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Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon,” available this week in limited theatrical release and on Disney+ for an extra fee, is a wonderful adventure. Blending imagery and mythology from several Southeast Asian cultures into its own vision, it's an ambitious family film that will work for all ages, and one that never talks down to its audience while presenting them with an entertaining, thought-provoking story. It also contains some of the most striking imagery Disney has ever produced, dropping its characters in a world that feels both classic and new at the same time.

Raya ( Kelly Marie Tran ) has long heard the stories of the last dragon from her father Benja ( Daniel Dae Kim ). As a villainous force was working its way across the land, turning people into stone, magical dragons united their forces together into a stone and one named Sisu used it to stop the pending apocalypse. She sacrificed herself in the process, although rumors persist that she survived. That stone resides with Benja and Raya’s people when the film begins, but the other clans of the now-divided world steal it, break it into pieces, and scatter it across the land.

Years later, Raya goes on a quest to find both Sisu (Awkafina) and the fragments of the stone, trying to bring her people back together and fulfill her father’s vision of loyalty. Along the way, they are chased by the princess of a clan seeking full power named Namaari ( Gemma Chan ), and encounter several memorable supporting characters, including the gregarious Boun ( Izaac Wang ), one-eyed Tong ( Benedict Wong ), and even a “con baby,” a kid who uses her undeniable cuteness as an alley con artist. All of these lively characters were impacted by the stone’s fragmentation, and they form an unforgettable core in what is basically an old-fashioned adventure movie that recalls everything from Indiana Jones to " Princess Mononoke ."     

Directors Don Hall (“ Big Hero 6 ”) and Carlos López Estrada (“ Blindspotting ”) imbue every design element of “Raya and the Last Dragon” with top-notch craftsmanship. Each of the lands that Raya and her compatriots travel to feel like fully-realized worlds. Look at the streets in which Raya meets the baby and her monkeys-in-crime—they’re filled with bustling life and background detail that many movies like this simply ignore. And then there’s the character design, which is much more carefully considered than most modern blockbuster animation, particularly the gorgeous look of Sisu and her fellow dragons. Yes, she bears a strong resemblance to dragons we've seen in Asian cinema before—it’s hard not to think of “ Spirited Away ” when she takes her own form of flight—but she ultimately stands on her own, thanks in part to how her design melds with Awkwafina’s fantastic voice work. She’s expressive without being overly cartoonish. All of “Raya” has that going for it—a vibrant color palette and remarkable level of detail that never pushes too far into fantasy elements, achieving the perfect balance.

That balance is maintained because screenwriters Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim  don’t get lost in their new animated playground, and never forget the story's emotional stakes. Raya isn’t just trying to bring her father back to life, she’s trying to reunite the world. It’s a smart film about one of the big themes of our current age—a quest for unity. The social and political readings of the movie will be plentiful because it’s about trying to find common ground and cause again after betrayals and division. One of the many things I love about it is how much it challenges the traditional superficiality of blockbuster animation, knowing that kids can handle more complex plots and themes than Hollywood usually gives them. One can enjoy "Raya" purely on an adventure movie level, but it will also likely start a few interesting conversations with children about trust, forgiveness, and courage. Is fear a result of distrust or the cause of it? Are we divided because we're enemies or because we're told  we're enemies? 

This is a rare criticism of studio animation, but “Raya and the Last Dragon” can sometimes be almost too dense with theme. In particular, the film's last half-hour has a habit of spelling out its ideas through dialogue more than it really needs to. The characters and storytelling are very strong, but I sometimes wished "Raya" would allow for more quiet development than the breakneck pacing chosen by Hall and Estrada. It has a habit of overexplaining itself when its imagery and narrative get the job done on their own. 

The voice work is stellar throughout. Tran finds just the right mix of vulnerability and strength in Raya and Awkwafina locks into a register of optimistic wonder that’s infectious. The whole ensemble brings their A-game: Kim grounds a father/daughter dynamic with just a few scenes, Wong is so fun that he could anchor a spin-off about his character, and Chan sells the complex arc of a young woman forced by her mother to act against her own beliefs. All of them are also ably supported by one of James Newton Howard ’s best scores.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” could have been a traditional princess story—another tale of a young woman chosen by legacy or magic to save her people. It’s not that movie. It’s a story about fallibility and the uncertainty that often accompanies courage—wrapped up in an unforgettable narrative that pays homage to mythology that has come before while creating its own past, present, and future. Many films have felt dismissed because of the closure of theaters in the last year, not getting the attention that may have resulted from normal times. “Raya and the Last Dragon” is the kind of movie I wish I could have experienced in a crowded theater, but it’s also one that I’m certain won’t be lost to history and will find its audience. It’s too good not to. 

In theaters on March 4 th , 2021, and available on Disney+ the next day for an extra charge .

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

Rated PG for some violence, action and thematic elements.

112 minutes

Kelly Marie Tran as Raya (voice)

Awkwafina as Sisu (voice)

Gemma Chan as Namaari (voice)

Daniel Dae Kim as Benja (voice)

Benedict Wong as Tong (voice)

Sandra Oh as Virana (voice)

Alan Tudyk as Tuk Tuk (voice)

Thalia Tran as Little Noi (voice)

Izaac Wang as Boun (voice)

  • Carlos López Estrada

Co-Director

  • Paul Briggs

Writer (story by)

  • Kiel Murray
  • Dean Wellins
  • Fabienne Rawley
  • Shannon Stein
  • James Newton Howard

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Raya and the Last Dragon Reviews

movie review raya and the last dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon welcomes a reflection on its Asian-fusion design because western adaptations of Asian culture, even with visible and vocal creative Asian input, will come with a spectrum of orientalism…

Full Review | Dec 13, 2023

movie review raya and the last dragon

The diversity is great, it's visually pleasing, the score is catchy, and the awesome characters turn this into a really likeable watch with a positive overall message.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Aug 6, 2023

movie review raya and the last dragon

A SPECTACLE, Beautiful, exhilarating, & A fantastic story that brought a tear to my eye! With a great message wrapped around its incredible action & characters, Raya has cemented itself as one of my new favorite DISNEY ANIMATED FILMS

Full Review | Jul 26, 2023

movie review raya and the last dragon

Boasting a predominantly Asian-American cast delivering exceptional voice work, Raya and the Last Dragon follows a partially disappointing, formulaic narrative but compensates it with stunning animation, a chill-inducing score, and quite a nice ending.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Jul 24, 2023

movie review raya and the last dragon

A mess both in ideals and execution, the film fails to have the charm and poignance it presents and has to be seen as a rare failure for modern Disney animated features.

Full Review | May 1, 2023

movie review raya and the last dragon

Not a bad movie, but doesn't take any risks. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review | Sep 14, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

A beautifully heart-swelling put a lump in your throat kind of family film that doesn’t come around too often.

Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5 | Sep 11, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon is a visually striking spectacle with equally effective emotional resonance and a lively lead – in short, another win for Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Sep 1, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

Disney films are no stranger to heavy stuff, but this film really seemed willing to grapple with some more complicated ideas even if it doesn’t quite have the nerve to see it through to the end.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Aug 17, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

“Raya” has a story pulsating with urgency. It uses its fantastical setting, cultural inspirations, and enormous heart to encourage us to keep our faith in humanity, to trust one another, and to come together as a people.

Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5 | Aug 17, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

The animation work is interesting, drawing on shadow puppetry, classical Asian figures and symbols, alongside thoroughly modern animation.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Aug 15, 2022

The film has a message, but its biggest win is accomplishing old Walt Disney's trademark quote that prevailed in his work: 'For every laugh, there should be a tear...' and a kung fu kick. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Jul 27, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON creates a pretty adventure world and a nice, colorful group of heroes. Overall, however, the film is a bit too stuck in familiar patterns to really excite more.

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | Apr 8, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

With stunning visuals, energetic and kinetic action sequences and an expansive world rich with lore and details, this was Disney's most exciting film in years.

Full Review | Apr 1, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

...a distressingly ineffective misfire thats rarely as engaging (or entertaining) as one mightve anticipated.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/4 | Mar 22, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

Raya and The Last Dragon hums along to a familiar rhythm, but its what it does in between these beats that makes it so entertaining.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Mar 1, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon is an epic adventure that brings Disney to a new and exciting direction, all while taking advantage of their strongest assets.

