Raya And The Last Dragon (2021)

A Disney movie released straight to Disney+, the last time I watched a film on that that was supposed to get a cinema release it was Artemis Fowl, and that, that was not a good movie. I had heard rumblings that this was a good film though, so that was a positive.

After watching I can confirm it is really good. It just, it doesn’t seem very Disney. Well, it doesn’t seem very 2000’s Disney, 2020s Disney with a history of Moana, Big Hero 6 etc? That makes sense. Disney don’t always knock it out the park, but when they do the results often are spectacular. Truth be told it’s usually when they step out of their comfort zone that they come up with great stuff lately. When it seems like the writers just wanted an excuse for a holiday somewhere so told Disney they have an idea about somewhere exotic and warm so that they’d be flown out there for research. It’s when Disney stick to adaptations lately that they’ve failed (with one obvious exception) or when they’ve attempted sequels (Wreck It Ralph 2 is a terrible film and I will stand by that).

This? This is a thing of beauty. It’s a running joke that the most dangerous person to be in a disney film is a parent of the protagonist (doubly so if you’re being played by Sean Bean). This goes one further, it doesn’t just kill off the parent, it kills off most of the population. It killed off a higher percentage of the population than Thanos. Most kid films don’t start off with murder on this large a scale. It’s no just Thanos this film seems to emulate, there’s a moment near the end which is very reminiscent of the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy. Yes, Disney, we know you own Marvel.

While I’m on the subject, that moment near the the end I talked about? It should have been better. Spoilers ahead by the way. Basically the villains are things that turn people into stone, and this moment is the main group standing around as it envelops them and they start turning into stone, together. For whatever reason it didn’t really resonate with me. I just didn’t hit right. It may have been because there weren’t that many good facial expressions on the characters that really sold the “if we die, we die together”. You never really got the feeling that the characters felt hopeless, it seemed like they always knew the plan would work. Compare this to Toy Story 3, the moment in the incinerator where the characters didn’t speak, but you knew that in their head they accepted what was about to happen.

Moments like that are my main issue, there’s nothing bad about this film, but there’s a few things you’ve seen done better, or you feel the film is only operating at 90% of its potential.

I know this is something that will annoy a lot of people, but not the people who read this so fuck it: the representation of this film is fucking lit yo (how do you do fellow kids?). I can’t understate how important it is that this film exists and takes the care it does to properly represent other cultures. At least, I think it does that, I’m not actually from those cultures, so it could be woefully insensitive for all I know. But I haven’t heard any complaints about people from South East Asia about it so I’m thinking it did a good job. I mean, it is super depressing that it’s the first film Disney have made that’s based off South East Asian culture (and that they seemed to not differentiate between some of them), not as depressing as the fact that Kelly Marie Tran is the first actress from the area to lead an animated Disney film. She’s fucking great though. Although not the best part of the film. She is slightly overshadowed by Awkwafina as Sisu. She nails it, bringing a delightful exuberance and playful nature to the character. It’s helped by the actual character being incredibly likeable, a powerful creature with insecurities and lightness will always be appreciated by me and I love her.

So in summary. See it, obviously see it. There are times where it will slightly break you, but it’s worth it. The big downsides: it isn’t completely original in terms of story, plus I realised that Awkwafina, who voiced Sisu, released this a few years ago. So now my brain is thinking of an imaginary song about dragons called My Drag

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