"Raya and the Last Dragon" (2021) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #96 Gem Mint 10.0
Updated: Mar 13, 2021
“Raya and the Last Dragon“ (2021)
Director: Don Hall, Carlos Lopez Estrada, Paul Briggs, John Ripa
Writer: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim, Paul Briggs, Don Hall, Carlos Lopez Estrada, Kiel Murray, John Ripa, Dean Wellins
Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Alan Tudyk, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Lucile Soong
Rated: PG for some violence and thematic elements
Runtime: 1h 47min
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Family, Comedy
"In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon."
You might like this if you like: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Animated Films, Disney Movies, Action, Adventure, Family Films, Fantasy, Comedies, Gemma Chan, Alan Tudyk, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Lucile Soong
Kelly Marie Tran (left) & Awkwafina (right) in "Raya and the Last Dragon" (2021)
What intrigued me initially about this film was the fact that it was an Asian oriented animated Disney film. That was enough. I purposely did NOT watch the trailer, but kept seeing posts about this guy Qui Nguyen associated with it and was immediately intrigued because of my own Vietnamese heritage. My middle name is Nguyen. I couldn't have been more excited! The representation was important to me, especially on a big Disney animated adventure movie!
Kelly Marie Tran (left) & Daniel Dae Kim (right) in "Raya and the Last Dragon" (2021)
The only voice actors I knew ahead of time in the film were Awkwafina and Benedict Wong, but I didn’t know who they were playing. Throughout the entire film, had no idea Kelly Marie Tran was playing “Raya” until the credits rolled. Everyone did a fantastic job! Awkwafina was a standout, but not in the way, or should I say the character, that I expected.
Absolutely gorgeous imagery, cinematography, and design. It did feel more like Marvel’s “Black Panther” (2018) in it’s representation of different clans within a culture. It certainly had that Marvel adventure feel full of action, laughs and heart as well.
Benedict Wong in "Raya and the Last Dragon" (2021)
Now I will say I didn’t love “The Smurf” dragons. I get it was fitting to the story in a way, but I like my dragons a little bigger, scalier and a little menacing. I did love Awkwafina’s character, though I credit that love to being an Awkwafina fan.
Kelly Marie Tran (left) & Gemma Chan (right) in "Raya and the Last Dragon" (2021)
At times I thought some of the imagery reminded me of “Mortal Kombat”, but like “Mortal Kombat” for kids. Especially Raya’s initial costume she wears in the opening scene. Nice homage to Renji from "Bleach" perhaps? There were definitely aspects I wished it had, though I could blame Grace Randolph for those preconceptions/anticipations, but overall it’s a HUGE step in Asian storytelling. I couldn’t be more excited for the doors it’s opened. It really it a beautiful little story full of some pretty damn good action for a PG film, wonderful characters, actors, and a fantastic world!
Written by Sam Gall on 03/12/21
CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0
"Raya and The Last Dragon provide spectacular performances from Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina, but will encourage conversations about trust, forgiveness, courage and fear,. Global leaders could take notes form this animated lesson for sure" - Carla Renata
"Raya and the Last Dragon might be conventional in its storytelling, but the stunning animation, lovely characters, beautiful music, and heartfelt messages won me over in the end." - Kevin L. Lee, Film Inquiry
"There's a darkness here that I think is lacking in a lot of modern Disney films, and I respect that it's message isn't just "believe in yourself." - Amy Nicholson, FilmWeek (KPCC - NPR Los Angeles)
"With Awkwafina taking on the role of the 'last dragon,' this sweet and sour mix of Mulan, Lassie and Avengers finds a wackiness that lets it float over the sea of cliche that washes over the screen from the first few computer-generated frames." - Katherine Monk, Ex-Press.com
""Raya and the Last Dragon," is so affecting and candid about failure and the faith required for second chances that you could be forgiven for forgetting that it's a movie about a girl attempting to save her mystical realm by locating a dragon." - Blake Howard, Dark Horizons
Behind the Scenes:
Available on Disney+
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