I have been super excited about Raya and the Last Dragon for so long, a part of me felt like the movie would never actually come. But at last, the movie became available on Premiere Access on Disney+ and against all the odds I found myself paying up the $30 to check it out on release day because the film looked that good in the previews.
As it turns out, this was a great decision to make, because Raya and the Last Dragon is amazing. Seriously, believe the hype you hear about this movie because this is some of Disney’s best work. The story is set in the fictional world of Kumandra, which is based on various parts of Southeast Asia. With her world threatened, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) sets out to find Sisu, the Last Dragon (Awkwafina) and save the world.
With a premise like that, you might think you know how the story is going to play out, I know I did. And I was completely okay with how I thought the story was going to go: girl goes on an adventure, girl finds dragon, girl saves the world. However….that’s not what ended up happening because the movie is about so much more. To be sure, there is a LOT of girl power in Raya and the Last Dragon, and I loved every minute. But at the end of the day, the story isn’t just about a heroine saving the world, or even two or three heroes getting together to save the day. The real story is about coming together and trusting people, and building a better world on that basis. Given how messed up the world has been with racism and similar issues, the message in Raya and the Last Dragon couldn’t be more timely. There’s also a strong message about taking responsibility for one’s actions. I admit to being resistant about this particular message, but the character pointing this thing out was right: you need to admit when something is equally your fault and not just blame the other person.
Along with this amazing story is an equally awesome voice cast. Kelly Marie Tran absolutely kills it as Raya, it doesn’t take much and you’re completely hooked into her character. This is the type of Disney princess I’ve been dreaming about for years, even Queen Elsa (despite her awesomeness) didn’t quite hit the nail on the head for me as much as Raya does. She’s a badass warrior, but also sweet and compassionate. Watching her grow from beginning to end of the story is a fun experience.
And pairing her with Awkwafina’s Sisu makes one of the best parts of the movie. Sisu is nothing like what I was expecting, but that’s okay because I loved every minute of screen time she had. I’ve never seen a dragon like Sisu (I’m used to large scaled dragons like Smaug) before but she’s beautifully animated and she feels alive, which is a sign that you’ve nailed the CGI.
Then there’s the music (you know I had to mention that part). James Newton Howard, one of my favorite composers, has put together an amazing score that helps bring the different areas of Kumandra completely to life. As you might expect, it’s tinged with elements of Southeast Asia as well, I’m sure a behind the scenes look would confirm that a number of traditional instruments were used in the instrumental mix. The music definitely helps create the idea that the different areas of Kumandra are their own separate and unique places.
All of this is to say that Raya and the Last Dragon was not only worth the wait, it was also worth the $30 I paid to see it now instead of waiting until June. Disney has put together a story that honors its Southeast Asian inspiration, while also creating a new world that I would be more than happy to visit again. And the story will take you by surprise in the best way possible. I would love to go into more detail than that, but to say literally anything else would be giving too much away. You really do need to see this for yourself.
Go watch Raya and the Last Dragon (available now through Premiere Access on Disney+) and then let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!
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