As the latest Disney animated movie, Raya and the Last Dragon is an expectedly visually stunning movie with a decent story. Using a tried and tested formula, they created a movie that does feel predictable and a bit flat but with enough redeeming qualities to make you finish it. Just zone-out and enjoy the shit on the screen would be my advice. The focus on Asian mythology and aesthetic proved not only to be financially shrewd but also gave the movie an exotic vibe.
And it’s not like they haven’t done that before with movies like Moana, Mulan, or Big Hero 6. You have to respect the hustle here as they made a perfectly balanced movie that will tear up the Asian market. And be sure it will helm their Disney+ streaming service. Fucking Disney, hustle hard or don’t hustle at all. When the Raya and the Last Dragon started heating up, I thought that this is going to be the first in a long line of cringy, SJW, PC-friendly cartoons but I was wrong. Not entirely wrong, but for the most part.
And they teased the idea when Raya and Namaari first met with a vibe that I will leave for you to feel. However, this turned out to be just a fun and entertaining movie with a lot of great action scenes and captivating settings. Of course, the animation was phenomenal and at times even photorealistic. Even the cutscenes with a different style of animation looked awesome. The story is your standard-issue pseudo-religiously prophetic drivel but that is to be expected. This isn’t a Pixar movie, after all.
Meet Raya, a young girl living in the magical land of Kumandra. Five hundred years ago, the land was ravaged by evil creatures known as the Druun. They had the ability to turn people into stone. They were destroyed by the five last dragons who focused their energy into an orb that cast the Druun into oblivion. Raya’s father, Chief Benja is teaching her how to protect that orb while he prepares to meet with the other tribes of Kumandra. He hopes that they can unite and stop the fighting among them. That is not what will eventually happen…
You could say that Raya and the Last Dragon was saved by the sheer visual quality along with awesome casting choices. Awkwafina could not talk to you about her vag, but that didn’t stop her from being naturally funny and compelling. Kelly Marie Tran, Benedict Wong, and Daniel Dae Kim were also pretty good. Especially considering the script they had to work with. Disney was very careful not to offend or trigger anyone so we ended up without any real antagonists. This is all part of the same narrative of not taking any chances and being super cautious about everything that might jeopardize monetization.
I also liked the dragons and how they looked, resembling the ancient Asian depictions of these mythological creatures. This was also a problem for some as we all know how dragons look like. The most you can veer off course is How to Train Your Dragon and that’s it. The Druun were also great and nasty-looking like they escaped from The Dark, that uber-complex German television show. Zukunft motherfuckers!
In the end, there’s not much to say about this movie. You already know what it’s like and probably made up your mind whether you should check it out or not. I can only imagine how good this movie would be if you watched it high. And I will skip the whole racial issues that cropped up after the release. I mean, when you type in the name of the movie in Google one of the main questions is: “What ethnicity is Raya?”. I want to say what’s wrong with you people but since we already know that, I will keep quiet. Another good one is what gender is the dragon, like sheesh does it matter? And don’t get me started on the obsession with how much the movie made like it’s some commercial product. Oh wait, never mind…
Directors: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Paul Briggs, John Ripa
Writers: Paul Briggs, Don Hall, Adele Lim, Carlos López Estrada, Kiel Murray, Qui Nguyen, John Ripa, Dean Wellins
Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Lucille Soong
Fun Facts: The inspiration for the land of Kumandra were the Southeast Asian countries. Mainly Thailand and Vietnam, but also Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Laos.