Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim’s Raya and the Last Dragon is the latest addition to Disney’s growing repertoire of intellectual properties.
Produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios, Raya features the first South-East Asian princess in a Disney movie (Mulan being Chinese). So is it any good, and should you see it? Let’s take a look.
Raya and the Last Dragon featuring a predominantly Asian-American cast, with Kelly-Marie Tran playing the protagonist Raya, and Awkwafina playing the last dragon Sisu. Voice acting is on-point, with Awkwafina providing the laughs as Sisu with her disarming sense of humor.
Some 500 years before current day, Kumandra was a striving and united kingdom. Humans and dragons lived side-by-side, happy, in a type of Eden on earth. That was until the evil spirits known as Druun emerged, ravaging everything in their path, and turning humans (and life) into stone.
Raya and the Last Dragon Review: Qui Nguyen & Adele Lim’s Creation of the First South-East Asian Resounds
That was when the last remaining dragons made their final stand to save the world, and created the Dragon Orb: a concentration of their combined powers into one.
Sisu was chosen as the guardian of the orb, watching his fellow dragons get turned into stone as he channeled the powers of the Dragon Orb to fend off the Druun. Every human turned into stone was turned back at that point, but the dragons were not.
As we can expect, the power of the Orb took on legendary meaning, and human selfishness began to reign in the land of Kumandra. The once-peaceful unified state was then divided into 5 different states: Fang, Heart, Tail, Talon and Spine.
It was the Heart tribe that possessed the Orb, and took on the responsibility of guarding it. Enter Raya: daughter of the Dragon Orb guardian, Chief Benja of the Heart Tribe. Thus are the events that lay the groundwork for the events unfolding in Disney’s newest animated movie.
After being kept in check for 500 years, human greed finally conquers and Raya is betrayed by Namaari of the Fang tribe. The ensuing struggle leads to the Orb getting shattered into 5 different pieces, and the reemergence of the Druun.
What ensues is Raya’s struggle to recapture the different pieces of the Orb to put it back together, and restore its power to fend off the Druun, who have laid waste to the lands of the former kingdom of Kumandra.
Raya truly shines in its attention to detail. With hints of Southeast Asian culture abounding, one can really feel as if teleported. Durian fruit, floating cities, spicy food, straw hats and martial arts are but a few of the different elements of Southeast Asian culture.
Although the plot isn’t groundbreaking, it keeps the action flowing and never gets dull. Raya and Sisu, the two protagonists throughout most of the movie, have plenty of personality and give the movie its charm.
I watched Raya and the last Dragon with my kids not knowing exactly what to expect. I came out unexpectedly surprised by just how much I enjoyed. I think my favorite aspect of the movie is that it really put a lot of effort in its ending.
This was one of the deepest, most intense and satisfying endings in a Disney animated movie that I’ve seen in a long time. I won’t spoil it here, but the ending alone makes this a must-see this year. I have no doubt Raya will turn into a classic and merchandise monster. My rating: 8/10.
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