"Raya And The Last Dragon" Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
The journey that Raya and her friends go on in Disney's latest film, "Raya and the Last Dragon" is an entertaining adventure to try and get back their loved ones and to reunite the fractured clans of her land.
There is an evil force that is sweeping the land, causing people to turn into stone. The magical dragons of the land come together to create a very magical gem, which stops the evil force dead in its tracks. A dragon named Sisu sacrifices herself to stop the evil force, and the all-magical gem now resides with Raya (played by Kelly Marie Tran) and her father, Benja (played by Daniel Dad Kim).
When Benja tries to unite all the clans of the land to be able to achieve Kumandra, which is when all the clans join together to become a unified nation. However, all the clans think they deserve the gem more than anyone, and a fight breaks out, destroying the gem and letting out the dark force that was defeated by the stone once before.
Six years later, Raya ventures on a journey to find Sisu (played by the hilarious Awkwafina) and the fragments of the gem to bring everyone together and fulfill her father's wishes of achieving Kumandra. Along the way, they are chased by the villainous Namaari (played by Gemma Chan) and make allies out of a little boy who was forced to grow up, a con baby, and a one eyed heavyweight.
This film seems like it does most everything right. I loved the cinematography throughout the film, especially during the fight scenes, where we get up close and personal with our two fighting characters. The animation is absolutely beautiful, and the characters and dragons are gorgeously designed. I also love the attention to detail that is evident throughout the film. For example, during the film when Raya meets the con baby and Sisu goes shopping, pay attention to the background of the film. There is so much going on, and there are people going about their day around our main characters.
The political themes present throughout the film are impressive for a Disney film, as it is projecting the society we live in. The clans dislike each other, but none of them have any reason for disliking the other. The clans know they're enemies, but are the future leaders in the clans brought up hating the others for no reason? Is there an actual reason for all the fighting and hate, or are we just following our ancestors?
Awkwafina is absolutely hilarious throughout this film, and her jokes always hit the mark. Tran also shines throughout the film, displaying a great understanding of the emotional moments through her use of voice and reactions. Tran has faced massive criticism and backlash over her involvement in the latest Star Wars films, but proves herself here as the latest Disney princess.
Unlike the other Disney princess films, this film isn't the traditional narrative of a young princess waiting for a handsome prince to come save her, or who feels obligated to fight to defend and save her land. We have a princess here who is willfully choosing to go on this adventure to save her father and reunite land. From all of Disney's attempts to showcase woman's power and equality for women, this film does it the best by giving us a fierce female character who does not give up no matter what.