Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people.

  • Released: 2021-03-03
  • Runtime: 107 minutes
  • Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy
  • Stars: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Jona Xiao, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk, Dichen Lachman, Patti Harrison, Sung Kang, Ross Butler, François Chau, Paul Yen, Calamansi Lindo, Ren Hanami, Sierra Katow, Gordon Ip, Jon Park
  • Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
  • I_Ailurophile - 15 December 2022
    A very well balanced, engaging fantasy adventure - and a lot of fun!
    The very best output Disney might ever give us must be taken with a grain of salt. The company's increasing efforts to spotlight cultures around the world, and the diversity of People and Life on Earth, is commendable. One's applause is tempered by the knowledge that they can and should be doing more, and moreover by the fact that Disney's monolithic stature overshadows or even pushes out smaller voices, marginalized communities and creators, who could be elevated in their own right instead of merely given representation in a corporate tapestry. These are the realities one must recognize even when animators are at the top of their game. With all this having been said, however, I don't think there could really be much arguing even from the very start that 'Raya and the last dragon' is a terrific fantasy adventure, a lush and imaginative film that's fully deserving of all the praise that it's received. I don't necessarily think it's perfect, but this is a really great time, and very much worth whatever it takes to watch.

    One of the best advances Disney ever adopted was shifting from making its princesses damsels in distress (Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella) to proactive heroes that shape their own destiny (Merida, Moana, Mulan) - now THAT'S Girl Power. Though accompanied by the caveat noted above, just as important has been the emphatic endeavor of giving wide audiences a glimpse of specific cultures (even if they are generalized to the point of not being immediately identifiable). It may be piecemeal, but the media giant is making progress toward being better, and being Something More all who might watch their content. With this in mind, 'Raya' is a swell snapshot of where we are: accentuating landscapes, culture, and people reflecting (to one degree or another) Southeast Asia, and casting actors of Asian heritage. And speaking of progress, it's safe to say that the animation here is unquestionably among the very best that the industry has to offer. Even just in design the landscapes, structures, weapons, and creatures are beautiful, and to see them before us is a gift. Active visual elements and action sequences are exquisite, as exciting as any we could hope for; if this were a live-action picture, the stunt coordinators and fight choreographers would be winning their own awards. And like the construction of every shot and scene generally, such sequences are often orchestrated with a mind for showing off still more of all the splendid designs that were conjured up in the first place.

    The story whipped up by the large team of writers, meanwhile, is wonderfully enchanting and compelling. Yes, the themes are familiar and important, as well as characterizations, and while the plot is a creature all its own, there are threads and ideas we'd recognize from other fantasy fare. Any such commonness seems unimportant, however, in light of the grandeur and abject fun this movie has to offer. There's plenty of meaningful humor sprinkled liberally throughout the length, a fine balancing complement for the thrilling action and violence; 'Raya' is filled with tremendous heart, contrasted with withering darkness; cheer-worthy bravado and daring-do, juxtaposed with moments of ponderous emotional weight. The narrative is fabulously well balanced, making it rich and absorbing from the very start to the very end - and only ever bolstered by James Newton Howard's truly stupendous original score, a panoply of dynamic and enticing themes that in their own fashion try to honor South Asian cultures just as does the feature at large. And all due credit as well to the cast for their superb voice work; to whatever extent I have or have not seen these actors elsewhere before, their contributions here are simply excellent. It hardly even seems fair to highlight one over another, for they're all just as good - Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, and even Alan Tudyk as faithful animal companion Tuk Tuk.

    There are times when the pacing seems a little forced and brusque; some beats would have benefited from being more drawn out to allow them to manifest, breathe, and resolve of their own accord. Like the tinges of familiarity in the writing, however, I think ultimately such instances are minor in the grand scheme of things. By and large this is a complete package - strong and substantive messaging, marvelous entertainment, welcome sincerity and passion in both its making and its storytelling. I had high expectations when I sat to watch, and still I'm so very pleased with just how super 'Raya and the last dragon' is. There perhaps aren't any real surprises; anyone who has seen family-friendly animated films of the past ten to twenty years know generally what to anticipate. Even at that, this is thoroughly enjoyable all the way through, and more grabbing and impactful than I cynically assumed. If you can't get on board with the genre then don't bother even looking, but for those who appreciate all it has to offer, this is very much worth seeking out. Two thumbs up from me!
  • sisubalan - 9 August 2022
    Huge dissapointment, overrated but still better than most
    Great animation. Not heavily on representating the south east asian cultures as promised. Shouldve been better if it was musical like mulan since the actions were underwhelming. Hence the fight scenes can be improved. Not a fan of how the dragons depicted and illustrated here. Hence, sisu totally unnecessary at least her attitude and design didnt works well with raya nor the world itself, as theres no chemistry between raya and sisu. The animation reminds me of legend of korra, which is great at least. Great experiment, not executed properly. Still recommended.
  • Alex_Lo - 21 June 2022
    The most disneyious Disney-Movie
    This Disney film is one hundred percent Disney, that's the best description I can come up with.

    There are too many sidekicks, but they are still likeable. The moral of the story is overused, but that doesn't make it any less valuable. The visuals and worldbuilding are stunning, the story is too formulaic. The story is cheesy and also beautiful. So simply Disney.