MOVIE REVIEW: Raya and the Last Dragon
Updated: Mar 6
Coming out today is Raya and the Last Dragon. I had a chance to watch the film in the early morning hours and really enjoyed it quite a bit.
Raya and the Last Dragon is directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada. It is headlined by several Asian American stars, including Kelly Marie Tran (Raya), Awkwafina (Sisu), Gemma Chan (Naamari), Daniel Dae Kim (Chief Benja) and Doctor Strange's Benedict Wong (Tong)
Disney describes the film as such: Raya and the Last Dragon takes us on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.“
Generally, I am more of a fan of Disney movies when they are musicals. All the movies revolving around Disney Princesses or, shall we say, heroines, are musicals. But, songs would not have made sense in this movie that's more like an action film. It was actually nice to break away from the mold to present a woman hero in such an epic film.
The look of the film is incredible and nothing like what Disney has done so far. The layouts are dramatic, the lighting is beautiful, the color is vibrant and the animation is fantastic. That's the only drawback to watching this on television is you don't get the luxury of experiencing the majesty of the film.
While you might not be able to tell from the trailers, there is still a lot of humor. I wondered if Awkwafina's Sisu would just be comedy relief, but she also had genuine emotional moments as well. There are actually several moments where I even got teary eyed.
The sidekicks are hilarious and adorable. Tuk Tuk is part bug and armadillo and has such a cute face. The Ongis, the three monkey creatures, are very fun. And the team Raya puts together are great, particularly Broun (Izaac Wang), who I think often steals the show.
The pacing of the film was amazing. I don't think there was a dull moment or lull in the film. I found myself often at the edge of my seat.
The choreography of the martial arts and fight sequences is quite magnificent. At times, you forget you're watching a Disney animated film. The movement is quite lifelike. I don't know about you, but I got major Star Wars vibes.
The score by James Newton Howard is beautiful with its use of different Asian instruments and sounds. He contributes to the epic quality of the film.
It was nice seeing so many Asian American names attached to this movie, but is it wrong for me to have wanted more? Don't get me wrong. I think all the people who worked on the film turned out a masterpiece, but representation matters and it would have been cool to have had an Asian American director or composer and such.
Raya has lots of great messages, including building trust and the benefit of teamwork. I highly recommend this movie to all film goers. There's a little something for everybody in this film. I am excited to welcome this movie into the long line of Disney animated films.
Raya and the Last Dragon is playing in theaters and on Disney+ through Premier Access.