Full Review | Original Score: 9/10 | Feb 16, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

It's a film with a clunky first half but finds more of a groove later in the second. Raya and the Last Dragon displays a cornucopia of amazing visuals, and the animators have created a lavish fantasy world inspired by Southeast Asian culture and folklore.

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | Feb 14, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

The adventure of this new Disney princess is told with grace, simplicity and animation as fickle as water that makes me have a pretty pleasant time. Full review in Spanish

movie review raya and the last dragon

In the vast body of Disney's output, this is a minor effort, disappointingly so given the production's rather incredible artistry.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4 | Feb 12, 2022

movie review raya and the last dragon

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Raya and the last dragon, common sense media reviewers.

movie review raya and the last dragon

Charming, epic adventure mixes monsters, humor, heart.

Raya and the Last Dragon Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Audiences will be exposed to a non-specific blend

Strong theme of importance of trust. Lasting messa

Raya is brave, selfless, generous, and kind -- als

Raya is the first Disney film to focus fully on th

Electric-purple blob monsters -- the manifestation

Raya insults the Fang people. A couple of characte

Nothing on-screen, but off-screen merchandise tie-

Parents need to know that Raya and the Last Dragon is an animated Disney adventure about a warrior princess on a mission. Set in the fictional land of Kumandra, which is based on real Southeast Asian cultures (including Thai, Malay, and Vietnamese), the movie follows Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran), who for…

Educational Value

Audiences will be exposed to a non-specific blend of Southeast Asian cultures and will learn about courage, teamwork, communication, and perseverance.

Positive Messages

Strong theme of importance of trust. Lasting messages about impact of grief and acknowledging how those you love are a part of you. Lessons about courage, teamwork, perseverance. Shows the need to overcome prejudice and assumptions to find commonalities with others.

Positive Role Models

Raya is brave, selfless, generous, and kind -- also suspicious and wary of accepting help, but she learns the importance of teamwork. Sisu is powerful and courageous but also sweet, forgiving, trusting, and empathetic. Namaari is loyal and persistent but also deceptive.

Diverse Representations

Raya is the first Disney film to focus fully on the cultures of Southeast Asia. The characters are all voiced by Southeast Asian and Asian actors, and the script was written by Qui Nguyen (Vietnamese American) and Adele Lim (Malaysian American). However, there's little in the movie that specifies different cultures and peoples from this diverse region of the world, which could lead young Western viewers into thinking that cultures as different as Thai and Vietnamese are pretty much indistinguishable.

Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.

Violence & Scariness

Electric-purple blob monsters -- the manifestation of a plague known as the Druun -- attack relentlessly at every opportunity, turning people and dragons to stone. Central characters are impacted; some sacrifice themselves (i.e., willingly turn to stone) to save others. Many have lost loved ones (including children who are without parents/family members). A main character is struck by an arrow, presumed dead. People fight with bow and arrow, swords, knives, other blades. Close-contact combat/violence. Characters must run to escape capture. Dangerous pursuits on ground, at sea. Glimpse of a skeleton. The Fang warriors ride scary big cats. Spine warrior hurls a huge axe.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Raya insults the Fang people. A couple of characters say "badaxery," which sounds very much like "badass-ery."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

Nothing on-screen, but off-screen merchandise tie-ins to Disney movies, including apparel, toys, games, books, and more.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Raya and the Last Dragon is an animated Disney adventure about a warrior princess on a mission. Set in the fictional land of Kumandra, which is based on real Southeast Asian cultures (including Thai, Malay, and Vietnamese), the movie follows Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran ), who for years has tried to find a way to reverse a scary, curse-like plague known as the Druun, which takes the form of relentless purple-and-black blob monsters and turns anyone it touches into stone. Awkwafina co-stars as the voice of Sisu, the last surviving dragon, whom Raya recruits to help in her quest. Grief is a major theme of the movie, and several characters talk about the loved ones taken by the Druun, including children who've lost parents and entire families. Scary sequences involve characters fleeing for their lives from various dangerous situations, including both human enemies and the Druun. There are intense close-up fights with swords/blades, and a skeleton is visible in one sequence. In another scene ( spoiler alert ), a main character is struck by an arrow and presumed dead. In one very emotional scene, characters willingly sacrifice themselves to the Druun; young viewers may believe they're dead. The movie emphasizes the importance of trusting others and overcoming prejudice to find common ground. And Raya is a standout role model who exhibits courage, teamwork, and perseverance. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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movie review raya and the last dragon

Community Reviews

  • Parents say (48)
  • Kids say (93)

Based on 48 parent reviews

Well made, generally enjoyable, but poison is mixed in. "Remind me to never have children" ?

Beautiful, wondrous, complicated...packs a punch, what's the story.

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON begins with Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran ) narrating the history of Kumandra, a once prosperous land where powerful dragons co-existed with humans until the Druun, a plague-like enemy that manifests as relentless purple-and-black blob monsters, started turning everyone to stone. The dragons fought together to save humanity but eventually they, too, were lost -- except for Sisu, who concentrated all of the dragons' power into an all-powerful gem and defeated the Druun. Her action revived all of the humans, but the dragons remained suspended in stone ... except, legend says, for Sisu. Years later, Kumandra has fragmented into five regions -- Heart, Tail, Talon, Spine, and Fang -- who are hostile to and suspicious of each other. Raya, the princess of Heart (which is where Sisu's gem is kept), and her father, Chief Benja ( Daniel Dae Kim ), invite the leaders of the other regions to Heart for a peace summit. But it turns into an all-out war when the Fang leader ( Sandra Oh ) and her daughter ( Gemma Chan ) make a play for Sisu's gem. It breaks into five pieces (each of which is swiped by one of the leaders), unleashing the Druun, which turn Chief Benja into stone. Six years later, Raya and her beloved sidekick Tuk Tuk ( Alan Tudyk ), a giant pill bug, are on a mission to find Sisu and reunite the gem pieces. They succeed in finding Sisu ( Awkwafina ), who's sassy, sweet, and optimistic. Together they travel to the rest of Kumandra's regions, teaming up with locals from each as they work to stop the Druun once and for all.

Is It Any Good?

Equal parts charming, empowering, and epic, this Southeast Asia-inspired adventure introduces the next great Disney warrior princess to join the likes of Moana, Merida, and Mulan. The thorough prologue establishes the world of Kumandra and the battle between the dragons, the humans, and the Druun. Raya and Sisu get a lot of help on their mission from the various locals they incorporate into their circle: young Boun (Izaac Wang), the chef/boat captain from Tail; baby Noi (Thalia Tran), a Talonese pickpocket toddler whose monkey squad will delight younger viewers; and Tong ( Benedict Wong ), an intimidating but kind warrior from Spine. They band together to protect Sisu (who can shape-shift into a woman who looks more than a little like Awkwafina) and find a way to defeat the Druun.

The movie's bursts of peril and moments of grief are balanced by a lot of levity (little Noi is hilarious, and Sisu, like the comedian who plays her, is irresistibly charming) and heart. Humor is threaded throughout Raya and the Last Dragon , and Tuk Tuk is an adorable animal sidekick. There's no romance in the movie, which focuses instead on the "found family" that Raya and Sisu create with their new friends. Directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, along with the screenwriters Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, manage to make the characters' orphanhood a touching statement about loss -- it surrounds every character and drives Raya forward to do everything she can to free her father from his stone cage. While this isn't a musical, James Newton Howard's evocative score is fantastic, and the animation is so detailed and stellar that families may find themselves pausing and rewinding just to take in the diversity of landscapes, costumes, and characters. Once again, Disney has managed to take the familiar and make it magical.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about which parts of Raya and the Last Dragon were scary . Does animated violence impact kids differently than live-action violence?

What makes Raya a strong, independent character? How does she demonstrate courage , perseverance , and teamwork ? Why are those important character strengths ?

Most of the movie's main characters are female, and all of them are based on Southeast Asian traditions. Why is it important to see a wide range of representation in the media? Use interest in Raya as a stepping stone to learning more about individual cultures and peoples from Southeast Asia, like the Thai, Khmer, Malay, Lao, and Vietnamese cultures.

The filmmakers have said that the movie was inspired by many real Southeast Asian cultures and traditions. Did you notice any in particular (for example, Thailand or Cambodia)? Why do you think filmmakers would choose to set it in a fictional country over a real one?

