Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

raya and the last dragon poster 2021 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun family adventure

Rather typical Disney themes

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Raya and the Last Dragon

Studio:  Walt Disney Animation Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

Genre(s):  Animated/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Martial Arts/Family

Release Date(s):  March 3, 2021 (Belgium)/March 5, 2021 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

raya and the last dragon kelly marie tran

I’m like the Man with No Name…except my name is Raya and I’m a woman

Following an attack by a species called the Druun, the people of Kumandra are divided by infighting.  When Princess Raya of the Heart kingdom trusts Namaari of the Fang kingdom, her trust is turned against her and the gem that keeps the Druun at bay is destroyed.  Now five years later, Raya has discovered the last surviving dragon Sisu who helped turn back the Druun and created the gem.  Raya hopes that she can get her people back and restore the kingdom…but it is going to take a lot of trust and that is something Raya is short in.

Directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, Raya and the Last Dragon is a Disney fantasy adventure film.  Following Frozen II in 2019, the film is the fifty-ninth feature released by the Walt Disney Animation Studios.  The film came out during the COVID-19 outbreak and was also released on Disney+.  The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.

Raya and the Last Dragon is one of those rare Disney movies that isn’t loaded with uplifting songs that have become a cliché of Disney’s films.  It is instead largely an adventure film that still holds a lot of Disney aspects, but is a bit darker and more fantasy based.

raya and the last dragon sisu awkwafina kelly marie tran glow

I’m glowing!

The movie is set in a fantasy world and feels like something like Star Wars and Princess Mononoke.  It is largely still a kids/family movie though some of the ideas of the Druun are rather creepy and probably would have freaked me out a bit as a younger viewer (but I still would have liked it).  The movie ends up returning to the classic Disney themes of trust and forgiveness…you know that the movie is going to end ok and that probably could even be recognized by children.

The cast is good and shows some changes in Disney’s approach for representation.  Not only is are the characters all Asian in descent (despite Kumandra being a fantasy kingdom), but Disney also rightfully cast Asian actors to portray them.  Kelly Marie Tran leaves the Star Wars:  The Last Jedi controversy behind to voice the headstrong Raya while Awkwafina plays the trusting Sisu.  Gemma Chan is Raya’s rival Namaari bound by honor to her people while her mother is played by Sandra Oh.  Benedict Wong portrays the last warrior of the Spine, and Daniel Dae Kim is Raya’s father Chief Benja.  Izaac Wang teams with Awkwafina’s Sisu as Boun in providing a lot of the comic relief (along with a pickpocketing baby).

raya and the last dragon vs namaari gemma chan kelly marie tran

I’m proof that people deserve 30 or 40 chances!

Visually the movie also borrows from Star Wars and Princess Mononoke while combining aspects of martial arts films and westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  Overall it is a nice, good looking package.  In a way, I wish that the dragons had been less kid-friendly looking to give the film a bit more edge, but I understand their choice to make Sisu fun and light.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a nice action-adventure film that is packaged with slick looking animation.  It is a good “intro to fantasy” for younger viewers and has enough creep factor to remind parents that sometimes kids do like being a bit scared (if they know it will turn out ok).  The movie felt a bit overshadowed by the release of Disney’s follow-up film Encanto in November of 2022.

Related Links:

The 94th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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