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  • Writer's pictureStrictly Films

Raya and the Last Dragon; Disney Delivers a Much Timely Film. Grade: B+

Raya and the Last Dragon tells a story about a world that once was in terror by an entity, that can turn people into stone, but thankfully due to many dragons working together to develop an ancient gem that can conquer evil, has brought people of this world back alive and well. Instead of living in togetherness, the world is now divided into many sections, due to everyone not trusting one another. Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) had invited everyone for a lovely gathering, hoping to embark his vision of togetherness rather than separation. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) took the first step and inviting Namaari (Gemma Chan) in the palace, to discuss their love for dragons and such. Namaari gave Raya a gift, as Raya wanted to return the favor as she showed Namarri the ancient gem that helped brought people back to life. As Raya trusted Namaari, Namaari backstabbed Raya as she and her fellow guards planned to take the gem. As everyone rushed to get the gem and take it for themselves, they broke the gem causing terror to strike again, as loved ones were turned to stone including Raya's father Benja. Years have gone by, as Raya hoping to summon the last dragon in existence Sisu (Awkwafina), to hopefully secure all the gem pieces and to bring back everyone back to life.

The animation in this film t'was fabulous, lots of vibrant beautiful colors followed by some lovely character design. I enjoyed the creature design of the dragons, we're all so lovely and colorful, especially in one particular scene in general. The Score t'was pretty good, very energetic and even soothing music as well, that helped set the tone of many sequences. The characters as written were all well developed, not only our lead but also our supporting characters along the way. Everyone in this land has endured lost in someway, regarding the terror going on about after the gem was destroyed. So not only do we fully feel Raya's pain of grieving, but we also feel the pain of characters whom were introduced to a bare minimum, and even characters who can't even speak but can clearly show it through their facial expression too.

Raya once believed in her fathers vision of having full trust in others, despite living in an untrustworthy world. But due to Namaari backstabbing her, causing her father to be stoned... Now Raya is out for vengeance and can no longer trust anyone, as she follows the world's trend. Raya not only goes through a journey into bringing everyone back, but also goes through a journey into bringing her own self back, of learning to love and trust everyone the way her father intended her to be, that could bring significant change upon her own world. Sisu t'was a pretty good character, that helped develop Raya into being more wholesome than being bitter. Not only is she a kick ass dragon, but she also is an extremely wise dragon, that through her own experiences she can help Raya bring her back on the right path into leading her father's vision.

Surprising enough: Where I felt the film could've potentially created annoying characters and especially my pet peeve annoying loud animals... This film decided to go towards a different direction. Like I instantly thought the baby and the monkey's were going to bring me a headache, however they decided not to be the annoying cliche, as they were actually fun characters that actually contribute towards a moral purpose in the story thankfully.

There are a few issues I have with Raya and the Last Dragon. One being the gem as in preventing characters from getting stoned. Initially it looked like you have to aim the gem right at the terror so you can be safe, however in some moments the characters don't aim the gem at the terror and they're still safe?! It's a significant plot hole that does bring much of a distraction towards the story. Some of the powers the dragon receives from each stone can sometimes not be that impressive, especially the fog, so I would've liked the powers to be improved. By the ending of the film I will say: Everything from the beginning doesn't really make much sense, as to how this is bound to be. Hard to explain without spoiling, but it has to do with dragons is all I'm going to say.

Raya and the Last Dragon does feel like a necessary and timely film, we could all use right now. I mean we're living in a world in which is heavily divided, where it's only one side or nothing, bitterness/selfishness rules the world, as no one and barely anything can be trusted at the moment... I mean SHEESH. The wholesome messaging in learning to trust one another when we're heavily in an untrusted world, as we need to come together was truly uplifting and inspiring. Like it felt very powerful in the ending especially, the triumph and the heartache in order to reach this destination and sequence was done very well I must say.

The film does a great job in offering variety. Like there is a great amount of action sequences, some surprising good comedic sequences in which I had a few good laugh out moments, followed by some good emotional sequences that really puts your own self in the mirror feeling for these characters. One of the main issues earlier that I have, was wondering why exactly would Raya take Namaari down to the ancient gem that keeps people alive after receiving a gift? Then I realize though it does appear foolish of Raya to do such a thing, however she was just partaking in her fathers vision and not thinking much of it, into trusting one another. It's also effective in not only delivering the hard hitting message, but to also not take blessings for granted. Was selfishness over having a piece of this gem, worth losing many loved ones in the process?! Absolutely not, bitterness/selfishness is the true virus of humanity, as we must all appreciate the simplicity of our blessings that keep us together, while stop thinking about us and start thinking about others. This was honestly a surprise, I really enjoyed this a lot and I think this could be very valuable towards children and even more so adults as well.

Overall, Raya and the Last Dragon was a pretty damn good. I recommend checking this one out, preferably in a movie theater.

Speaking of seeing this film in a movie theater: My theatrical experience was kind of a nightmare. This family with a young daughter, was extremely disrespectful through almost the entire film. This young child would roam around the theater as the family brought her back to her seat a few times, they would call her name like not kidding 66 times to quiet down or behave, this young child would just randomly talk out loud and I'm not kidding... More than a few times would cry or scream out loud. Thankfully was able to manage this experience and somehow someway did not report them, even though I should've but I just didn't have enough energy since I was heavily invested in the film I was watching.

I gotta say: This was utterly disrespectful, selfish, and of course downright embarrassing. What frustrates me the most is the fact that this family, given the fact this child was misbehaving the amount of times I mentioned... Never once took this child outside, calm her down, or even telling the child if they continue this utterly obnoxious behavior that they will be sent home. That is Basic Parenting 101, I understand we live in a culture that prevents discipline, but this is common sense and more importantly YOU MUST HAVE COMMON COURTESY IN A PUBLIC ENVIRONMENT. Just because this film perhaps is considered a kids film, doesn’t give you the right to have your child acting like a spoiled little brat, and ruin the theatrical experience for the rest of us. I speak out to all families, especially towards my family who is bringing my niece to this world: DON'T EVER BE LIKE THIS FAMILY, IT'S RUDE, SELFISH, AND UNACCEPTABLE. Do not reward bad behavior, like if they can’t behave then keep them home until they do behave, rewards should only come with good behavior only. Well at least after the movie I got myself two corndogs, to reward my mature behavior.... It was needed surviving that nightmare. -Mitch Smietana

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