Raya and the Last Dragon
4 out of 5 Stars
Directors: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
Writer: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim
Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Rated: PG for some violence, action and thematic elements
SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Synopsis: For years, the Druun, a race of monsters who turn those they touch into stone, have been kept at bay by the power of a magical stone made by the legendary dragon Sisu. When the stone is shattered, the Drunn return.
Review: Our story takes place in the land of Kumandra, a once unified nation that has split into factions. A tentative peace exists between the clans. A peace that will go up in flames with the smallest of friction.
Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) is a spirited young woman who, despite her father’s best efforts, is wary of anyone who isn’t a part of Kumandra’s Heart, her village. Her tribe has prospered; others have not been as lucky. For those on the outside looking in, Raya’s family’s comforts are directly related to a powerful stone Kumandra’s Heart possess that was left behind by Sisu, the dragon who banished the evil Druun 500 years before.
Raya’s father, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), wanting to reunify the clans, invites the leaders of all the local tribes to attend a feast. It goes so poorly that the Druun reappear and turn half the partiers, including Benja, into stone.
Raya is forced to embark on a journey where she’ll need to learn how to trust those who cross her path. Trusting those who have already betrayed you is a difficult thing to do.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” is an Asian-inspired story of a young woman who is forced to embark on a quest to save her people. It’s a common refrain that we’ve seen in numerous times throughout history in fiction and non-fiction. I’m not being dismissive. It is films like this that have inspired me throughout my life to go out and be more than I currently am. None of us are completely prepared for what comes next. There are times when we must rise to meet the moment.
"Raya and the Last Dragon" is beautifully animated with solid performances from the voice actors and a script that is simple, direct and effective. I wanted to be a little more emotionally involved. There are a couple of beats that just don't hit quite as deeply as they should. Nevertheless, it checks off the intellectual boxes without being too dense for younger audiences to grasp the full message of the film. I love that the positive ending comes with a struggle. It acknowledges that it isn’t easy to trust and that in any given situation a single person can make things better or worse for everyone around them. I want to be more like Raya, particularly who she is at the end of the film. I’ll get there. Hopefully you'll be there with me.