Raya and the Last Dragon

I fought it as long as I could.

I am not a fan of Disney + releasing these movies on Disney + as a Premium premier film. Charging the customers an extra fee (especially the large fee of 30 dollars) to watch a movie on a streaming service that they already pay for is really Capitalism at its worst. While I paid for Mulan, I wanted to ignore the latest film Disney released in this manner.

It lasted about a day and a half.

Although I do not believe any movie would be worth spending that much money to view, Raya and the Last Dragon comes pretty dang close.

Years ago, humans and dragons lived together in the land of Kumandra. That time of peace would not last. When the monstrous creatures called Druun arrived, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity, leaving behind one gem of the dragon power. The lands of humans fractured apart and fought over the gem, ending the time of Kumandra.

Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) and his daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran)were the gem’s guardians, but Benja had a hope to bring the land back together and reached out to reclaim Kumandra. Unfortunately, betrayal would be the order of the day as Namaari (Gemma Chan), the daughter of one of the separate lands, pretended to befriend Raya, by sharing the connection they had over the rumor of the last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), to get her hands on the gem. In the battle, the gem was shattered and the different pieces went to members of different lands. This also saw the return of the dangerous Druun. which would turn to the humans to stone.

When Raya’s father turned to stone, she set off on a quest to reclaim the shards of the gem and find the last dragon to save the world from the Druun.

This film was immensely beautiful and featured spectacular animation. Disney continues its amazing animated work with this artistic masterpiece. The character designs and the settings are a master class of animation.

The voice cast was every bit as wonderful. There was subtlety in the voices that both inform and create character. Awkwafina’s work is extra special and both Tran and Chan play their parts perfectly. Add to the impressive voice cast Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Izaac Wang, Alan Tudyk, and Jona Xiao. The voice cast brought their top game to help tell this emotional story.

Now, the story itself certainly had some familiar beats to it. However, that was not necessarily a bad thing. It depends on what you do with the story that matters and the creators of Raya and the Last Dragon do a wonderful job of tugging at the emotions of the audience and creating new steps among the recognizable tale.

I believe the theme of this movie is one that is vital in today’s world. The shattering of the Kumandra society over material items and the loss of trust among the people led directly to the divisive nature of the land. The true magic only comes from trust and having the people of the world, despite their differences, work together for a common goal. This is a warning to the world that we currently live in that our separation can rob the world of the magic.

I am happy I decided to go ahead and pay the money that the execs of Disney deemed necessary for me to see this movie at home. I wish they would make such a fee a little more affordable so that the strength of this beautifully positive message could be seen by more people of the world.

4.5 stars

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