This is the first movie I’ve gone to in a year and I was unprepared to deal with how much I’ve missed it. I’ve been good, I’ve stayed home, I’ve avoided public places and gatherings, but to actually sit in a theater seat as I haven’t done since Onward last March was an overwhelming nostalgic feeling. I honestly forgot how much I enjoy going to the movies.
So, there was that. I was already in a good mood so Raya and the Last Dragon has that going for it. This is a very imaginative tale set in a fantasy world of fantastic creatures, magic, and dragons where a woman named Raya seeks to atone for trusting the wrong person when she was a little girl and goes on a quest to find the last dragon to rid her world of an army of monsters called the Druun.
As one would expect, Raya and the Last Dragon is a fun filled adventure with laughter and heart. We all knew that, right? Because, to be honest, I think Disney has heart and laughter bottled somewhere in their studios and sprinkles every movie they make with the stuff.
This is a pretty great movie and, unlike a lot of other Disney movies, it’s darker and has a bit of an edge to it. This is more The Black Cauldron than it is Frozen. No singing, but a lot of hand to hand fighting. No silly snowman, but lots of terrifying smoke monsters that turn people to stone. No love story, but… okay, wait… there might be a love story here just maybe perhaps.
The voice work is great, the animation is great, the story…
Okay, this is where I’m a little cold and I’m going to have to get into some spoilers here, so here we go…
The Druun escape and turn thousands of people into stone. It’s a huge theme for this movie: How a tragedy tears apart so many lives.
By the end of the movie, everyone is alive again.
Another theme in this movie is how people should trust each other. It’s hard to miss because it’s delivered with all of the subtlety of a cannon ball to the chest. Sisu, the dragon, believes so much in trust that she puts her life on the line to demonstrate that she trusts an enemy and… dies. The dragon his shot with an arrow and dies leaving the survivors in tatters trying to reconcile Sisu’s teachings with their own pain.
By the end of the movie, not only is Sisu resurrected, but so are all of the other dragons.
There are no consequences to anything and it’s so annoying.
Granted, yes, this is a Disney cartoon and its aimed for kids, but to see everyone grown and learn only to have everything handed to them at the end like they just won the lottery makes me feel like all of the hard lessons they learned were for naught.
Basically, it’s Ice Age all over again. Diego grows, Diego sacrifices his life, and then he shows up the last minute with nothing but a limp. Diego should have stayed dead, Sisu should have stayed dead… there should have been consequences, not a magical ending where everyone lives.
Perhaps it’s the cynic in me. Actually, I’m pretty sure it is… but that’s just how I feel. The movie wrapped everything up so easily that all lessons and growth were essentially jettisoned for a happy ending.
All in all, however, Raya and the Last Dragon is very enjoyable. I wouldn’t call it Frozen, Tangled, or Moana level entertainment, but it’s better than Ralph Breaks the Internet, so there’s that.