Review: Raya and The Last Dragon

I mentioned I watched this movie, but it wasn’t really the focus of that post. So here are my thoughts on the movie.

So I was distracted trying to pinpoint aspects of various cultures, and there really are some interesting references to various cultures. I, personally, really like it. I never thought about mismashing viking culture, monogolian culture, and japanese-northern cultures together (they did!). It works really well surprisingly.

The world is pretty amazing really. I think it’s one of the best parts of the whole thing. It was really unique. I feel like it was a brave decision to produce the movie with such an interesting and challenging world to build up.

The plot is not complicated (it is a kid’s movie), so I can’t think of anything that surprised me. I would say it probably follows the very typical beats of “high-low-high-low-done.” Without doing an in-depth dissection, that’s how it felt. I don’t want to give spoilers, but I can’t make promises.

There ARE some plot holes, probably nothing a 9-year old would notice on the first watch-thru, but they definitely jumped out at me. Things like “this dragon has been gone for 100s of years and when the protagonist shows up, the dragon is just there. And there is no explanation why the dragon was…. asleep(?) for 100s of years. Because the dragon doesn’t realize time has passed. The protagonist doesn’t do anything special per say. Hell, she’s following a myth to FIND the dragon – which implies someone else knows the dragon is there and…. didn’t wake up said dragon? Like there are explanations that could work to explain this, and a single line could have done it – but if it was in there I missed it.

The characters are good. Not great. I mean, again, this is a kid’s movie – I really have to repeat this for myself to put it in context. It’s hard to world-build, character-build 4-5 good characters, and have action sequences in a 130-minute movie (Google says 154 and I bet its 20 minutes of credits). It ran long for a kid’s movie, but there is a lot to unpack. There are really 2 characters I feel like got fleshed out, then there are 3-5 caricatures. Fun, but hardly deep characters.

Comparing Raya to other kid’s movies, I think it is really good. I really hope that the controversy around it doesn’t prevent Disney from continuing to explore interesting, new, different ideas and voices.