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Film Reviews

Review: Raya and the Last Dragon (Spoilers)

Being muscled into paying for premium access, Tarkan takes a look at the latest addition to Disney's stable.

Disney have come a long way over the years.

They have transitioned with the times, not only channelling more inclusive characters and casting, but moving away from the typical boy meets girl/Princess gets saved stories of old.

Admittedly, since having children, I have had a newfound appreciation for quality children’s TV shows and films and I can say with confidence that Raya and the Last Dragon comfortably fits into that distinction.

The story naturally follows Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), in a world that once had majestic dragons but a significant, climactic event unfolded and all the dragons were turned to stone, save for one according to legends.

After this event, the world was split into various clans, each named after a piece of a dragon, Raya is from Heart, while her rival Namaari (Gemma Chan) is from Fang. Other areas include Talon, Spine and Tail.

Raya’s father Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) dreams of reuniting the clans under “Kumandra” and as such, invites the various clans to Heart in order to discuss possible unification.

As you can probably imagine, this doesn’t go particularly well and thus sets the stage for the film.

As we flash forward, we see an older, less trusting and more cynical Raya. She is on a mission to see if she can discover what happened to Sisu, the last dragon.

Upon locating Sisu (Awkwafina), the pair embark on an adventure which requires them infltrating each remaining faction, in order to secure a piece of the old dragon magic. Each location also serves to provide introductions to each of the key side characters, Boun (Isaac Wang), Tong (Benedict Wong) and Little Noi (Thalia Tran), who each provide the bulk of the comedy factor within the film.

Raya faces off against Namaari

While the film delves into grief and loss, I feel as though ultimately, the key takeaway is trust. Raya, so scarred from being betrayed and the pain that betrayal has caused, is required to take a leap of faith in an unexpected, yet pivotal moment in the film, thus coming full circle.

The storyline played out somewhat predictably, but it was enjoyable nonetheless, the voice acting was excellent and the animation was superb. Watching in Dolby Vision on a 4K set was sublime. The audio was clear and concise and clearly intelligible through my soundbar system, so I imagine it would sound even better on a dedicated home cinema.

It is also worth noting that Raya and the Last Dragon is one of the few Disney films I’ve seen in recent years that surprisingly does not have songs throughout. Not that that is a bad thing mind you, and both my 5yo and 2yo managed to sit through it without getting too distracted, which is quite an accomplishment.

Conclusion

Raya and the Last Dragon is very solid, enjoyable family friendly film.

I already imagine I will be watching it over and over again, and you know what? I don’t think I’ll mind. Like Moana which came before it, I suspect Raya will be one of those films that people will be able to enjoy time and again and while it doesn’t have a clear standalone fan favourite like Dwayne Johnson’s Maui, the culmination of characters all combine to provide what makes the film as good as it is, and that is heart.

Recommended.

By Tarkan

Thirty-something father of two who stays up later than he should to juggle playing video games, watching TV and working.