Raya and the Last Dragon – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Raya and the Last Dragon – Spirits of a Warrior’s Heart: A Disney Tale

Fantasy and adventure, the depiction of imagination makes the child within glow with a smile.  Disney is king when it comes to creating wonderful tales of escape.  Seeing different worlds brings a level of excitement, and this film is no exception.  In this review, I look at a film that provides depth and perspective through genuine detail.  With a stellar main character in a familiar journey, Raya and the Last Dragon is a lasting adventure that brings the feels with hope of unity.

In a world of broken factions and deadly creatures, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) searches far and wide for the mythical last dragon.  From the onset, you will recognize the traditional Disney formula: a world-building/exposition prologue, roll call of characters/initial conflict and a tragic motivational scene leading to an inquisitive journey.  This approach can be a hinderance at times, but the basic outline helps to layer purpose and worth within the unfamiliar.  Through narration, the audience is introduced to the world of Kumandra and how its downfall leads to the film’s first act.  Here, we are introduced to Raya, the various nations and the current worldly conflicts.  Raya’s father believes unity is possible and invites all the nations to the land of Heart.  The promising interactions do not goes as planned, which leads to dire circumstances: the return of the ancient evil Druun.  With her current life shattered, Raya heads on a quest to find the last dragon of legend, Sisu (Awakwafina).  If she can find the dragon, it is believed it will lead to the world’s salvation.  Even if the first act is pulled down by its level of foreshadowing, but slowly gleams with color through the world-building and unique character design influenced by Southeastern Asian culture.  As Raya heads out on her ‘global-trotting’ adventures, it leads to an aesthetic of realism through the faults of the past.  Every place and person that joins Raya adds creedence to her mission.  The thematic overtures add depth, leveling out the action sequences with thoughtful conversations.  As she crosses into different nations, the ideological mirror of personal indifference highlights the faults within, showing how the aspect of pride, purpose and family weaves strength in irony.  As the journey moves forward, it brings a level of poignant detail to an otherwise traditional Disney Adventure. 

As Raya builds a crew of unique characters, the manner of their introduction is a predictable, but fun sequences of action and folly.  Where story wanes, character, world and mythos ride high as they attempt to bring together all pieces of the Dragon’s Gem to rid the world of the evil Druun.  Through all her combative interactions, Raya’s conflicts with archrival, Namaari (Gemma Chan) brings a clash of reflective motives.  Foundational elements are true to the Disney formula, but their conflict goes above the typical ‘good vs. evil’ motif.  Both seek closure within the same guise, but it is in how they approach their missions that cause friction. As Raya and crew land in the nation of Fang, this leads into a third act that breathes tragedy and hope within the spectrum of all.  Seeking an end to the evil, decisions made move beyond predictable tropes.  This leads to levels with a sense of human levity to the typical ‘happily ever after’ climax.  Raya and the Last Dragon builds upon familiar tropes, but weaves an adventure that is filled with themes that goes beyond the typical Disney fairytale.  If you’re a fan of Disney, animations or fun adventures, this is one for you.  It is available on Disney Plus, but it is also a fun time for the family at the theaters.          

Full Score – 4 out of 5 (Full Price)

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