Lola (Yvonne Jegede) takes her two kids, inquisitive and adventurous Funke (Pamilerin Ayodeji) and smart and logical Habib (Mofiyinfoluwa Asenuga) to Ondo to spend the holidays with their grandmother (Ayo Mogaji) and also to give her some space to properly evaluate her career and relationship with their father. Funke and Habib quickly settle in as their adventure kicks off the very next day. Enthralled by a neighbour’s tales about the Igbo Irunmole, Funke is convinced about the existence of mythical beings while Habib vehemently rejects the notion. Their dispute is settled with the appearance of Mikolo, a colorful, hippogriff-looking creature. They become taken with Mikolo in no time and would do everything to keep it safe from any harm, making efforts of great magnitude to do so.
Nollywood productions are not popular for having child characters as the main subject of a film (at least not with them being as active as other characters), nor can I recall a mainstream child adventure feature film from a Nigerian Studio. Mikolo takes credit for being one of the first Nigerian films to do this. The release of the trailer earlier this year was met with mixed reactions. Discussions ranged from excitement about a kids-themed story supposedly rooted in cultural myths, to skepticism brought about the unoriginal look of the titular creature, who bears a close resemblance to Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. The lack of originality fueled my initial reservations about the film, and I sincerely hoped that the visual effects would be backed by a rich story inspired by the myths, legends, and folklore of the Yorùbá culture it is set in. But just like I feared, Mikolo opts to excite kids fleetingly rather than to be a more remarkable film that kids can retrospectively admire when they are adults.
Ahead of the film’s release, director Nìyí Akinmolayan repeatedly stated, especially in several Twitter posts, that the targeted demographic of the film is kids, to give them the chance to see a representation of themselves on screen in a story that they might have imagined themselves in. Judging by the reaction of some toddlers I shared the screen with, kids would find pleasure in seeing child actors interacting with an animated character and wouldn’t care about more concrete elements that make a film such as plot structure, conflicts and other facets. Without a doubt, these elements are flawed in Mikolo and will only have a bigger effect on an older viewer’s experience.
The biggest flaw in Mikolo is the dissonance of the plot and the environment it is set. An important detail of the film is the Igbo Irunmole, where Mikolo and other magical beings reside. Apart from being the setting in which the events of popular D.O Fagunwa’s novel “Ògbójú Ọdẹ Nínú Igbó Irunmole” happen, it is an actual forest in Ondo where the film is also set in. With such cultural significance established, one would expect more from the plot to be based on the traditional myths that must abound in the area about this famed forest or on the rich Yoruba folklore.
There is a lack of cohesion between the plot and the environment and culture the film is set in as the attempt to create the ambience of a rural locale in an urban town does not work. Also, the primary action of Mikolo contrasts badly with the secondary action in the background, as the scenery in which some of the events happen looks inauthentic, and the activities happening around look overly staged, creating an oil-on-water effect. Although the realisation could be delayed, the kids whom this film is meant for are left with nothing tangible; the shallow plot blows a huge chance to connect them to the world of fantasy that exists around them while serving as an eye-opening narrative at the same time.
It is impossible to know the amount of effort that has been put into the visual effects, but it is nowhere near impressive nor awe-inspiring. Adding to the lack of originality, attention isn’t paid to the attributes of the animated character and the implications it would have on the plot. Mikolo has the ability to be invisible, manipulate its size and strength to pick up a laden tricycle and can also fit in an averagely sized backpack. Surely, this is a creature who should be able to evade any danger with ease and should not be incapacitated by something as insignificant as a rope.
This lack of clarity seeps into other parts of the film, with most of the characters having no clear definitions or motivations. The relationship between the characters is not properly established, mainly the relationship between the kids and Mikolo. The childish infatuation with a magical creature is understandable, notwithstanding, we do not see a sufficient depiction of the bond forming between them that would have motivated them to take huge risks to keep it
Raised on weak foundations, the details of the plot end up looking like half ideas and underdeveloped themes and the plot is forced to progress with actions that happen without exposition as to what might have incited them, befuddling viewers. A host of implausible events makes the plot of Mikolo even more ludicrous: Funke and Habib jump into a motor tricycle and are able to drive it without struggle on their first attempt; it is also far-fetched that despite the combination of the noise from Mikolo knocking over everything in the house and Funke’s cautionless shouting wakes up nobody in the house.
Child actors Pamilerin Ayodeji and Mofiyinfoluwa Asenuga are the obvious stars of Mikolo, their talents are not in doubt and even the under-par execution of the details of the film is not enough to dampen their performance. Definitely, their performance will inspire some of their peers in the audience, to seek new possibilities in their own world.
Whilst one could go on about the many things done badly in Mikolo, the target audience might not have many problems with it, as they most likely do not yet have the attention span to identify or be bothered by the failings of the film.
Mikolo premiered in cinemas on August 18, 2023.
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- Why are their actions barely creating any scenes?
- Is it igbó Irunmole or òkè Irunmole?
- Mikolo sounds like an unlubricated door
- So the generator goes off during a match and a 5-year-old boy is waiting with a tab streaming the match and none of them found it suspicious. Either the characters are slow, or maybe they think we are slow.
- How did they capture something that can disappear?
- How did the thugs follow them to the mountain?
- Why would parents who are supposedly responsible, choose the moment they are looking for their kids to bicker so unnecessarily?
- The absence of imagination is loud.
- The minder of the forest cannot speak but the beings in it can?
- It definitely would have been more authentic if the dialogue employed more Yoruba. So close, yet, so far away
UPDATE (30/08/2023): The original post mispelt Mofiyinfoluwa Asenuga’s surname as Adenuga.