How do the different characters handle their grief at losing loved ones? Have you ever lost someone close to you? How did you react?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : March 5, 2021
  • On DVD or streaming : April 2, 2021
  • Cast : Awkwafina , Kelly Marie Tran , Gemma Chan
  • Directors : Don Hall , Carlos Estrada
  • Inclusion Information : Female actors, Asian actors
  • Studio : Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Genre : Family and Kids
  • Topics : Magic and Fantasy , Adventures , Friendship , Great Girl Role Models
  • Character Strengths : Courage , Perseverance , Teamwork
  • Run time : 114 minutes
  • MPAA rating : PG
  • MPAA explanation : some violence, action and thematic elements
  • Award : Common Sense Selection
  • Last updated : August 3, 2023

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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'Raya And The Last Dragon' Is Not Entirely New, But It's Refreshing Nonetheless

Justin Chang

movie review raya and the last dragon

Raya, a young warrior princess (Kelly Marie Tran), enlists the help of Sisu, a friendly water dragon (Awkwafina) in Raya and the Last Dragon. Disney hide caption

Raya, a young warrior princess (Kelly Marie Tran), enlists the help of Sisu, a friendly water dragon (Awkwafina) in Raya and the Last Dragon.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a lovely, moving surprise. Its big selling point is that it's the first Disney animated film to feature Southeast Asian characters, but like so many movies that break ground in terms of representation, it tells a story that's actually woven from reassuringly familiar parts. I didn't mind that in the slightest.

The movie, directed by the Disney veteran Don Hall and the animation newcomer Carlos López Estrada, brings us into a fantasy world that's been beautifully visualized and populated with engaging characters, and it builds to an emotional climax that I'm still thinking about days later.

The story is a little complicated, as these stories tend to be. It takes place in Kumandra, an enchanted realm inspired by various Southeast Asian cultures and divided into five kingdoms named after a dragon's body parts: Heart, Fang, Spine, Talon and Tail.

Before they became extinct centuries ago, dragons once roamed the land and served as friendly guardians to humanity. Their magic lives on in a jewel called the Dragon Gem, which is kept in a cave in Heart, but the other four kingdoms covet its mighty powers. One day, all five factions come together and try to reach a peace agreement, but tensions erupt, a fight breaks out and the Gem shatters into five pieces that are scattered across Kumandra. This opens the doorway to an ancient enemy called the Druun, a terrible plague that turns people to stone.

Naturally, a hero must rise and save the day. Her name is Raya, and she's a young warrior princess from Heart, voiced by the excellent Kelly Marie Tran from Star Wars: The Last Jedi . Raya manages to escape the Druun, though her father, her ba , who's the leader of Heart, isn't so lucky. Now Raya must recover the pieces of the Dragon Gem, reverse the damage and banish the Druun for good.

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Disney's 'Moana' Needs No Prince, Just The Land And Sea

This isn't the first time we've seen a brave young character embark on a quest for magical baubles, and Raya and the Last Dragon is rooted in traditional fantasy lore, with The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones being just the most obvious influences. The movie's intense scenes of swordplay and hand-to-hand combat give it a tougher, more grown-up feel than most Disney animated fantasies — my own young daughter had to cover her eyes a few times. Like some other recent Disney princesses, including Moana and Elsa , Raya has a bold, adventurous streak and isn't all that interested in romance. Unlike them, she doesn't even have time to sing a song.

That said, the movie still has plenty of lightness and humor. The screenwriters, Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, have provided the usual Disney array of cute critters and lively supporting characters. None of them is more colorful than Sisu, a friendly water dragon who is magically resurrected during Raya's journey. She's the last of her kind, and she has a crucial role to play in the story. She's voiced delightfully by Awkwafina , doing one of her signature chatterbox comedy routines and selling every one of Sisu's anachronistic wisecracks.

Raya and Sisu's journey takes them to all five kingdoms of Kumandra, all of which are so vivid and transporting I found myself wishing they really existed — or that I could have at least seen them on a proper movie screen. There's the town of Talon, which is built at the edge of a river, and the desert wasteland of Tail, where Raya and Sisu must enter a cave of obstacles straight out of an Indiana Jones adventure.

As the two of them search for more Dragon Gem pieces, they of course pick up a few friends along the way. There's a street-smart boy who cooks a mean shrimp congee and a toddler pickpocket whom I found more creepy than cute. But the movie's most intriguing character is Namaari, a rival princess from Fang who's voiced by Gemma Chan. (As a side note, Chan and Awkwafina both appeared in Crazy Rich Asians , which, like this movie, was co-written by Lim.) Namaari and Raya used to be friends until the fight over the Dragon Gem ripped them apart. Now they're bitter enemies, and their emotional dynamic is fierce and complicated in ways that relationships are rarely allowed to be in children's animated films, especially between women.

By contrast, Sisu is all feel-good vibes; she's a dragon, after all, with little understanding of how treacherous humans can be. She doesn't get why Raya and Namaari distrust each other so, why they can't just set their differences aside and defeat the Druun together. It's Sisu's sincerity and purity of heart that makes the story's finale so unexpectedly stirring, especially now. Our fates are closely bound together, it reminds us, as it builds a case for forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual sacrifice.

The emotional power of Raya and the Last Dragon sneaks up on you. Its lessons aren't new, exactly, but it makes you feel like you're learning them for the first time.

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Raya and the Last Dragon puts a bright contemporary spin on girl power: Review

movie review raya and the last dragon

The demographics of the Disney princess club have been evolving for a while now — fewer narcoleptic beauties and glass slippers, a lot more manifest destiny and swordplay; the last decades' long march of Moanas, Mulans, Elsas, and Annas leading steadily toward a different brand of heroine, one who rarely waits in towers to be rescued or awakened by true love's kiss.

Ray a and the Last Dragon (on Disney+ March 5) feels like the logical extension of all that, and a further loosening too: a smart, snappy adventure tale that wears its matter-of-fact modern feminism on its sleeve — a sleeve that will be rolled up many times in the heat of battle or in search of a snack pouch. And this time, deliberately or not, they've done away with romance entirely; no prince will come, because he hasn't even been invited to the ball.

Instead it's up to Raya (keenly voiced by Star Wars ' Kelly Marie Tran ) to rescue herself and the broken land of Kumandra, a once-prosperous place torn into five territories after a dragon extinction event leaves its warring citizens open to the Druun — smoggy, nefarious blobs that look like sentient electric storms and turn living things to stone on contact. Her idealistic father ( Daniel Dae Kim ), ruler of the split-off part known as the Heart and guardian of the last dragon's gemstone, believes their divided people can be brought back together by hope and good faith; the people quickly, tragically prove him wrong. (All this mythology is laid out neatly in a few brisk scenes.)

So Raya, heartbroken and alone in the world aside from a trundling armadillo-bug sidekick named Tuk Tuk, sets off to find the lair of Sisu ( Awkwafina ). Sisu is the last dragon, if hardly a paragon; she's more like the last pancake, scraped together from lumpy batter and a little bit burnt at the edges. But a dragon is still a dragon — even one whose superpower is being "a really strong swimmer" — and she's willing to help Raya reunite the pieces of the shattered gem so Kumandra can rise again.

To do that they will have to find a way into each heavily guarded territory, and stay at least one step ahead of Raya's former friend turned rival Namaari ( Gemma Chan ), a fellow warrior with a mean-girl sneer and a sharp undercut. As Sisu and Raya spelunk through Spine and Tail and Talon and Fang, they tend to pick up extra passengers — a sort of human lint roller that gloms onto burbling baby pickpockets, underage gondoliers, and a brick house of a man called Tong ( Avengers ' Benedict Wong).

Screenwriters Adele Lim ( Crazy Rich Asians ) and Qui Nguyen lean into the you-know-how-these-stories-go meta-ness of it all, letting Awkwafina's raspy goofball-slacker id run free, while co-directors Don Hall ( Big Hero 6 ) and Carlos Lopez Estrada ( Blindspotting ) keep the pace moving at a heist-movie clip, with little pops of visual wit and neatly packaged lessons on friendship and kindness and self-reliance.

