Disney Animation delivers an action-packed epic that is absolutely thrilling in every way. Raya and the last dragon is full of martial arts, daring sword fights, and a mischievous cheat baby who almost steals the show. The well-written plot teaches valuable lessons about trust, friendship, and the division of tribalism. The film explores the folly of war with surprising depth and nuance. Children will go Raya and the last dragon very entertaining and hopefully more empathetic.
Raya and the last dragon takes place in an ancient land known as Kumandra. Humans and dragons lived in blissful harmony until evil beings, the Druun, attacked mercilessly. Humans and dragons alike were turned to stone by their dark magic. The last standing dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), used her incredible powers to defeat the Druun. The stone people returned to normal, but the dragons did not. Sisu mysteriously disappeared, leaving the dragon gem as the only weapon against the return of the druun.
Five hundred years later, humanity has split into five warring societies named after parts of the dragon’s body. The realm of hearts protected the dragon gem and thrived while the others quarreled and fought. Chef Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), the heart guide, believes that Kumandra can rise again. He invites Fang, Tail, Talon and Spine to a peace summit. His little daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) has diligently trained to be the Guardian of the Dragon Gem. She is suspicious of and suspicious of the other kingdoms.
At the summit, Raya meets Namaari (Gemma Chan), another “dragon nerd” and princess of the Fang. When Chief Benja’s hopes are shattered by a shocking betrayal, the resulting Fracas release the Druun spirits back into the world. Raya and her loyal buddy, an armadillo / pill bug named Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk), go on a desperate search for Sisu and defeat the Druun forever.
The fear of “others” and the blinding effect of hatred are thoughtfully addressed in the film. Raya’s experiences have reinforced her negative beliefs. She doesn’t believe in people at all. Raya’s discovery of Sisu challenges her perception. The dragon is not what she expected. Sisu is friendly, trusting and by no means the fearsome warrior of legendary lore. Sisu preaches that differences can be overcome for a greater good. This kindness and compassion are the greatest weapons against tyranny.
The supporting characters are a scream. Raya gains completely different allies on her journey. My favorite is a thieving “cheater”, you read that right called Noi (Thalia Tran). The Toddler Terror and their gang of Ongis, strange ape-like animals, are weird. They look delightfully cute and harmless. Then take your bag and transform yourself into an elite tactical strike team. Noi and the Ongis lead a robbery that made me laugh out loud.
The film has excellent animation and battle choreography. There’s a lot of sword fighting, but the hand-to-hand combat is just as amazing. Raya and the last dragon is an action extravaganza from start to finish. The violence is obviously stylized, but not without consequences. Characters are injured and wounded. Your mortality is another important learning point for the story. Being the best lone fighter doesn’t guarantee victory.
Raya and the last dragon continues Disney’s themes of female empowerment and cultural inclusivity. Raya, Namaari and Sisu are Asian characters who symbolize the strength of teamwork. The film brilliantly brings her hopeful story to a global audience. Raise your expectations. Raya and the last dragon is a production by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. It will be released in theaters on March 5 with a simultaneous Premiere Access streaming debut on Disney +.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or position of News Gob.