Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
March 7, 2021 12:01 AM - Subscribe

In a realm known as Kumandra, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon and defeat the mysterious Druun.
posted by EndsOfInvention (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I thought this was decent. It had some good jokes, Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina were great, and the martial arts sequences were well done. My 9yo kid (big ninja and dragon fan) declared it "the best movie ever".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:03 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]

Oh, forgot to put in the post: Currently available on Disney Plus Premier Access (ie for an additional cost; £19.99 in the UK). Should be available for all Disney Plus subscribers for no extra charge in June.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:05 AM on March 7

Now, don't ask me what I'm doing in the wandavision threads, because disney+ isn't actually available in southeast asia, with the exception of Singapore (which naturally doesn't count /regional joke) and Indonesia (who only had a January launch via India's Hotstar partnership), so the fact this movie is out and we still can't really go to the cinema to watch a mashed up southeast asian movie with a cast of mostly East Asian-descent actors with the critical and key exception of Kelly Marie Tranh is very very 'funny' to me.
posted by cendawanita at 7:26 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]

It is not a southeast asian movie. It is an American movie.
posted by Quonab at 9:36 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]

I know :)
posted by cendawanita at 10:10 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]

Also, she spells her name Kelly Marie Tran.
posted by Quonab at 10:17 AM on March 7

Thank you! I completely missed that typo.
posted by cendawanita at 10:24 AM on March 7

Watched it with my three year old, which was her second time to see it that day. She spoiled the first encounter meeting the dragon "That's where she's going to find the dragon."

Also, in the beginning when Raya is trying to sneak past her father I said "wow, she's pretty sneaky" and the kid said "yeah, and her mouth is reeeaaaally big". In some later action scene when Raya narrowly escaped I said "whoa, awesome" and my kid said "I know. *whispers* It's so big."
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:12 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]

I live with a seven-year-old dragon nerd and she was I think a little peeved how much we thought she would love it and made a point of not loving it that much. She's also pretty upset by action/suspense, to be fair, and this is a genuinely exciting movie! I hope I can convince her to watch it again now that she knows it all ends happy. She specifically loves beautiful, kind dragons, which isn't a category you see that often in western dragon stories.

Me, I was writing enemies to friends to lovers fanfiction about Raya and Namaari in my head by a few minutes in. This is definitely the gayest Disney movie I've ever seen and I've seen most of the ones in the running for the title. That is some Tension, y'all.
posted by potrzebie at 12:29 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]

Raya and the Last Dragon’s Kelly Marie Tran Believes Her Disney Princess Is Gay | Vanity Fair

I enjoyed it! Namaari was definitely queer coded, I wish we had more than coding at this point!
posted by ellieBOA at 2:42 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]

As a movie, it's fine. A good story told well that will entertain audiences from 8 to 80. (I imagine my own little 7-year-old Dragon Master will think the fighting and chases are too scary.)

But the visuals are amazing. Absolute state of the art. I had mostly given up on animated movies because digital animation just doesn't do it for me, but this picture changed my mind.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:20 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

“How Disney's 'Raya and the Last Dragon' Found Inspiration From Southeast Asia,” Carolyn Giardina, Hollywood Reporter, 03 March 2021
posted by ob1quixote at 7:22 AM on March 9

I thought it was a pretty movie, and overall fine but very jumbled. Are we supposed to trust people, or not? Why does Sisu gain powers that ultimately don't matter?
posted by graventy at 8:45 AM on March 9

Awkwafina/Nora Lum makes a great cartoon dragon. And the film had a very pretty ending! Literally I watched it thinking "this would be really nice in a theater."
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:14 PM on March 12

Namaari shot first
posted by deric at 1:50 AM on March 13

Yeah, look, when someone pulls a gun and kills on another person, I am not personally very receptive to the "actually we are ALL guilty because you guys startled me" argument. I guess it is counterproductive to sit around assigning blame when you have an extremely pressing problem to fix (ehhh global warming). And I guess Namaari is psychologically resilient to the idea that she manslaughtered the last dragon because she's had to grow up with the idea that she was part of the reason the Druun were unleashed again. But like....yikes. Can you be too resilient?
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:57 AM on March 13

Have any other actual Southeast Asians watched this (especially Singaporeans/Malaysians)?
Like the "Fang" / bad-guy country stuff seems soooooo obvious and suggestive lol.

It is not a southeast asian movie. It is an American movie.

This movie is actually a lot more Southeast Asian than most people seem to realize. Amazed that a lot of reviewers (mostly Western, it seems) haven't picked up on some of the subtext and historical references in the movie.
posted by aielen at 8:51 AM on April 7

Also when you realize the Southeast Asian archetype Daniel Dae Kim's character is supposed to be embodying... his acting and interpretation are really off, tonally. He plays the character in a very, very East Asian way (more like a wise Chinese sage type - like Mulan's father) - and this really reinforces why Disney should have cast more actual Southeast Asian (rather than East Asian) actors for a movie based on Southeast Asia.
posted by aielen at 9:08 AM on April 7

There's a lot that I enjoyed in the moment, and I'm happy this movie exists, but I'm disappointed by the overall experience.

It was *gorgeous*, but the story was rushed and jumbled and so so so much of it felt too similar. Of Moana, of Coco, of Avatar The Last Airbender, of Mulan, of Star Wars. There wasn't enough space for the characters to really develop into their own people.

I didn't like the emphasis on a rivalry between girls, I didn't like the emphasis on fighting, I didn't like how awfully unstructured the worldbuilding was. I didn't like the "message"

Part of my displeasure is how I've put Pixar/Disney on a certain pedestal for storytelling, and how formative their animated movies were to me growing up. I always held them as a cut above Dreamworks and Blue Sky, but maybe that's misfounded now.

