It’s been a while since the 2021 Disney animated movie ‘Raya & The Last Dragon’ came out, but I got the ‘Disney+ Premium’ subscription only recently, so I finally saw it. A close friend of mine had mentioned how we are “too old & jaded” to enjoy it, because it’s largely aimed at children. But you know what, I was joyous like a little kid while watching it.
Here’s the biggest strength of the story – the colorful animation and the fact that it’s set in a mythical realm called Kumandra, steeped in the lore of dragons and magic. All the dragons are gone, but they were wiped out while saving mankind from a deadly plague which would turn living beings into stone. But with the plague and dragons gone, Kumandra scatters into five warring kingdoms, each trying to take control of the last piece of dragon magic left in their land. It’s up to the warrior Raya, to find the last dragon and restore Kumandra to its former glory again.
Raya has no romantic distractions, so the plot is completely focused on her quest, so full points for a completely asexual themed story. There are the usual emotional tropes that Disney uses in all its other films that we see in this one too – people losing family, failing to trust each other, and being greedy back-stabbing villains who make the protagonist lose faith in everything. The word ‘trust’ is used a little to often and can get a little overbearing for adult viewers, but one doesn’t suppose younger viewers will pick up on it.
Kelly Marie Tran has voiced Raya’s character, but it’s Awkwafina who stands out with her distinct playful husky voice as Sisu, the last dragon. There’s this lovely comic-book style animation used for a few seconds in the second-half while the characters are planning an ambush that is done very well. Some more of the mixing of art-styles could’ve made it more fun. Indian viewers will notice how the main dragons have Hindi name – ‘Sisu’ is very close to the word ‘shishu’ which mean baby and the dragon happens to be the youngest of her siblings. The other Hindi names are ‘Pranee’, ‘Amba’ and ‘Jagan’. The dragons themselves aren’t as grand as one would want them to be and look more like animated plush toys. It’s Awkwafina’s voice that gives a whole lot of personality to the ‘last dragon’, than the dragon in itself.
Some of the background music was a little funny in the first half, an awkward mix of western & Asian beats, but it gets a lot better and upbeat as the plot progresses. I loved how there are several strong women characters, although, we don’t get enough back-stories to them. The climax is a wholesome family-film affair and will have the non-cynical viewers happy and satisfied. A great pick for kids.
It’s a 7.5/10 from me.
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