Raya and the Last Dragon: Disney+ Film Review


Disney’s latest animated adventure Raya and the Last Dragon comes to Disney+ on Friday for a premium rental fee. Is it worth the extra money? I would say hell yes!

Kelly Marie Tran voices Raya, a courageous warrior who has been training to become a Guardian of the Dragon Gem alongside her father Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim). People in the other divided regions of the land, formerly known as Kumandra back in its united days, resent Heart for having the gem, as they believe it brings them prosperity. As a sign of goodwill, the Chief invites his enemies to Heart to help heal old wounds, but instead, they fight over the gem and smash it, unleashing the Druun, sinister monsters which turn people to stone. Raya must track down the last remaining dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), and find and put the gem pieces back together to fight the Druun and reunite Kumandra once and for all.

Disney has set a high standard with its animated offerings in recent years and Raya and the Last Dragon is another worthy addition. My expectations were high and I still came away impressed. Sure, it doesn’t exactly break up the rulebook in terms of formula, but it works so why change it? Raya is a wonderful, charming adventure that children and adults alike should easily enjoy and, as always, it delivers a worthy message – this time, it focuses on the importance of trust and unity and how it’s better when you work together, which I thought was particularly relevant given the ever-growing divide in America these days.

It is also visually stunning and stylish, with gorgeous cinematography – some shots were so beautiful they literally made me gasp and say out loud “wow, what a shot!” – and beautiful landscapes, has some amazing fight sequences involving cool swords and wooden staffs, and an interesting-looking sidekick named Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk) who is a woodlouse/armadillo-type character who also serves as Raya’s mode of transportation.

Tran was perfectly cast as Raya, this fierce warrior with a heart of gold who could probably do with loosening up a little bit, which is where Sisu steps in. The dragon – which can shapeshift into a human with shaggy purple hair and oversized clothing – brings the fun and who could be better than Awkwafina and her goofy, awkward energy? She steals the show. More comedy characters join them on their journey – first, there’s Captain Boun (Izaac Wang), a 10-year-old boy from Tail who owns a boat restaurant, Little Noi (Thalia Tran), a baby con artist and her trio of animal sidekicks from Talon (they made me laugh the most), and gentle giant Tong (Benedict Wong) from Spine. I must also mention Gemma Chan as Raya’s nemesis Namaari (Gemma Chan) and her mother, Fang leader Virana (Sandra Oh), as the main human antagonists of the piece.

Disney continues to make strides with representation by setting the film in Southeast Asia and having all Asian characters voiced by a predominantly Asian-American cast. I laughed out loud often, I found the message quite touching, and generally had a great time with it.

Streaming on Disney+ with a premium rental fee from Friday 5th March. Subscribers will be able to watch for free from 4th June.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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