In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon.
‘Raya and the Last Dragon’, Disney’s latest animation, has arrived with minimal fanfare with cinemas mostly closed and a release direct to streaming via Disney Plus. As the title suggests, this is an adventure movie set in ancient Asia, telling the story of a young girl called Raya who must retrieve the missing pieces of a sacred orb, in order to revive her father. For some reason I was expecting it to be a musical (not sure why I was expecting it to be one), but it is more of an adventure fantasy with some buddy comedy elements, through the central duo of Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and the dragon Sisu (Awkwafina). I thought this was a minor Disney effort, an enjoyable enough story but not one that’s likely to be remembered in a few years time.
I think that’s partly down to the film following a fairly familiar path, adhering closely to the quest narrative without providing many deviations or surprises along the way. I did think it had some good humour and the world was brought to life well, with some terrific voice work (Awkwafina was made for voicing animation!), but I wasn’t fully invested in the story. Once the opening coda is out the way (I think kids may struggle to follow this bit), it settles down and established the characters and the world well, but I did find my interest waning as time went on, with the repetitive nature of the quests not helping.
If you’re a fan of Disney’s work there is much to enjoy in a film that follows the well established formulas with a few twists in terms of the location and premise, but for me, I thought ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ was fairly average and forgettable.
Directed By: Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada
Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Izaac Wang, Thalia Tran, Alan Tudyk, Lucille Soong, Patti Harrison and Ross Butler