where music was not the series’ main selling point.
To make matters worse, Marinette’s singing voice doesn’t match her speaking voice, which proves to be distracting. Cristina Valenzuela is a talented singer and should have been given the opportunity to perform both Marinette’s songs and her dialogue. Instead, French musician Lou provides Marinette’s singing voice for the English and Français dubs. While Lou’s performance is commendable, it was an unnecessary oversight not to utilize Valenzuela’s vocal talents in the English dub.
Considering that the series already boasts a made-for-TV movie called “Miraculous World: New York – United HeroeZ,” which successfully expanded the universe beyond its typical 30-minute episodes, fans would be better off rewatching that while waiting for the release of more Season Five episodes. As for newcomers intrigued by the series, it is advisable to skip this movie and instead dive straight into the television series itself.
“Ladybug & Cat Noir: Awakening” is now available for streaming on Netflix.