Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Maya the Bee: The Golden Orb (Noel Cleary, 2021)

 

Following on from both her eponymous 2014 big screen adventure and 2018's The Honey Games, lovable bee Maya makes a welcome return to cinemas with The Golden Orb.  Maya's third feature film was due to be released last year but was put back on account of the COVID-19 pandemic; rather than go direct to streaming—a route that has become commonplace over the past year or so—The Golden Orb has been held over until cinemas are able to reopen.  Although it's a second sequel, The Golden Orb works just fine as a standalone film, so no prior knowledge of Waldemar Bonsels' apian creation is necessary; it's hard to believe that it's now well over a century since the publication of the book featuring Maya's first adventure.  With its simple message, vibrant colour scheme and appealing, top-drawer animation, The Golden Orb, like its two predecessors, is aimed squarely at younger children, but there is much here for older children and adults to enjoy, too.

When Maya and her friends finally reappear in cinemas (on May 17), you will soon discover that the title character and her best friend Willi don't share the patience of the film's distributors, as their eagerness to say goodbye to lockdown sees them emerge prematurely from their hive; one calamitous glowworm-related incident later, and the bees' queen decides to separate the pair before they can cause any more trouble.  In all fairness to Willi, it was Maya who was the architect of the situation, but irrespective of how the blame should be apportioned, the queen feels it will take something remarkable to make her change her mind regarding the sanctions she plans to impose on the young bees.  Thankfully, something remarkable does come the way of Maya and Willi when they are entrusted with the orb of the title.  Spoiler alert—the orb is actually an egg, from which an ant princess duly hatches.

While this development occurs quite early on in the film, there's still plenty of well-paced excitement to come as the two bees strive to deliver the princess to the other ants; it's quite a mission, and there's an added complication as some dastardly beetles—who are engaged in a turf war with the ants—are going to extreme lengths to get their claws on the cute newborn, who has formed quite an attachment to a surprised Willi.  Along the way, the bees encounter a couple of well-meaning but rather clueless soldier ants who, as so often seems to be the case with ants in animated works, are sporting army helmets.  The energetic proceedings are occasionally punctuated with songs, with nefarious beetle Bumbulus proving to be the real star of the show when it comes to taking the mic.  As the pursuit rages on, the princess' party offer an olive branch (or rather, a leaf) to the beetles, which hints that unity may be a better option for all concerned.

Given the uncertain futures of cinemas and the films which play in them, The Golden Orb's release provides an excellent opportunity for families to get along and support both the film and the venues that will be hosting it; filmgoing is a part of life that can be hard to return to once you've been away from it for a while, but a trip to your local cinema is fairly certain to provide a quick reminder of the joys of watching a film on the silver screen.  Three years ago, I saw The Honey Games in a cinema in France; back then, none of us had any idea of the drastically changed world its sequel would be released into.  While there is little doubt that the viewing habits of many will have changed permanently during lockdown, the efforts of those behind the The Golden Orb's release deserve to be rewarded with solid footfall as the film rolls out in cinemas; this cheerful, optimistic slice of animation is just the thing to jump-start your year at the movies.  Showtimes and tickets are available here.

Darren Arnold

Images: Strike Media