If Raya 's outlines and endpoint are strictly fairy-tale familiar (evil is vanquished, good triumphs, reconstituted dragons romp), the movie feels fresh not just for the mere fact of its female-forward and predominately Asian cast, but for the breeziness with which it bears the weight of Disney history: not a scolding corrective so much as a welcome swerve towards the unsung audiences it's had all along. Grade: B+

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Raya and the Last Dragon First Reviews: Disney Unleashes Another Instant Classic

Critics say the vibrantly animated film is emotionally satisfying and packed with stunning action to offer a little something for everyone..

movie review raya and the last dragon

TAGGED AS: Action , adventure , Animation , Disney , movies , Walt Disney Pictures

From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes a new princess-driven fantasy adventure with a focus on Southeast Asian representation and heavy themes involving a sentient plague and trust issues among humans. And it’s action-packed and full of laughs, too. Raya and the Last Dragon is receiving rave reviews for its ambitious ideas, stunning visuals, and impressive thrills, all of which will entertain audiences of all ages, whether on the big screen or streaming at a premium price on Disney+. But is it another instant classic from Disney with immediately beloved characters and iconic storytelling?

Here’s what critics are saying about Raya and the Last Dragon :

Does Disney have another animated classic on its hands?

Disney has done it again. –  Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies
Another huge win for the studio. –  Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com
One of Disney’s most breathtakingly beautiful endeavors yet. –  Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
[It’s] the best animated Disney film since  Moana . –  Brandon Katz, Observer
Raya and the Last Dragon  has all the makings of a modern Disney classic. – Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

Is the story a familiar one?

The narrative skeleton is, if anything, even more generic, and also a reminder that the generic has its pleasures. – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
Disney on autopilot is still pretty good. – Robert Daniels, The Playlist
[It’s] a tribute to Disney’s patented style of timeless, grand and immersive storytelling. But it’s also a pioneering picture, embracing timely, compassionate sentiments on our contemporary culture. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Raya and the Last Dragon

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Are there any comparable films it recalls?

If Moana , Tangled , Mulan , Abominable and Big Hero 6 had a child…you’d get Raya and the Last Dragon . – Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians
Like 2016’s Moana and 2009’s The Princess and the Frog , the film stands apart, through fresh voices and cultures, while still embracing universal truths and ideals. – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
In its expansive world-building and aesthetic variety,  Raya and the Last Dragon  most viscerally conjures up the experience of watching a  Star Wars  film. – Dan Rubins, Slant Magazine
The film the feel of a condensed Tolkien epic — a Lord of the Rings -light quest that takes Raya throughout Kumandra to accomplish her mission. – Peter Debruge, Variety

How is the animation ?

Raya and the Last Dragon  is a technical triumph in every possible facet, simply just eye candy from start to finish. – Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation
Some of the best visual work of Disney’s 3D era. Environments are jaw-droppingly impressive, reflecting a lived-in world that’s mythology and culture inform its architecture. – Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine
You’ve never seen [water] animated so exquisitely…from water droplets to nautical travel to the epic beauty of a character leaping from one raindrop to the next, it is extraordinary. – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Raya and the Last Dragon

What about the performances ?

It’s Tran’s movie and she excels in the lead role as Raya. – Molly Freeman, Screen Rant
Tran imbues Raya with both a tenderness and a steely determination, making the character one of the more fascinating Disney princesses in a long time. – Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation
Tran’s pitch-perfect performance makes organic even the heavier character beat. – Inkoo Kang, Hollywood Reporter
[Raya is] a well-rounded, complex character, much of that hinges of the emotion Tran delivers through her performance. – Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com
Awkwafina as Sisu is a bit over-the-top, and that’s what makes me laugh. – Tania Lamb, Lola Lambchops
Awkwafina is a gifted comic actor, but she’s no Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy. – Peter Debruge, Variety

Does the movie have great side characters?

An enormous pill bug named Tuk Tuk… seems destined for ‘season’s hottest toy’ status. – Angie Han, Mashable
Sisu just isn’t special enough to gain entry to the Disney character hall of fame… [she] looks weird, like someone stuck a plastic My Little Pony head on a floppy feather-boa body. – Peter Debruge, Variety
I could’ve done without the [light-fingered toddler from Talon], which caused a fresh flare-up of post- Baby Geniuses stress disorder. – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

Raya and the Last Dragon

How respectful is the Southeast Asian representation ?

Detail in the faces of the two rivals and Sisu in her human form… suggest something of the diversity in facial features among a group of people often stereotyped as all looking the same. – Inkoo Kang, Hollywood Reporter
From the tone and texture to the shine and glow – Raya and the main characters did not have that fake yellow skin, but a better representation of olive skin tone. – Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians
The specific pan-Asian details — a bowl of shrimp congee, a price paid in jade pieces — are amusing even when they brush up gently against stereotype. – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
Raya ‘s vision of diversity doesn’t feel as satisfying as a more culturally specific story like Pixar’s  Coco , which found universality within its specificity. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Will action fans be satisfied ?

When it comes to the action sequences, Raya and the Last Dragon breaks new ground… taking cultural fighting styles and bringing them to life via animation. – Sheraz Farooqi, ComicBook Debate
I seriously can’t speak highly enough about tense combative frames, as each swashbuckling sequence holds precision akin to live-action features. – Matt Conway, Battle Royale With Cheese
The face-off between Raya and Namaari delivers a thrilling set-piece that any action film would love to claim as its own. – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
Full of chases and elaborate style action sequences that would make  Indiana Jones  blush… the fight scenes are simply jaw-dropping, full of energy and oomph. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Raya and the Last Dragon

(Photo by )

Is it funny ?

Don’t worry. There’s lots of levity, between the sequence that features color bomb farting fireflies and Sisu’s comedic, Genie-esque antics. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction
Hall and Estrada’s jaunty direction pairs nicely with Nguyen and Lim’s wonderfully smart script to add plenty of humor to an otherwise dark story. – Kate Erbland, IndieWire
There’s a strain of wacky comedy that feels more in line with an early 2000s DreamWorks movie. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm
When your gag is done better by the dopey penguins in the  Madagascar  movies, you know it’s run its course. – Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

Will it move you ?

Raya and the Last Dragon is so rooted in emotion, that this motley crew is capable of kicking up big laughs and more than a few tears. – Kate Erbland, IndieWire
There were many moments that I sat crying, and others where I cheered on Raya and her unlikely crew. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky
The swelling emotional finale may elicit tears or eyerolls depending on your point of view (definitely the former for me). – Brandon Katz, Observer

Does it teach any valuable lessons ?

This animation speaks to themes of unity we are in dire need of learning right now, and it does it in the most powerful way, by wrapping the truth up in action and sweetness. – Sherin Nicole, idobi.com
Trust is a key theme in Raya and the Last Dragon , as evident in how often it’s mentioned, and it’s a lesson we could all stand to hear, see, and practice more often. – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
There are certainly worse lessons a movie could impart under present circumstances, and the filmmakers ponder it here with disarming sincerity and seriousness. – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
If any movie can restore faith in humanity again, this is it. – Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians

Raya and the Last Dragon

Does it have any problems ?

If there is anything to fault in this movie it would be the lack of songs. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky
This film desperately lacks the kind of soaring, iconically open-hearted sequences that made revered classics like The Lion King and  Mulan  stand the test of time. – Matt Conway, Battle Royale With Cheese
The film doesn’t flow so much as lurch from one big set-piece to the next, raising significant logic questions along the way. – Peter Debruge, Variety
Raya and Sisu’s friendship never fully develops. Akin to The Fifth Element , Raya treats Sisu more as a weapon. One that needs to be hidden rather than as a living creature. – Robert Daniels, The Playlist

Is it OK for younger viewers?

There are some scary moments that may frighten little ones, especially with the Druun, which is a dark mist-like monster. – Tania Lamb, Lola Lambchops
The Druun is scary — it moves quickly and is quite ominous…some sensitive ones might really be taken aback by it. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky
I would compare the violence easily to that of Moana , Tangled , or the animated Mulan . Very easily digestible for little kids. – Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians

Will it leave you wanting more?

It feels almost a pity when the movie ends and we have to say goodbye to the whole gang before we got to see them do still more fun stuff. – Angie Han, Mashable
[It’s] a property with plenty of future storytelling potential. – Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

Raya and the Last Dragon  is in theaters and available as a premium rental on Disney+  on March 5, 2021.

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Review: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon,’ featuring Disney’s first Southeast Asian heroine, is a moving adventure

An image from Disney's 'Raya and the Last Dragon'

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The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic . Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials .

