"Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)" dazzling visuals : Movie review


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“Raya and the Last Dragon” dazzling visuals and exciting music from James Newton Howard.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is a gorgeous surprise after all the awful live-action (Mulan review) remakes from the dictator studios, sorry I mean Disney studios. Delighted to see an original movie after four years from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Kumandra, prosperous land where humans and magical dragons lived together in peace and harmony. The peace was threatened by the mysterious evil plague Druun, turning all living things into stones as it touches. The last dragons standing used their magic to create a powerful orb that destroyed Drunn and saved Kumandra. Dragon’s act of self-sacrifice for peace didn’t last long because humans behaved like humans, selfish. Five hundred years on, Kumandra has split up into five lands along with the orb split into pieces. Raya, the orb guardian, is on a mission to track down the legendary last dragon to obliterate the Druun that returned and restore the lost unity.

The most applaudable thing is they entirely cut off the romance. There is no need for a charming prince to save our princess Raya (energetically voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, from Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Raya is a badass, masterfully skilled in martial arts; it’s attractive to see her in combat, whether with her sword or hand to hand. However, the story isn’t as well developed as our lone Warrior Raya. The plot isn’t intriguing as act one, the backstory. It gets incredibly predictable and formulaic when the quest for orbs begins. And the humour, punchlines are entertaining most of the time. Still, I prefer it to have a little more action or depth to the plot with active dialogues like Pixar movies. Regardless of that, the theme of the film is impressive. The theme of unifying a nation with love, trusting others is a worthy lesson for the kids and adults as our world seems hopelessly divided.

The breathtaking fight choreography and colourful visuals are the best I’ve seen in Disney animation. Much of this Stunning look benefits from the architecture from Southeast Asian settings. The movie is directed by Don Hall (of Big Hero 6 and Moana) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting). One of the most poignant scenes for me is the finale, the fearsome battle between Raya and Namaari. And the mature emotional ending. But the transition between them is poorly written. Overall the tone seems inconsistent because of the formulaic flow.

An immediate standout of the film is James Newton Howard’s music. From “The Fugitive” to “Dark Knight,” an eight-time Oscar nominee probably will become nine with the upcoming awards for “News of the World.” Here the beautiful, heartwarming music score enhanced the magical scenes with dragons and elevated the action scenes.

Conclusion: “Raya and the Last Dragon” action-packed entertainer with stunning visual choreography and exciting music by James Newton Howard. It could’ve been so much better if not for the repetitive screenplay. Must watch for kids, worth watching for adults. My rating is 7/10.

Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure


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