Movie Plot – Raya and the Last Dragon: In a realm known as Kumandra, an Earth in a new guise, inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon.

Directors: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Paul Briggs, Carlos López Estrada
Writers: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim
Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Benedict Wong

A new Disney movie

I love that Disney tries to diversify in a good way. They create films inspired by different cultures. So you get movies like Coco, Alladin, Mulan, Pocahontas, and others. This time, the epically intended story is set in a fictional Southeast Asian country. The production team drew inspiration from a handful of countries.

You see different Eastern influences, which is always a good safe choice when you involve dragons in your film. In comparison with Mulan of 2020, Raya trained to be a bad-ass fighter. Something I appreciated very much. Also, the fights are so amazing and beautifully shot. I’m glad to see some more action in Disney films.

Danger lurks around the corner

When Raya’s father invites the four rulers of the surrounding lands to an ultimate attempt at peace, it soon becomes apparent that the neighbors are only after the gem. After an argument, the gem shatters into pieces, and each of the rulers takes a shard back to his or her own realm. The action has simultaneously awakened a destructive force. Raya sets herself the task of searching for the shards. However, she begins by finding the last remaining dragon, according to lore. In this way, she hopes to stop the destruction of Kumandra.

At first, I was wary as she had to go every village to take a shard and was wondering if it was going to be too much. Lucky for me, I was wrong. Every village had its exciting culture and architecture, which made this all so fun.

Productions from Disney’s animation studio and in-person rival Pixar stand or fall on a good story, and that is sometimes of questionable quality here. Raya must finish off the rival neighboring countries one by one and eventually comes face to face with the guardian of a shard of the shattered gem. These bosses are attacked in various ways. Sidekicks are also used, such as a baby lure with a group of monkey-like creatures and a young skipper who is only too happy to serve Raya and her new companions’ spicy meals. The overgrown rolling woodlouse of Raya, which also serves as a means of transportation, does deserve an award for originality. However, the story isn’t comparable to a movie like Pixar’s latest Soul, where the message really hits me on a personal level.

Beautiful animated shots

There is a lot of eye-catching locations that range from bamboo forests to mountainous areas and from deserts to a crammed brightly lit city due to the enormous diversity of the countries of Kumandra. You can’t help but get the impression that the writers and animation artists have taken a good look at the game industry. For example, the locations in particular seem to have been inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the groundbreaking game from Nintendo’s famous video game series.

If you’ve watched the trailer, then it’s no surprise that Raya quickly manages to track down the last remaining dragon the title refers to. The dynamic that the main character maintains with the smooth-talking dragon Sisu is an important story catalyst and humor generator. Actress and rapper Awkwafina lays it all on top in her portrayal of the naive dragon. Sometimes, she can be too much. However, I’m nitpicking now.

I have to admit that I absolutely loved what they did at the ending. Can you expect it while watching the film? Well, yes, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a wise decision.

Conclusion

This movie is beautiful to watch. The visuals alone are a masterful achievement by Disney. It is hard not to focus solely on the fantastic animation that surrounds the film. Overall, Raya and the Last Dragon is proof that the Disney formula can work, but in terms of story, it may not be as strong as Disney’s other films.