The chief antagonist in “Raya and the Last Dragon,” an enjoyable new adventure from Walt Disney Animation Studios, is something called the Druun, a shrieking, sludgy purple monster that turns people to stone. It’s an archetypal formless villain, a distant cousin of supernatural scourges like the Nothing from “The Neverending Story,” but it also carries a whiff of real-world metaphor. No, the Druun isn’t the coronavirus, even if it does leave broken societies, devastated families and tribalist impulses in its wake. One character calls it “a plague born from human discord,” which is to say it’s yet one more crushing reminder that we have met the enemy and he is us.

Or rather, she is us. Women rule, literally and figuratively, in “Raya and the Last Dragon,” starting with Raya, an intrepid warrior princess whom we first see riding through the desert like a bamboo-hatted Mad Max. The Druun has devastated her homeland, but Raya, voiced with pluck and determination by Kelly Marie Tran (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”), refuses to accept defeat. Armed with a powerful sword, an ancient scroll and a giant armadillo-like sidekick named Tuk Tuk (he’s her pet and her roly-poly mode of of transport), she travels the fantastical realm of Kumandra in search of answers, carrying nothing less than the weight of humanity on her red-caped shoulders.

And also, at least temporarily, the weight of one of the world’s most recognizable family-entertainment brands, a burden she handles with relative ease. Arriving Friday in theaters and as a premium offering for Disney+ subscribers, “Raya and the Last Dragon” marks the studio’s latest attempt to diversify its animated features for a global audience — something readily apparent from Raya’s Southeast Asian lineage, a first for a Disney protagonist. But it’s also apparent from the apocalyptic, world-saving nature of her quest: In these dark times, onscreen as well as off, “happily ever after” isn’t as simple a proposition as it used to be. Like Moana , Elsa and other 21st century Disney heroines, Raya has more than romance or even self-actualization on her mind. And unlike them, she doesn’t even have time for a song.

Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) and Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina) in the movie "Raya and the Last Dragon."

Which is not to say that “Raya and the Last Dragon,” smoothly directed by the Disney veteran Don Hall ( “Big Hero 6” ) and the animation newcomer Carlos López Estrada ( “Blindspotting” ), doesn’t make room for music, lightness and whimsy. Its vigorous sword fights and chase sequences play out over a lovely, catchy score composed by James Newton Howard. The story features the usual Disney complement of cute critters and likable supporting players, some of whom spout comic banter that hews more anachronistic than mythic. One of these is an aquamarine dragon, Sisu, who, awakened from a 500-year slumber, quickly becomes Raya’s bestie and part-time therapist: “Wow, you’ve really got some trust issues,” she says, before later adding, “C’mon, I got you, girl, who’s your dragon?”

Your dragon, in this case, is voiced by Awkwafina, as delightful and irrepressible a comic force here as she was in the live-action “Crazy Rich Asians.” (Adele Lim, one of that movie’s co-writers, also scripted this one, with Qui Nguyen.) Sisu hails from a lineage of glorious, multihued dragons who roamed Kumandra centuries earlier, and who inspired the names of its five kingdoms: Heart, Fang, Spine, Talon and Tail. In keeping with Asian folklore, these dragons are not enemies but guardians of humanity, aligned less with fire than with the life-giving elements of water and air. And when the Druun first showed up and began their Medusa-like rampage, the dragons made the ultimate sacrifice, pouring their powers into a magical gem that banished the Druun and saved the world.

But the dragons themselves disappeared, and the foolish Kumandrans never learned from their mistakes. Near the beginning of “Raya and the Last Dragon,” their greed and infighting cause the precious Dragon Gem to shatter into pieces, allowing the Druun to return with a vengeance. After losing her noble chieftain father (Daniel Dae Kim) to the Druun’s unstoppable onslaught, Raya, princess of Heart, vows to recover the pieces of the gem — a mission that will find her happily resurrecting Sisu and making other friends along the way. They’re sweet if somewhat paint-by-numbers company: There’s a street-smart boy chef from Tail, a benevolent big lug from Spine and a light-fingered toddler from Talon. (I could’ve done without the latter, which caused a fresh flare-up of post-“Baby Geniuses” stress disorder.)

Far more intriguing is Raya’s sworn enemy, the treacherous Fang princess Namaari (Gemma Chan), with whom she has, as they say, unfinished business. Raya and Namaari were once friends before intra-Kumandran hostilities tore them apart, and their enmity gives “Raya and the Last Dragon” a fierce, complicated emotional dynamic of a sort that’s still rare in the Disney universe, particularly between women. Their heated expressions of rage and mutual loathing find a cool contrast in the funny, pure-hearted Sisu, who at one point transforms into an old woman to blend in with Raya’s posse — an experience that grants her a dispiriting new awareness of the human capacity for deception and betrayal.

Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) and Chief Benja (voiced by Daniel Dae Kim) in the movie "Raya and the Last Dragon."

The question at the heart of the movie is whether people at odds can ever learn to trust one another, let alone lay down their lives for one another, and submit to the realization that their fates are ultimately entwined. There are certainly worse lessons a movie could impart under present circumstances, and the filmmakers ponder it here with disarming sincerity and seriousness. They also set up an implicit clash between two moral considerations — the will of the individual vs. the good of the collective — that seems to arise organically from the East-West cinematic fusion cuisine being prepared here.

As with most of Disney’s past stabs at multiplex multiculturalism, the representational value of “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be lauded, debated and found wanting in roughly equal measure. (Some have already criticized the principal voice cast for featuring more actors of East Asian than Southeast Asian descent.) The movie is an ambitious, imperfect stew of cultural inspirations, in which sharp new flavors and textures jostle with flat, derivative ones. The specific pan-Asian details — a bowl of shrimp congee, a price paid in jade pieces — are amusing even when they brush up gently against stereotype. And the pleasing range of faces, skin tones and body types on display helps offset the anonymous quality that plagues even the most sophisticated three-dimensional character design.

The narrative skeleton is, if anything, even more generic, and also a reminder that the generic has its pleasures. The different regions of Kumandra may remind you of the various warring kingdoms of Westeros, or perhaps the houses of Hogwarts. Raya’s quest for scattered magic trinkets is, of course, a staple of fantasy literature, while some of the cavernous obstacle courses she must navigate are pure Indiana Jones. And Raya herself is an appealing amalgam of countless smart, unpretentious, down-to-earth action heroes before her — the kinds of characters that, as with this movie, you gravitate toward as much for their familiarity as for their novelty.

‘Raya and the Last Dragon’

Rating: PG, for some violence, action and thematic elements Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes Playing: Opens March 5 in theaters and streaming as PVOD on Disney+

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Justin Chang was a film critic for the Los Angeles Times from 2016 to 2024. He won the 2024 Pulitzer Prize in criticism for work published in 2023. Chang is the author of the book “FilmCraft: Editing” and serves as chair of the National Society of Film Critics and secretary of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.

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‘raya and the last dragon’: what the critics are saying.

The first reviews are quick to praise Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina’s dynamic, as well as Disney’s first Southeast Asian heroine for having "more than romance or even self-actualization on her mind."

By Lexy Perez

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Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) in 'Raya and the Last Dragon' (2021).

Reviews are in for Disney’s new animated feature Raya and the Last Dragon , and the critics are generally positive.

Directed by Don Hall ( Big Hero 6 , Winnie the Pooh ) and Carlos López Estrada ( Blindspotting ), the new animated film introduces audiences to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons live together in harmony. When the land is threatened by sinister monster Druun, the lone warrior Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran ) goes on a quest to find the last surviving Dragon in order to stop the monster.

Marie Tran and Awkwafina lead a predominantly Asian-American voice cast that also includes Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Izaac Wang, Thalia Tran and Alan Tudyk.

For The Hollywood Reporter , Inkoo Kang asserts that the animated film should be added to “the list of 2020 and 2021 movies you’ll desperately wish you could see on the big screen.” Elaborating, the critic notes that the film “occasionally crawls,” but still has “urgency and momentum to spare.” Kang further describes the film as “a kiddie version of The Leftovers ” and is an action-packed adventure “streaked with teal and violet whimsies, punctuated by Indiana Jones-style obstacles.” Though there’s a lot to the plot, Kang argues the directors do a good job at conveying the backstory “much more gracefully, through a gorgeous jewel-toned batik- and shadow puppet-inspired sequence that’s a visual highlight of the film.” The critic goes on to say, “Just as impressively, it builds to a deeply moving climax whose resolution is unexpected yet consummate. This is a film that knows how to soar.”