From the very opening sequence, I was put in the mindset of "Ok, how is this different from Moana?" and it took me a long time to stop actively thinking about that... and the comparisons came back again at the very end.

I really dislike how much stage setting was done in the opening sequence (age 10 Raya) and how little was done 6 years later. How did she survive? How did she grow up? How did society re-establish itself under the resurgence of the darkness? How did her understanding of her quest change during that time?

This may come off like expecting too much out of a kids movie, but Pixar used to make good movies that were appropriate for kids. They used to work to make manifest the idea of an all-ages movie that had the emotional depth for adults and the friendly faces for kids.

I might be particularly jaded right now because of the books I've been reading and the thoughts I've been thinking about tribalism, leadership, and scarcity. It had potential, but I just want to go watch Moana again.
posted by itesser at 9:53 PM on April 11

It's funny how the theme of this movie is "trust" given how often it lies to the audience and how often things just happen that the audience has to accept without explanation.

Lie: "Sisu the last dragon created the Dragon Gem and used it to banish the Druun"
Okay I can give them this one, since Sisu shows up to personally set the record straight. Why does everyone remember Sisu but not the four other dragons? Presumably the other dragons entrusted the gem to Sisu because "trust someone fundamentally untrustworthy" is a key component in making the magic work. (See also: Trusting Namaari)

Lie: "Dang Hai, chief of the Talon, has a piece of the Dragon Gem"
Despite showing Dang Hai alive when they first arrive at the Talon floating city, he's dead and a totally different character has the Dragon Gem. Fine, but why show him alive? Why not include a hint of doubt in Raya's intel?

Lie: "Raya will definitely be killed by the warriors of Spine when she goes there"
Apparently nobody knows Spine has been almost completely wiped out. Not Raya, and not the people of Fang who generally seem way more on top of things and ought to know the status of the other tribes.

Lie: "Having the Dragon Gem doesn't grant blessings to Heart"
Are you sure about that dude? Was Namaari lying about not having had rice in a long time (possible)? Everything else we see in the movie indicates that Heart was way better off than any of the other tribes. And apparently having the largest chunk of the gem has helped Fang fare better during the apocalypse.

Inexplicable things:

Why would Raya bring Namaari to see the Dragon Gem? Yeah, it's nice to extend trust to people but she's spent her whole life learning to protect it, and apparently taking one person into the chamber leaves the door wide open for anyone else to come follow.

Did Raya know the ritual she performed would bring Sisu back from... wherever she was? Who taught her how to do that, did she learn it from the dragon scroll? Did she even know what she was doing?

How DID Raya learn all this stuff? "Reunite the Dragon Gem pieces" didn't seem like her goal until she found Sisu and discovered the dragon has a link to the magic in the gems. And even though Raya has been galavanting around the world for the last 6 years a lot of her intel is wrong or out of date. Surely she'd know the Talon have a new Chief at least.

How did the Chief of Tail boobytrap her skeletal arm? With a trap that... drops harmless sand a good 50 feet away. Also those bugs are dangerous, unless you're running after someone then you can shrug off hundreds of them no problem.

"The Druun can't cross water" seems to be common knowledge but it sure didn't help the people of Spine. I guess being fearsome axe-wielding warriors means you stupidly attack something you can't fight and die uselessly. And when I say die uselessly, I also mean the women and babies all die too for some reason but not the old guy who is not the chief but has the gem piece for some reason.

Fang's army is apparently... a couple dozen guys with crossbows. I guess even Fang's budget is stretched pretty tight. Are the Fang children we see being taught by their Chief all the children in Fang? We never get much indication of how many people are left in the world but it really kinda seems like it's just the people we see on screen and things are way more dire than most people are acting.

Why was Fang so dead-set on being the bad guys? Surely "Fang was the only tribe willing to help Raya complete her quest" is as good PR as "Fang killed Raya and/or stole the dragon gem pieces to banish the Druun again." Also Fang seems to be doing the best in the new apocalyptic environment, other than not being able to expand past their artificial island. Why even stick your neck out?

Many are asking why keep trusting Namaari, but the real question is why does Namaari persist in being a shit? You'd think the instant she saw that a real dragon was with Raya she'd realize she was on the wrong side. The only thing that ever seems genuine about Namaari is that she really is a dragon nerd. Seeing Sisu moves her to tears. But she still takes until the absolute last possible moment to do anything remotely helpful.

The other dragons can bring Sisu back to life? Uh, okay sure. Can't have a good guy die needlessly and/or sacrifice themselves in a kid's movie. Why are there other dragons anyway? At no point was "resurrect the dragons" even hinted as a possibility. It sort of makes sense that if dragon trust brings back humans then human trust would bring back dragons, but the most pie-in-the-sky goal stated in the story, reuniting Kumandra, does not involve dragons coming back.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:07 PM on April 13

This is on regular non-premium streaming on Disney+ now.

It's ... fine? but feels very much like (a) lots of familiar things glued together and (b) an obvious attempt to recapture Moana's magic without much understanding of what made Moana work so well.

(And yes SO MUCH EXPOSITION crammed into the first 15 minutes. Here are the names of the lands; PAY ATTENTION there WILL be a quiz later.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:58 PM on June 7

Well, helpfully they give us the Kill Bill Here's Where We're Going Next titles for each chapter.

I enjoyed the film quite a bit, though the combo of a world-destroying nihilistic force and a blue dragon that you can ride on at some point in the film did get a specific song stuck in my head (which isn't fair to the movie, but I couldn't help it). Loved Awkwafina in this. Also enjoyed Con-Baby.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:52 AM on June 8

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