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Raya and the Last Dragon

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Raya and the Last Dragon
Nog.jpg
“I believe that we can be Kumandra again. But someone has to take the first step." - Chief Benja
Genre: Animated
Fantasy
Action
Adventure
Directed By: Don Hall
Carlos López Estrada
Produced By: Osnat Shurer
Peter Del Vecho
Written By: Qui Nguyen
Adele Lim
Starring: Kelly Marie Tran
Awkwafina
Gemma Chan
Daniel Dae Kim
Sandra Oh
Benedict Wong
Izaac Wang
Thalia Tran
Alan Tudyk
Distributed By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: March 3, 2021 (Netherlands, Indonesia)
March 5, 2021 (United States)
Runtime: 114 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $100 million+
Box Office: $120.9 million


Raya and the Last Dragon is an American animated film produced at Walt Disney Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It was theatrically on March 3, 2021 in the Netherlands and Indonesia, before it was released in the United States on March 5, 2021 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures in standard 2D, 3D, Dolby Cinema, and IMAX formats and the 59th animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon.

Plot

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. However, when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned, and it's up to a lone warrior to track down the last dragon and stop the Druun for good.

Why It Represents Southeast Asia Well

  1. It represents myths, culture and people in Southeast Asia like the countries of the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
    • The two movies were the opening and closing spotlight at the NYICFF on March 5 to 15.
  2. Incredible voice cast performances. Kelly Marie Tran, in particular, did a great job for voicing Raya and has drastically improved in this movie, ever since critical flops such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  3. James Newton Howard did a great job for scoring this movie.
  4. Funny moments such as Sisu's plan to infiltrate Fang, Sisu getting glowing powers after touching Raya's first gem piece, and Boun rejoicing that they saved the world... only to topple over because his legs are still stone before taking a moment to catch up with the rest of him.
  5. Great animation that's visually gorgeous to look at, which is a big improvement from Frozen II and Ralph Breaks the Internet. It perfectly suits the fantasy setting and the designs of the characters.
  6. This film marks the first time that there's a princess protagonist in an action film that isn't a musical.
  7. The action scenes are pretty cool (Sisu rescuing Raya from Namaari, Boun, Noi, and Tong putting their hatred of the Fang tribe aside to help people escape from their crumbling city and the Druun by using the Dragon Gem shards to provide protection, etc.).
  8. The moment where all the heroes turn into stone is very emotional and dark, starkly raising the tension of the climax of the film.
  9. The different lands of Kumandra are really creative, such as Heart, Fang, Spine and especially Talon.
  10. Raya is a likable, relatable and decent protagonist, in spite of coming off as a bit of a hypocrite later in the film.
  11. Namaari is an enjoyable redeemed antagonist, despite her redemption coming off as somewhat rushed.
  12. The character designs look pretty good and beautiful. The colors used for them, as well as the backgrounds for the scenes, are stunning and the designs of the characters themselves are detailed and majestic (in spite of the fact that many agree that Sisu's original design was better than the one chosen), perfect for the film's fantasy setting.
  13. Great direction by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada.

Bad Qualities

  1. Sisu's design didn't sit well with most people when she was first revealed in early 2021. This led to many artists on Twitter to do their take on Sisu's design to make her more faithful to Southeast Asian dragons.
    • Many people were upset that Sisu had a design in one of the concept artwork for the movie that looks much better than the final design chosen for Sisu.
  2. Plot hole/Ass pull: Somehow, Sisu's dead siblings get resurrected at the end. While Sisu getting brought back after getting an arrow jammed on her heart and falling off a cliff is the typical Disney death trope, the fact her siblings came back just happened without any explanation. Like why didn't they come back the first time, yet they came back the second time?
  3. The modern humor used in this film, such as the "group project" joke, are kind of out-of-place considering the era the film is supposed to take place in.
    • Perhaps the scene when Sisu says a line about the relationship of her head and bottom which is very gross and unfunny.
  4. We don't get to learn much about the supporting characters including Sisu's siblings.
  5. The trust message, while a good moral, is pretty clunky and a little irresponsible. Sisu continually makes a big deal about how the world is broken because Raya doesn't trust people like Namaari, but Namaari continually gives good reasons why she can't be trusted, such as how the world broke in the first place because Raya trusted Namaari.
    • Namaari doesn't even apologise to anyone for all she did, not to Raya for essentially traumatising her, not to Raya's friends for breaking the world, and not even to Sisu for murdering her.
  6. While there is decent world-building, it isn't fleshed out further since the characters only stay at a location for a brief moment before moving on to the next.
  7. The story gets generic at times. Anyone who knows better knows that nobody is going to stay dead in this movie. Also, it does consist of the "fetch-quest" cliché.

Reception

Raya and the Last Dragon received positive reviews, who praised the animation, visuals, action sequences, characters, musical score, voice acting, story, and messages, though it drew some criticism for the lack of Southeast Asian representation among the film's voice cast. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 95% of 176 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.70/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Another gorgeously animated, skillfully voiced entry in the Disney canon, Raya and the Last Dragon continues the studio's increased representation while reaffirming that its classic formula is just as reliable as ever.", while the audience consensus reads, "There are no surprises in the story, but if you're looking for beautiful animation and a positive message that's fun for the whole family, Raya and the Last Dragon delivers.". On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100 based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Awards

Raya and the Last Dragon was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 79th Golden Globe Awards, but lost to fellow 2021 Walt Disney Animation Studios film, Encanto. It and Luca were also nominated together for Best Animated Feature at the 94th Academy Awards, both losing to that film as well.

Trivia

  • Raya and the Last Dragon is the Walt Disney Animation Studios' first original animated film since 2016's Moana.
  • Raya and the Last Dragon was originally scheduled to be released in the United States on November 25, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the film's release was delayed to March 12, 2021. On December 10, 2020, as part of Disney's Investor Day presentation, it was announced the film's theatrical release date was preponed to March 5, 2021, and would be simultaneously released on Disney+ Premier Access.
  • Sandra Oh would later star in Turning Red.

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