Matt Goldberg of Collider shares the same sentiments as Kang in that the film can make audiences miss the movie theater. “Disney Animation’s new movie clearly belongs in a theater simply because it’s a big quest story built around its set pieces,” the critic writes. Further the critic describes Raya as “a fun romp”  that “takes a little while to get going, but once it settles into its groove it’s a propulsive journey with some thrilling action scenes.” Goldberg applauds the comical dynamic between characters Raya and Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina) and credits Awkwafina for delivering a “terrific vocal performance.” Speaking on the film’s theme of trust, Goldberg writes that the story proves to be rather timely as “we live in a world that is riven by divisions and we bemoan the fact that “no one trusts each other.’ He adds that the theme of trusting others hangs “an emotional core of the film” while also making for “pretty enjoyable action movie.”

Brian Tallerico of Roger Ebert describes Raya as “wonderful” and an “ambitious family film that will work for all ages” while “blending imagery and mythology from several Southeast Asian cultures into its own vision.” “It also contains some of the most striking imagery Disney has ever produced, dropping its characters in a world that feels both classic and new at the same time,” the critic writes. The critic compliments Disney for delivering “an old-fashioned adventure movie that recalls everything from Indiana Jones to “Princess Mononoke,” with the directors having the ability to “imbue every design element” with “top-notch craftsmanship.” The critic also praises the film’s ability to balance the adventure with emotional stakes never getting lost, sure to spark  conversations with young viewers about “trust, forgiveness and courage.” “One of the many things I love about it is how much it challenges the traditional superficiality of blockbuster animation, knowing that kids can handle more complex plots and themes than Hollywood usually gives them,” the critic writes.

Of the film, Ben Travis of Empire Magazine   applauds Disney for delivering a vibrant action-fantasy with a revolutionary heroine. Citing the distinctive action sequences as those “that hit harder than typical Disney fare,”  the critic also notes the fight sequences invoke “the cinematic language of Asian action cinema.” Further, the critic notes “some beats feel derivative” and it could seem Awkwafina “should get more zingers,” but overall the screenplay delivers a “pacy and propulsive” story, “punctuating the necessary narrative groundwork with bursts of action and excitement.” Of the film’s underlying messages, the critic refers to Raya as being ” perfectly timed for the Biden-Harris era.” “If there’s a hero we need right now, it’s one who kicks ass with kindness.”

Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times  describes the film as “an ambitious, imperfect stew of cultural inspirations, in which sharp new flavors and textures jostle with flat, derivative ones.” With Raya serving as Disney’s first Southeast Asian heroine, Chang notes that the lead character “has more than romance or even self-actualization on her mind” when compared to other Disney heroines Moana and Elsa. “And unlike them, she doesn’t even have time for a song,” the critic writes. Though he argues “the story features the usual Disney complement of cute critters and likable supporting players,” the critic credits Disney’s attempt at making “an ambitious, imperfect stew of cultural inspirations” and for the Raya character being an “appealing amalgam of countless smart, unpretentious, down-to-earth action heroes before her — the kinds of characters that, as with this movie, you gravitate toward as much for their familiarity as for their novelty.”

Brian Truitt of USA Today describes Raya as “an epic and sassy fantasy adventure for youngsters not yet ready for Game of Thrones .” Quick to note that the film “wrestles with tonal inconsistencies,” the critic also praises Raya ’s “fantastic action scenes” that follow a ” touching underlying narrative about the power of trust.” Truitt likens the film’s “best aspects” to Moana , in particular the “comedy and its central empowering journey.” The critic also notes that the film can share “plenty of familiar fantasy themes and the occasional Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars nod” but “because it’s not based on anything, the film sometimes feels remarkably original” with ” amazing fight sequences,” a “goofiness” that “entertains more than it distracts” and calls Awkwafina’s casting an “absolute perfection.” “Watching her [Awkwafina] skip through the sky using her magic is as enjoyable as seeing Raya mosey into one of her thrilling, two-fisted, sword-swinging altercations. Together, they make ‘Last Dragon’ a neat new entry to the fantasy-movie canon.”

Hoai-Tran Bui of SlashFilm quickly notes that the Raya’s “big selling point” is the animated film’s representation given “for decades Mulan was the only Asian face in Disney’s overwhelmingly white line-up of fairy-tale mascots.” The critic notes that it’s apparent “the creative team went above and beyond to accurately represent the region in the food, the architecture, the character design, down to every little tiny detail” and “as a rarefied piece of Southeast Asian representation onscreen, it does its job.” However the critic notes, “ Raya ‘s vision of diversity doesn’t feel as satisfying as a more culturally specific story like Pixar’s Coco , for example, which found universality within its specificity.” Further, Bui argues the film “struggles with differing tones” and contains “wacky comedy.” The critic concludes, “The Southeast Asian-flavored epic may not be quite the apex of representation that it wishes to be, but it gives us Disney magic of a new variety: one that is thrilling, and textured, and gives us a heroine with honeyed skin and a fascinating flaws who will be the favorite Disney Princess for a whole generation of Southeast Asian kids.”

Angie Han of Mashable admits Raya ’s “not-so-subtle theme of trying to find trust in a cynical world can’t help but wring a few extra tears in difficult times.” “There are wild chases and epic swordfights. There are moments of unexpected levity and quiet grief. (Again: very 2021.) And there are stops at all five nations, each with a distinctive enough feel to hint at a fuller world, even if all we get is a glimpse,” Han writes. The critic also notes that “in between its playful shenanigans and zippy action sequences,” the film “extends to the despairing a gentle reminder to hope, to heal, to reach out to others and try to become whole again.” Han also compares Raya to other Disney princesses “who’ve veered away from classic fairy tale tropes in search of more expansive adventures on the horizon.” “Raya’s Rose Tico-ish mix of grounded warmth and steely determination make her a hero who’s easy to root for, a solid core that anchors the film even as scenes regularly get stolen by the more colorful supporting characters around her.”

Dirk Libbey of Cinemablend praises the Disney animated feature for succeeding at “being several types of features at once” including “an animated family adventure,” “a moving and emotional drama” and “an absolutely kick-ass martial arts flick.” Though the critic notes that “on the surface Raya and the Last Dragon may seem like a story we’ve all seen before,” it’s “the execution of this story that makes it special.” “We’ve never seen this done quite this way, and there’s a lot here that we haven’t seen from Disney, even after more than eight decades of animated filmmaking,” the critic writes. The critic praises Tran for being “the perfect voice” for Raya, the “stunning” visuals and for being a film that takes action to another level.

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A still from Raya and the Last Dragon, a charming, sweet-natured YA-leaning adventure.

Raya and the Last Dragon review – charming and stylish Disney tale

A visually impressive and involving adventure offers up a tweaked version of a quest narrative we know well with a diverse cast and a strong-willed lead

T here’s been a predictable laze to much of Disney’s animated output in recent years, a staid reliance on the easy mass market appeal of the sequel. Finding Dory, Cars 3, Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Frozen II: a production line of “more of the same” regurgitations that have made the few originals in the same period – Coco, Soul, Moana – feel that much greater in comparison. With the same studio also churning out Marvel and Star Wars follow-ups, prequels and adaptations at breathless pace, it’s made Disney feel more like a cold capitalist corporation than ever before.

The release of Raya and the Last Dragon is in no way going to reshape that broader view (Disney is after all a cold capitalist corporation) but it does serve as a reminder of the studio doing what it does best: transporting us to a beautifully crafted universe to tell a story that’s both involving and, vitally, fresh. It’s another victim of the pandemic, premiering in cinemas where possible but also on Disney+ with a lofty $30 price tag, a shame given the film’s lush visuals as well as its ability to prove that yet again, duh, diversity sells as its box office would have surely been substantial with enthused word of mouth propelling it long past opening weekend. It’s the story of Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), a young girl who lives in the fragmented world of Kumandra, split into different warring clans after the evil Druun led to the sacrifice of the dragons they had all once lived peacefully alongside. After an attempt at peace ends in tragedy, years later as a teen, Raya finds herself on a dangerous quest to bring everyone together with the help of the last dragon Sisu (Awkwafina).

