Movie Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

By Andrew McManus - Contributing Columnist

Directed by: Don Hall & Carlos López Estrada

Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Benedict Wong, Daniel Dae Kim

Runtime: 114 minutes

Rating: PG (For some violence, action and thematic elements.)

We haven’t been to an animated film in a long time. I think the last one was Onward (this was pre-Covid) which was great! This is a Disney picture and normally they churn out quality films time after time. If I had to compare this movie to anything live-action it’s definitely Game of Thrones. Stick with me here. I know it’s animated, but dragons are at the forefront of this film. They aren’t always evil. I’ve also loved the mystical and medieval themed films and tv shows and during the trailer I noticed a familiar voice. Kelly Marie Tran is the lead as Raya. You’ll remember her from the most recent Star Wars saga (maybe five minutes of the last film) I’ll say this now, if you have kids. GO SEE THIS FILM. It was also encouraging to see a film with a female lead, similar to the movie Brave (another great one.)

Onto the film.

We open with a prologue told by Raya (Tran) that 500 years ago their world didn’t look as barren as it does now. A plague swept through the land by something called Druun and turned many to stone. In this time, there were many dragons. To combat the Druun, they sacrificed themselves to curb the evil. This also split the people of Kumandra into 5 factions. Talon, Tail, Heart, Spine, and Fang. While this is playing out an orb was created by that remaining dragons to protect the land and ward of the Druun. We then learn that the last remaining dragon SIsu (Awkwafina) hasn’t been since in years.

We cut to present day, as we see Raya (Tran) riding a stone. Picture Indiana Jones running from the boulder. Chief Benja (Kim) is Raya’s father. They are part of the Heart clan and he is training her to protect the orb. During a dinner between the 5 tribes a fight breaks out, and the orb is destroyed. This brings back the Druun almost immediately and Chief Benja (Kim) is turned to stone.

This is where the film really takes off.

Raya goes on a journey in search for Sisu (Awkwafina) in hopes of locating fragments of the orb to protect the land again. I know these seems like another generic plot device. Protagonist in search of something to save the day. True. However, the animation is GORGEOUS to look at. The voice acting is superb as well which makes up for the plot.

As I said earlier, if you are a parent it’s a no-brainer your child/children will love this. As someone without kids, I did as well. I’ll be honest, when I go to an animated film I usually worry I won’t have fun. This film I did. There are “adult” jokes you’ll catch, and it feels like an epic (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) that will get anyone that enjoys that excited! The “fetch quest” has been used countless times, and the film dragged on in a few scenes, when more items were retrieved but it didn’t take away from the enjoyment. The runtime isn’t excruciating either so I highly encourage this one. 4 stars out of

By Andrew McManus

Contributing Columnist

This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper

This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper