Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directors: Don HallCarlos López EstradaPaul Briggs. Cast: Kelly Marie TranAwkwafinaIzaac Wang Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh

I must confess I wasn’t quite read for the beautiful visual spectacle that this latest Disney Feature had to offer.The lavish backdrops inspired by by Southeast Asian landscape of Thailand, Vietnam Malaysia, Indonesia and so on (as well as some of the more spiritual themes from those countries) were so evocative and rich in colours and details that at times were just breath-taking. But what was also very impressive was the expressiveness of some of the faces (particularly Raya) and the cinematography (if there is such a thing in animation).But it wasn’t just beautiful animation, the story too was deep and interesting and the action was gripping and exciting. All in all, this was a very very solid entry in the Disney canon. The only thing that bothered me a little bit was how some of the more traditional cute-Disney elements in the film didn’t quite seem to gel with the more ambitious, mystical themes (which was actually the most successful part in my view), the dystopian look of the world, and the Indiana-Jonesy-type of adventures.The cute rolling armadillo (is that what it was?), the con-baby with those weird animals (whatever they were) and in fact pretty much most of the comedic elements seemed to belong to a different film. Even the dragon herself, both visually and in the way spoke jumped out at me as Disney forcing his trademark classic formula into something which was a lot deeper and grownup.Awkwafina (who voices the dragon Sisu) is clearly trying to evoke Eddie Murphy in Mulan (or even Robin Williams in Aladdin, thought she’s got a long way to go to match that) and while most her jokes are probably cute, they are rarely funny or inspired.Now, it seems I’m trashing this film and that’s really not what I want to do. In fact I think it’s one of the best animated feature coming out of Walt Disney Animation Studios in the last decade and I’m only criticising it because I really wanted it to be perfect (and for the most part, it really was).

Disney is getting increasingly better at representing and pushing other cultures other than the more traditional western one and they should be commended for that, but I think they still need to refine the balance with their classic and the more child-friendly elements, because on this one it seemed to me they were holding them back from making a real masterpiece.

The film is out in the cinema right now (if you’re lucky enough to have cinemas open), and also available on Premium Disney+

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