Set in a fictionalised version of south-east Asia, the accompanying voice cast is made up almost entirely of actors of Asian descent (from Sandra Oh to Gemma Chan to Daniel Dae Kim) although there was some understandable frustration recently when people discovered that the actors are predominantly of east Asian heritage, a sign that for some at Disney, Asia is all the same. It’s an unfortunate misstep in what is otherwise another much-needed attempt at progress not just with its diverse cast and characters but also its positioning of a female lead. Raya is not only the driving force behind the action-led plot but she’s also without a love interest, focused on her family, her mission and her burgeoning friendship with Sisu. Tran’s steeliness is well-matched with Awkwafina’s brand of goofy comedy (she’s so well-suited to voice work that it makes sense she’ll be voicing a seagull in Disney’s upcoming Little Mermaid) and their buddy comedy back-and-forth is funny without bordering on the “this one’s for the adults” smugness that can often seep into post-Shrek animation.

It’s a stunningly intricate and immersive world and as Raya travels from clan to clan, directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada create unpredictable new elements for her to encounter, making it one of the most visually escapist Disney films for a good while. The design of the Druun is particularly effective, a horrifyingly undefined maelstrom of chaos, turning everything into stone, although I’d argue that the design of the dragons feels a little cheap in comparison to everything else, with Sisu looking a little too My Little Pony-adjacent to feel part of the awe-inspiring world around her. The script, from the Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim and playwright Qui Nguyen, like many Disney films, aims to offer some simple life lessons along with the adventure, urging unity over division and hope over fear, an interestingly timed plea as the US leaves the darkness of one presidency and aims to repair the wounds it’s deepened. Lim and Nguyen manage to infuse this message without it ever feeling preachy, in the same way that Inside Out could be used as a way of explaining mental health or Coco for death to a young viewer, there’s similar, if less potent, worth here with its view of politics. That might sound on paper a little too earnest but it’s handled with a light touch.

As with any form of quest narrative, there’s a familiar formula at play and as with any, especially latter-day, Disney animation, there’s a lurch toward the heartstrings in the finale. While some of the beats might be a little too predictable and while the emotional wallop at the end might be more of a gentle tap, Raya and the Last Dragon works for the most part, a charming, sweet-natured YA-leaning adventure that acts as proof that Disney needs to focus on moving forward rather than continuing to look back.

Raya and the Last Dragon is released in some cinemas and on Disney+ on 5 March

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Raya And The Last Dragon Review

Raya And The Last Dragon

Raya And The Last Dragon

Ever since Disney overhauled its princess archetype in 2010’s Tangled with an agency-seizing Rapunzel, the evolution of its revolutionary heroines has continued — from Frozen ’s convention-bucking royal sisters Elsa and Anna, to seafaring voyager Moana. Its latest progression is Raya — an all-out warrior, traversing a post-apocalyptic fantasy kingdom in an action-packed adventure replete with tomb-raiding set-pieces and bruising brawls.

Raya And The Last Dragon

She’s also the studio’s first Southeast Asian protagonist in a tale inspired by the cultures and mythology of Southeast Asian countries, transposed to the fictional realm of Kumandra — once-prosperous and populated by humans and dragons, before swirling purple evil entity the Druun turned the mythical beasts to stone. Kumandra divided into warring factions, and centuries later a power-grab gone wrong brings the Druun back, plunging the kingdom into further ruin. Enter Raya ( Kelly Marie Tran ) — a lone wolf with a swooshing cape and a sling-bladed whip sword, on a quest to reunite the broken shards of the Dragon Gem (a stone holding the last vestiges of dragon magic), defeat the Druun, and restore Kumandra’s people, her father Benja ( Daniel Dae Kim ) included.

A rare family film with genuine action-blockbuster chops.

It’s a lot of lore, and the opening act of Raya has plenty to unfurl – there’s a prologue to a prelude, exposition to dispense about dragon magic and the five factions of Kumandra (Tail, Talon, Spine, Fang, and Raya’s homeland of Heart), and a MacGuffin-driven mission to establish, along with the introduction of Awkwafina ’s anxious water dragon Sisu. But the screenplay — from Crazy Rich Asians co-screenwriter Adele Lim and Vietnamese-American writer Qui Nguyen — is pacy and propulsive, punctuating the necessary narrative groundwork with bursts of action and excitement. The complex mythology does make Kumandra feel properly epic, and every stop on Raya’s journey — the desert wasteland of Tail, the lantern-lit market-town of Talon, the dense, foggy forest of Spine — has a distinct, gorgeously realised identity.

Most distinctive, though, is the action. Veteran Disney director Don Hall ( Big Hero 6 ) and Blindspotting ’s Carlos López Estrada deliver impressively impactful fight sequences that hit harder than typical Disney fare — using crash-zooms and speed-ramping to accentuate the fighting techniques of Raya and her nemesis Namaari ( Gemma Chan ) while invoking the cinematic language of Asian action cinema. Throw in a fluid foot-chase through Talon and a booby-trapped gauntlet-run in Tail (complete with explosive-farting beetles), and Raya is a rare family film with genuine action-blockbuster chops.

It’s not all refreshing. Some beats feel derivative (a moment of water-magic in a shipwreck is a near-direct Frozen II re-tread, while Moana ’s DNA looms large overall), and there’s a sense that Awkwafina — comedic dynamite in Crazy Rich Asians and Jumanji: The Next Level — should get more zingers.

But it’s frequently breathtaking, from the photoreal water effects to Sisu’s shimmering, purple-pink mane. And with its cleanly delivered thread about creating unity and learning to trust one another again, Raya is perfectly timed for the Biden-Harris era. If there’s a hero we need right now, it’s one who kicks ass with kindness.

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Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

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‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Review: Fool Me Once

A new Disney princess from Southeast Asia battles factionalism and her own trust issues.

movie review raya and the last dragon

By Beatrice Loayza

Disney’s newest princess, Raya, has some serious trust issues.

Not long after she follows her dad’s lead when he extends an olive branch to the fellow leaders of the other kingdoms that once comprised Kumandra — an ancient utopia of cross-cultural unity — she’s betrayed by a new friend, Namaari (Gemma Chan).

Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) had giddily offered to give her pal — a fellow warrior princess with whom she’d bonded over swords and curry — a peek at the dragon gem that’s causing all the grown-ups to act out. Unfortunately for Raya, Namaari’s chumminess is part of a ruse to get that precious rock: in this factionalized, dog-eat-dog world, even the kids are con artists.

Turns out the stone is the only thing standing between humanity and the Druun, a “mindless plague” that turns people into terra-cotta statues. This shapeless, electric-purple evil is unleashed when the gem shatters, throwing the planet into the Dark Ages.

Six years later, Raya is a young woman and a solo adventurer zooming around a desert wasteland on her trusty pill-bug-armadillo. Her moment of past weakness haunts her — figuratively and literally, with a pugilistic Namaari always on her tail.

Faith in the goodness of other people — even those from distant lands and of different persuasions — is the governing theme of “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which the directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, and the screenwriters Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, set in a fantasyland version of Southeast Asia complete with floating markets, water taxis and lots of shrimp congee.

In typical Disney-princess fashion, our brooding heroine acquires a joke-slinging sidekick in nonhuman form: Sisu (Awkwafina), the titular last dragon, who (like Mushu in “Mulan” before her) isn’t a menacing behemoth so much as a klutzy, shape-shifting My Little Pony-like creature.

Raya and company traverse multiple lands to collect the scattered pieces of the stone, giving the creators an excuse to indulge in expansive world-building, while snappy editing and rousingly choreographed action scenes animate these settings with comic strip panache. The animators don’t stray far from the overall style of recent Disney fare like “Frozen” or “Moana,” though the film’s meticulously detailed environments — rainforest shrines teeming with visible moisture, snowy mountain fortresses shrouded in fog — are particularly impressive.

The Disney treatment, like the Druun itself, seems to neutralize whatever it touches, no matter how hard it works to preserve the distinctive elements of the non-Western cultures it has brought under its label, especially recently. Is Disney paying tribute to these cultures? Or are these cultures instruments of corporate strategy? Places as different as Mexico (“Coco”), the Polynesian Islands (“Moana”) and now Southeast Asia are flattened along the Disney continuum, with each feeling like one in a collection.

In any case, the gender politics of the recent live-action “Mulan,” which some found to be retrograde , puts “Raya” in perspective: There’s no doubting our heroine’s abilities, nor is there mention of her being exceptional. “Disney princess” may eventually just become another word for “superhero,” but at least she won’t need saving.

