October 5, 2022
Raya and the Last Dragon movie review poster

story

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans, and dragons lived together in harmony. However, when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned; and it’s up to Raya and the Last Dragon to stop the Druun for good.

credit to imdb

quick states

  • Rating: 7.4
  • Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
  • Genres: Animation,Action,Adventure,Comedy,Family,Fantasy
  • Stars: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan
  • Writers: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim
  • Certificate: PG
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Release Date: 2021
  • AKA: Raya and the Last Dragon
  • Filming Location: Hanoi, Vietnam – Illinois, USA – California, USA
  • Runtime: 107 min

Raya and the Last Dragon movie review

While recent Disney princesses movies remind young girls that they, too, can be heroines. Raya and the Last Dragon teaches viewers about the dangers of taking on adventures on their own. It’s a smart twist on the action-packed maturity journey stories of princesses; with a clear connection with the previous princesses in Frozen and Moana. Like Moana, Raya sets out to the world on a classic hero’s journey. And just like Elsa, Raya is an emotionally closed gesture at the start of the movie. But unlike these other heroines, Raya does not lack self-confidence or awareness of her abilities. She is a skilled fighter, and that is a quality she does not suspect at all; the time has finally come.

Raya and the Last Dragon is the first Disney movie to feature a princess from Southeast Asia; it creates its own traditions. The blossoming Land of “Commandra” was once filled with dragons, those creatures whose existence was associated with water and life itself. But when the Druun attacks the bad guy; an enemy capable of turning everything into stone, the dragons fought to defend themselves and humans alike. The last living dragons gathered their powers in the Dragon Gem, which revived the humans. But the dragons were still frozen in time, except for Sisu, the last living dragon. Raya’s epic mission begins when the Dragon Gem is destroyed, and the Druun is unleashed back into the world.

Raya and the Last Dragon trailer

Credit to Walt Disney Animation Studios youtube channel

Raya and the Last Dragon steps forward on the foundations laid by Frozen and Moana. The thing that launched a modern era of princesses that focus not on romantic stories, but on the independence of princesses and their determination to save their peoples and their worlds. While Elsa and Moana have spent all of their films building her strengths, independence, and freedom; Raya’s journey is marked by moments in which she faces the challenge of forming new friendships and relying on them to fight for her cause. By the end of the film, I fell in love with the character who became Raya and felt a great interest in the personalities of the friends I befriended.

Raya and the Last Dragon focuses on themes of trust, bringing new life to Disney’s cartoon-action and adventure-movie format. The points crossed by Raya on her heroic journey challenge her to be weak with others, in addition to imposing physical challenges such as swinging between valleys. This gives the supporting cast a chance to shine; Raya has plenty of opportunities to outwit her opponents with shrewdness.

Raya’s relationship with the Dragon Sisu deepens as they navigate together through the Commandra’s regions (tail, claw, spine, fangs, and heart). The same applies to Raya’s confrontations with Namari’s childhood friend who is now evil (who is also a princess). Each battle reveals something new about their faltering past, and how you can reconcile it between them. The abolition of romance gives Raya and the Last Dragon a leeway to give platonic relationships and friendships what they deserve.

continuing Raya and the Last Dragon review

Raya and the Last Dragon 2

Raya and the Last Dragon is one of the best Disney films centered around grief. Disney princesses’ movies are so centered around grief; that nearly all princesses have lost a family member (or more) with the start of their films. But earlier films these deaths often represented the film’s backstory and the motives that move the characters. But unlike above, every significant character in Raya and the Last Dragon has experienced the loss of a devastating character; is driven by grief, and has spent a lot of time alone. Which decides any character to trust each other (to form a chosen family) seem so important because of this emotional weight.

Disney princesses have always had a huge impact on popular culture, especially among American children. The store shelves are filled with products from the latest releases, games, outfits, and songs. But Raya and the Last Dragon will give girls in Southeast Asia two princesses instead of one, both adorable fighters. They both learned valuable lessons about relying on friends and family for help. Before this movie, Mulan was a beloved Disney princess with Asian American girls with Mulan, the beloved classic movie that Raya and the Last Dragon pays homage to without seeming repetitive. (There are some clear parallels with Mulan: a young girl who uses her martial skills in her quest to protect her father, and a companion dragon voiced by a comedian.)

Raya and the Last Dragon movie review

Second thoughts

Of course, he releases Raya and the Last Dragon to an audience that has higher expectations about cultural representation than those who have grown up with Mulan. At a time when the number of films focused on Asia is steadily increasing, but remains in a limited fashion, and where Southeast Asian actors are underrepresented compared to East Asian actors, this places particular pressures on the first Disney princess from Southeast Asia.

Disney did a lot of research for the movie. Like Moana, Disney relied on a host of artists, academics, and others to help them with matters of cultural subtlety. The team has visited Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The screenwriters: Adele Lim and Coy Nguyen are both from Southeast Asia, as is Kelly Marie Tran who voices Raya. But the fact that most of the other voice actors (who make up a list full of talent that includes Jimma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Aquafina, and Sandra Oh) are from East Asia, and given that Commandra is a “fictional” world inspired by several different countries from a wider region, Raya and the Last Dragon risks blurring the references. Cultural, to such an extent that identifying it becomes difficult for people who are expected to understand the culture of the movie.

It is a fine line that must be approached with caution, and part of a larger discussion of the extent to which films featuring unrepresented ethnic groups are required to bear the burden of “accurately portraying that group”. The truth is that any film, even if it meets the highest standards of searching and directing, is shooting a film from “Southeast Asia” that is difficult to cohesive. This is because there is no single identity for that region. After all, Southeast Asia is not a single bloc. And like Mulan, this movie looks mostly American, with jokes about things like working on group projects at school that seem a little out of place in a supposedly fictional world.

In conclusion

Ultimately she enjoyed the action and emotion of Raya and the Last Dragon, with a princess who felt truly excited about it. It is also a movie I wish to see in theaters. The regions: the tail, paw, spine, canines, and heart have vibrant animation. The frightening Druun also evokes the threats of Mononoke, Princess Miyazaki. In addition to the above, the combat scenes are particularly exciting, as the fighting styles in the film are based on Muay Thai and Pinchak Silat martial sports, and are grounded in real-world physics. Thus when a character receives a punch, or when Raya blocks attacks with its dagger, it has a real weight that gives fights a greater sense of danger. And the first Disney princess from Southeast Asia will look even more powerful and adorable on the big screen.

Raya and the Last Dragon introduces a heroic journey with beautiful action-packed animation and is the next perfect development for modern Disney princess films. And while princesses like Moana and Elsa have spent their films learning how to trust their powers, the first Disney princess from Southeast Asia is a truly excellent fighter, able to defeat even the most powerful warriors (including her enemy and fellow Princess Namari). This gives Raya and the Last Dragon space to focus on themes of trust and the importance of finding friends and family who stand by your side and addressing concepts such as grief, the core themes on which Disney Princess movies are based that have not always been sufficiently explored.

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