Silas Gonzalez ’24
As an avid fan of Disney movies, it was exciting and refreshing to hear about a new film being made by the company. Their new, action-packed adventure, Raya and the Last Dragon, tells the story of Kumandra, a fantasy realm based on South Asian culture. Kumandra was previously home to dragons and humans alike, but after an evil spirit, called Drunn, interfered with their peace, the dragons sacrificed their lives so humanity could be protected . When I first heard about this plot, I was ecstatic, but unfortunately, not all of this movie deserves acclamation.
Story Structure & World Building
When the movie begins, we’re fed a very clear picture: The dragons are selfless and good, and the spirits evil. The dragons sacrifice themselves for Kummandra, believing that the world will be in peace, but all it did was crumble civilization into divided territories, all obsessed with the magic left behind by the dragons. 500 years later, Raya is a lone warrior, seeking out the last dragon and uniting Kumandra.
The plot seems reasonable enough, and builds upon the world masterfully. Raya and Sisu’s journey across Kumandra brings them to an assortment of new and fascinating places: a marketplace built on water, a snowy and withered village, an elegant civilization surrounded by canals, and a deserted temple. Disney once again proves its technological superiority with the structure of this alluring fantasy world in which these characters live.
Raya is a strong-willed heroine who redefines what it means to be a Disney princess. She is a master of the blade and never backs away from battle, but her growth in the film deserves improvement. She hardly trusts anyone she meets along the journey, a flaw that could have been handled better if every character she met hadn’t told her of the problem.
In nearly every scene in the movie containing both Raya and Sisu, who, I should mention, is a carefree dragon that believes the world can be saved through “gifts”, he warns Raya about her trust issues and how they can become a problem. Not even halfway through the movie, the audience expects Raya to overcome this obvious obstacle and prepares to act surprised. It would be preferable if Raya’s struggles were shown discreetly through cinematography and expressions.
Another problem I have with the characters is their very characterization. Throughout Raya’s journey, Sisu welcomes other side characters to the party, and Raya reluctantly accepts them. These side characters, named Boun, Tong, and Noi, have practically no purpose or development in the course of the film. During the majority of the movie I even struggled to remember their names.
If I had to provide a rating for Raya and the Last Dragon, it would be a 7.5/10. The movie is suitable for its target audience, that being a younger demographic, while providing decent entertainment for more mature viewers. I found the character development disappointing, but found the beginning and conclusion of the film impressive, establishing them as its strongest points.