‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Movie Review: Awkwafina and Kelly Marie Tran Give Voice to an Inspiring Adventure
Raya and the Last Dragon is an animated martial arts epic inside an Indiana Jones adventure. Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina and Gemma Chan give voice to inspiring heroines, but there’s even more to celebrate about Disney’s latest animated classic. Raya and the Last Dragon has a message as profound and powerful as Frozen.
Where can I watch ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’?
Raya and the Last Dragon is coming to Disney+ for a premium VOD charge on March 5. It takes place in the world of Kumandra, or rather the aftermath of Kumandra as Raya (Tran) tells us. Humans and dragons used to mingle in Kumandra, but when the Druun turn everyone into stone, only the dragon gem saves the people. It doesn’t save the dragons though.
The kingdom separated into five, named after different parts of the dragon. Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) rules the Heart kingdom and wants to unite with Tail, Talon, Spine and Fang. Only, the other kingdoms use the meeting to steal the dragon gem, which splits apart and brings back Druun. Six years later, Raya is looking for the last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina) and the pieces of the dragon gem to save Kumandra.
The message of ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’
Benja tries to begin the healing process by inviting the other five kingdoms to the Heart kingdom. He knows how hard it’s going to be because the Heart kingdom is more prosperous than the others, and the others blame Heart’s possession of the dragon gem for their prosperity. This is pretty deep for kids, but how many leaders have scapegoated prosperous cultures for thriving?
Unfortunately, it takes more than one dinner to heal this rift, and breaking the gem stone does cause disaster to strike all the kingdoms. There’s no easy answer to diplomacy. That’s why warmongers thrive. Sisu’s ultimate point is it’s hard to break people of their cynicism. She spends her adventure with Raya trying to make her understand that hurt people hurt people, but trust is the only path out.
Raya and the Last Dragon asks its characters to make big choices. Continuing the cycle of cynicism may be easier, but it’s destructive. The badass adventure may be fun to watch, but the quiet act of trust is what can save the day.
Awkwafina and Kelly Marie Tran in animated action
That badass adventure is a fun way to get there though. There are several Indiana Jonesy caves full of booby traps that Raya must navigate. Raya has to get the four other pieces of the gem, and must navigate the four unique and distinct kingdoms to get there.
We have seen animated martial arts before, but Raya and the Last Dragon goes beyond Kung Fu Panda, Lego Ninjago and anime movies. They’re stepping on rocks to avoid water, flipping acrobatically and gracefully, all while wielding ancient weapons out of Shaw Brothers movies. Style and theme combine to make Raya and the Last Dragon another powerful Disney classic. Let’s hope Raya and Sisu have many more adventures.