‘Raya and the Last Dragon’: Review

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Disney has just released their new action packed adventure “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The film tells the story of the people of Kumandra, a fantasy world based on South Asian culture. Kumandra was once home to both humans and dragons, but when the dragons sacrificed themselves to save the humans from the evil Druun, the humans turned against each other. To fix the world and stop the Druun, a princess named Raya,voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, must find the last dragon.

The plot was so exciting and unique to me when I saw the trailer. When I finally got to watch the movie, the story pulled me in from the beginning and kept my interest the entire time. Although, the sequence of events was quite predictable. There aren’t a lot of surprises in this story, it went pretty much how I expected it to go. The one and only twist comes at the very end of the movie and gives it the edge it needed.

The world of Kumandra may be broken, but it does not lack beauty. Each land Raya and the last dragon Sisu, voiced by Awkwafina, visit on their journey is unique and gorgeous, such as a fantastically lit marketplace on the water, a snowy village, an elegant kingdom surrounded by canals and more. Disney’s animators did an incredible job with structuring a realistic yet alluring physical environment for such fantastic characters to live in. 

Raya is a strong-willed and strong-armed heroine that continues the trend of Disney redefining what it means to be a princess. She is skilled with a blade and never backs down from a fight. Raya’s journey in this movie is one of emotional growth. After facing a life-changing betrayal in her childhood, she must learn how to trust people once again in order to repair her world. I found Raya to be a really inspirational character. She may be strong but she isn’t perfect, and I think that’s a great thing to see from a female character. As she learned to trust others once again and fight the positivity in the world, I found myself wondering if I needed to do the same. Also, I really loved seeing a princess use a sword.

No one is a better companion on Raya’s journey than Sisu, the trusting and hopeful dragon. Frankly, Sisu could be a little annoying and obnoxious, especially for viewers like me who are no longer small children. It’s also worth mentioning that her voice acting seemed a little weird at times. Awkwafina is by no means a bad voice actress, but it just didn’t always seem up to par with some of the other voice actors’ work in the movie. This wasn’t helped by the fact that she had to read lines that reference things like working on a school project, and I don’t really understand why a dragon living in a fantasy world would know anything about that. 

Overall, Sisu is your typical Disney sidekick with her witty comments and physical comedy, but does she bring a lot of heart to the story. Despite her annoying and awkward moments she is quite loveable and teaches valuable lessons about trust and friendship that made me tear up at times. She offers the most profound quote of the entire movie: “Maybe [the world is] broken because you don’t trust anyone. You just have to take the first step.”

Raya’s world is a lot like our own: divided and damaged. But the tale of Kumandra serves as a reminder that it’s never too late to make things better. Sometimes, you just have to be the one to take the first step.

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