Raya and the Last Dragon ★★★★
Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
Starring Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Isaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh
Stylistic animation and innovative storytelling is afoot in the newest Disney film Raya and the Last Dragon. In recent years, the stories have become more and more original, but still somewhat predictable; and although this film does hit some familiar story beats, it tries unique things that feel more arthouse than studio based cinema. It's so refreshing!
The animation here is some of Disney's best. It gives us a glimpse into the future showing pristine landscapes and incredible, textured computer generation. The water looks so real and a subtle muddied camera pulls you closer to the action; action which was exceptionally choreographed for animation.
The choice of design for the dragons however feels childish and a little disproportionate to the rest of the film, which matches their inclusion in the plot. Awkwafina's Sisu I assume is meant to be the light relief but I didn't feel any of the jokes landed; perhaps younger children will relate.
Not only does the film introduce lasting consequences of distrust and promote a reason for hope, it also creates a dynamic relationship between the protagonist (Kelly Marie Tran) and antagonist (Gemma Chan). Both vocal performances are excellently emotional and the sarcastic comments they make back and forth before combat is tightly written.
One of the most ambitious instalments in the Walt Disney Animation Studios lineup of films. It sways away from the generic norm and finds new, interesting beats to hit in telling its story. And although the films strongest moments come in the opening 20 minutes, there is real heart in the story and its heroine that Disney have grown so confident in providing.
Raya and the Last Dragon available now for £19.99 on Disney+