Raya characters (Kelly Marie Tran) in Raya and the Last Dragon, like names like Merida, Elsa, and Moana, are leading Disney’s animation steps into a new era, as strong and independent female protagonists (not necessarily “Disney Princess”) , who isn’t involved in romance, doesn’t have to wait for a kiss from a guy to shine his light.
Whether or not this film is a representative of Southeast Asian people may spark debate, although the wave of protests for me is a form of disrespect for Kelly. A Vietnamese descent, who is trying to get up after being a victim of racism by Star Wars fans. His involvement makes this film worth celebrating. Best Movie Site
Apart from the issue of representation, as Black Panther did with African culture, Raya and the Last Dragon merged elements of Southeast Asian culture, in order to give birth to a fictional world called Kumandra, which looks different and looks refreshing compared to other Disney animations. A sequence at the beginning that summarizes Kumandra’s history, for example, is packaged using aesthetics like a puppet show. An epic, rather than a generic Hollywood flashback.
Once upon a time, humans and dragons lived in harmony in Kumandra. Until Druun, an evil entity in the form of black smoke with a purple glow at the core, attacked. Humanity survived thanks to the sacrifices of the dragons. All dragons became extinct, including Sisu (Awkwafina), who is said to be the greatest hero in the war. Sisu leaves behind a magical dragon jewel that protects him from the Druun, but the humans fight each other over it, eventually splitting them into five tribes: Heart, Fang, Spine, Tail, and Falon.
Raya is the daughter of the head of the Heart tribe, Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), who is in charge of guarding the jewels. Benja’s goal is to reunite the entire tribe, so that harmony in Kumandra can return. The four other tribes invited to a banquet, which ended in disaster, when Namaari (Gemma Chan), the daughter of the head of the Fang tribe, tricked Raya with the aim of stealing the dragon jewel. There was chaos, when the jewel accidentally broke, awakening Druun who instantly turned people to stone, including Benja. Once again, human civilization is under threat.
Several years later, we met Raya again. He was no longer a child. Accompanied by his best friend, a giant armadillo named Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk), Raya goes on a journey to collect dragon jewels scattered in each tribe, to revive Sisu, who is expected to be able to restore everything, including his father. Raya is armed with his father’s sword that looks like a giant keris (another interesting cultural touch), but the strongest weapon that makes him one of my favorite Disney female protagonists of all time, is courage. Through her voice, Kelly brings to life Raya’s courage. Movie Review
But there is one thing that Raya still has to learn, namely a matter of trust. It was difficult for him to trust anyone, especially after the betrayal of Namaari, who at the beginning of their meeting, behaved like a friend. Raya learns to put trust, when mankind is dominated by greed. Druun is not the main antagonist of this film. In fact, Druun can be viewed not as a monster, but as a plague, which was created to be transmitted by human greed, which is the real enemy.
In each region, Raya’s traveling companions increased. There is Boun (Izaac Wang, who stole the show with his debut in Good Boys), the 10-year-old owner of a boat restaurant from Tail, Noi (Thalia Tran) the cheating toddler from Talon, who launches an action with a trio of ongis (half monkey, half catfish), and Tong (Benedict Wong) the big but gentle warrior of the Spine. They are a line of colorful supporting characters who easily steal the hearts of viewers, especially the adorable Noi. The fact that apart from coming from different locations, they also have different personalities, ages and genders, also represent the main message of the film, namely the question of “unity behind differences”.
The manuscripts made by Qui Nguyen (Vietnamese descent) and Adele Lim (Malaysian nationality) are indeed neat about creating meaningful messages. The downside, the script is often rushed. The plot often seems to move through shortcuts, including several simplifications, such as the effort to raise Sisu too easy. According to legend, Sisu’s soul still resides at one of the many river ends of Kumandra. Of course, as a mysterious and legendary creature, his awakening wouldn’t be as easy as casting a simple spell, right? Well, think again.
Set in a world full of magic, apparently this does not automatically prevent Raya and the Last Dragon from a generic plot. In fact, it tends to be like a video game consisting of a row of checkpoints, where our hero arrives at a location, passes several obstacles, picks up gems, then heads to the next location to carry out a similar process. Likewise, the handling of the action of the duo of directors, Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh, Big Hero 6) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting), although far from being “bad”, is not as fantastic as the premise.
Luckily, all the shortcomings above are paid for by their ability to process flavors. Don’t expect an epic dragon battle against monsters at the climax, but that’s where the peak of the film’s emotions lies. Because Raya and the Last Dragon is not a story about physical battles, but inner. I was reminded of the climax of Guardians of the Galaxy, but with an emotional impact many times over.
I was moved not only because of the drama element, but also by its beauty. The visuals are a feast for the eyes, but no matter how beautiful it feels to see Sisu flying in the rain, the greatest beauty comes from the close-up view. Especially at Heart. The green landscape, rows of coconut trees, and the wet plains after the pouring rain made me want to stand up, feeling the splash of the morning sun there. Top Movie