“Raya and the Last Dragon” Review

Story posted March 12, 2021 in Arts & Entertainment by Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu.

After its delay last year due to the pandemic, “Raya and the Last Dragon” has finally been released on Disney Plus and selected theaters. The film continues the increasing representation from Walt Disney Studios and the voice cast includes Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Sandra Oh, and Benedict Wong.

“Raya and The Last Dragon” tells the story of a young warrior, Raya (Tran), as she journeys through the broken land of Kumandra and searches for the last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), in order to restore peace and unite Kumandra.

The film contains perhaps some of the most mature and complex themes in the studios’ history. The themes include forgiveness, trust, and the film took a risk by showing its audience the darker side of humanity. .

Raya shuts people out because she's been betrayed by her friend when she was young. Sisu wants peace because she believes in humanity, and Namaari (Chan) struggles to choose between saving everyone or saving her people.

Each characterization is complex yet justified, and the voice cast did a phenomenal job bringing these characters to life, specifically Tran as our heroine, Raya and Awkwafina as Sisu the last dragon.

Tran captured the fearlessness and vulnerability of Raya in a moving performance. Awkwafina’s voice performance as the dragon, Sisu, reminisces Eddie Murphy’s Mushu or Robin Williams' Genie.

The animation, as one would expect from a Disney film, is another visual marvel. The film takes its time focusing on the vibrant East Asian culture and also the stunning action set pieces.

Even with the great accomplishments, the film can feel a little overstuffed with the plot and the amount of side characters can sometimes be distracting to the main characters, and these flaws can bury the real message of the film.

Nevertheless, the film filled the 107 minutes runtime to its best. The stunning animation that respects the Asian culture and the incredible voice acting made “Raya and the Last Dragon” an instant Disney classic that tells a simple but touching story of trust and uniting, and it is perhaps the perfect movie to watch at this divisive time in our society.

The audience is also witnessing the growth of what a Disney “princess” is supposed to be, Raya is unlike any Disney heroine we have seen before. One could only imagine what kind of story and what kind of characters Disney will make next.

Rating: 4/5

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu is a senior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email jfl5603@psu.edu