And here, the most meaningful and transformative relationships are between women, er, feminine beings. Raya and Namari must learn to trust each other despite the history of betrayal — and between them there’s maybe, just maybe even the faintest hints of sexual tension. Then there’s Sisu, whose unwavering faith in humanity will leave its mark on both ladies. The unity rhetoric feels awfully trite, but it also teaches forgiveness: a worthy lesson for the kids.

Raya and the Last Dragon Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 54 minutes. In theaters and on Disney+ . Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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Raya and the last dragon review: a beautiful, poignant & adventurous movie.

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It's been more than four years since Walt Disney Animation Studios released an original animated feature ( Moana in 2016), but the Mouse House returns after two sequels (2018's  Ralph Breaks the Internet and 2019's  Frozen II ) with Raya and the Last Dragon , a wholly fresh and thematically rich feature film. In Raya and the Last Dragon , screenwriters Qui Nguyen ( Dispatches from Elsewhere ) and Adele Lim ( Crazy Rich Asians ), along with directors Don Hall ( Big Hero 6 ) and Carlos López Estrada ( Blindspotting ) introduce the world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together until an evil force known as the Druun attacked. When the movie picks up, Kumandra has split into different warring factions of humans and the dragons have all but disappeared, paving the way for one heroine to save the day and unite the land. Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon stumbles a bit to get going, but manages to stick the landing of a heartfelt and hope-filled animated movie.

The movie follows Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) as she attempts to find the last dragon, a water dragon named Sisu (Awkwafina), and save her father Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) from the Druun. Raya's journey brings her through the various lands held by the other factions of humans, where she sees how the war with the Druun and among the humans has wrecked havoc on the lives of everyone left. She also meets a ragtag group of survivors who have also lost family in the war, including the young Boun (Izaac Wang), the baby Noi (Thalia Tran) and the warrior Tong (Benedict Wong). With her new friends and her adorable furbug Tuk Tuk, Raya must face Namaari (Gemma Chan), someone from her past who holds the key to saving Kumandra.

Related:  Every New Movie & TV Show Coming To Disney+ In March 2021

Since Raya and the Last Dragon has such an expansive world to explain to viewers, much of the film's first act works as setup for the real story, establishing the history of Kumandra and setting the stage for the themes of trust to be explored throughout the second and third acts. While all of this setup is trimmed to the point that nothing feels superfluous by the movie's end, it does present a little bit of a slog to get through before Raya and the Last Dragon really gets going. That said, once Raya and the Last Dragon's story does finally pick up, it's an adventure that's easy to get invested in. Plus, the film is propelled by some really excellent action scenes with spectacularly realistic fight choreography, made all the more fun to watch thanks to the film's animation. Altogether, Raya and the Last Dragon is as tightly plotted as it can be with such a big chunk of world-building in the early part of the story, with an ending that pays off all that the film promises in the first act.

As the titular character, Tran's Raya has most of the heavy lifting to do in the movie, and she shoulders it well, particularly the early world-building exposition. She also works well with Awkwafina's Sisu for a dynamic that's a little like Aladdin and Genie's, though the script's more modern references - often delivered by Awkwafina - don't land very well, like a group project analogy that feels completely at odds with the world Raya and the Last Dragon has established. As a result, the movie's most compelling dynamic isn't Raya and Sisu, but Raya and Namaari, who have a complicated history. Tran and Chan's voice work gives these characters and their relationship a much-needed depth that's sorely lacking between Raya and Sisu. The rest of the cast, largely rounded out by Asian American actors, all work well to bring the world of Kumandra to life, particularly Kim's performance as Raya's father and Sandra Oh as Namaari's mother Virana. But it's Tran's movie and she excels in the lead role as Raya.

It's perhaps fitting that Raya and the Last Dragon is the first original Disney animated movie after Moana , because it follows on the Mouse House's trend of digging deeper into more complicated themes that examine humanity and the ways in which humans relate to one another. Where Moana followed a fearless, hopeful girl, Raya is jaded and distrustful, traumatized not just by the Druun, but by the betrayal of humans. Her journey is about finding the strength to take the first step of trusting someone again and though it may be set against the backdrop of a mythical world once filled with dragons, it speaks to the struggle of many folks at one point or another in their lives. Similar to how  Frozen II dealt with grief and Ralph Breaks the Internet handled how friendships evolve, Raya and the Last Dragon gives its viewers a roadmap to navigating trust and how to put their trust in someone again after they've been betrayed. It's an important lesson for all ages and allows Raya and the Last Dragon to fit well within Disney Animation's much more complex and poignant library of films released in recent years.

As such, Raya and the Last Dragon is a must-watch for Disney fans of all ages. After being delayed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,  Raya and the Last Dragon  will now receive a hybrid theatrical (where theaters are open) and streaming release via Disney+ Premier Access, which comes with an additional price tag on top of standard subscription costs. It's only the second Premier Access movie, following  Mulan last summer, and while some may balk at the extra cost, Raya and the Last Dragon is perhaps more worthy of paying it - insofar as the film is fresh, original and entertaining. It's certainly a good family-friendly movie for viewers young and old, but those who have enjoyed Disney Animation's offerings in recent years will find plenty to enjoy. With richly detailed animation, exciting action and a compelling story about trust, Raya and the Last Dragon has all the makings of a modern Disney classic.

Next: Raya and the Last Dragon Movie Trailer

Raya and the Last Dragon starts playing in theaters and streaming on Disney+ Premier Access Friday, March, 5. It is 114 minutes long and rated PG for some violence, action and thematic elements.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comments section!

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Raya and the Last Dragon Is a Slick, Sometimes Transcendent Addition to the Disney Canon

Portrait of Alison Willmore

As Disney enters its ninth decade of animated features, the company’s been making gestures toward sociopolitical relevance in addition to repositioning its princesses as independent heroines and opening its animated universes up to be more inclusive. Zootopia was an unmistakable if imperfect allegory about racism; the Frozen sequel pitted its royal sisters against their own kingdom’s colonialist legacy. But however intentional the timing, Raya and the Last Dragon is on a level all its own — a dystopian saga that feels disorientingly primed for a release at the tail end of the pandemic, under a president who ran under messages of healing and unity. It’s a movie that takes place in a landscape ravaged by a plague, and one in which, we’re told, the only chance at a future appears to depend on its characters figuring out how to overcome the tribalism that’s splintered their nation. Who could ever relate? Thank God there’s a cute baby to focus on.

Raya and the Last Dragon , which was directed by Don Hall (of Big Hero 6 and Moana ) and Carlos López Estrada ( Blindspotting ), and written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, is a slick production, as much an action movie as a fantasy adventure. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) isn’t just the future leader of her land, she’s also a fierce martial artist who’s been training to inherit the role of protector of the gem containing the last of the era’s magic. All parallels to pleas for bipartisanship aside, there’s a genuine emotional heft to the conflict at its center. Raya has to travel to different lands collecting magical objects and evading dangers that range from grandmotherly mob bosses to bugs with exploding farts — but her real battle involves learning to let go of her rage after having been betrayed. Trust, the movie suggests, is an act of grace, something that involves relinquishing the memories of past harm, and something that must be given if it is expected from others.

The angel on her shoulder urging her toward forgiveness is Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon, and the one who, the story goes, saved the world from being destroyed by the Druun by creating the gem that Raya and her family have been guarding. The Druun are part virus, part monster, formless forces that transform everyone they come into contact with to stone. When the Druun were first defeated, 500 years ago, their victims transformed back — except for the dragons, the source of all of Kumandra’s enchantments, who remained frozen. When Raya and the Last Dragon begins, Raya’s father, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), is hoping to heal the rifts between the five warring lands that Kumandra has split into by inviting the leadership for a sit-down. Instead, Namaari (Gemma Chan), the daughter of a rival chief, befriends Raya in order to steal the gem, a double cross that leads to it being shattered and the Druun being set free once again. Six years later, Raya’s desperately chasing a legend that holds that Sisu is still around — and, it turns out, she is, though she’s more goofball than powerhouse.

There’s a cute kid, too — an entrepreneurial junior restaurateur named Boun (Izaac Wang) who specializes in shrimp congee. Benedict Wong voices Tong, another character picked up along the journey, a burly warrior with a squishy center. There’s also the adorable requisite animal sidekick, Tuk Tuk, who’s kind of a roly-poly bug by way of an armadillo, and who can handily serve as an all-terrain mount for the film’s resolute title character when curled up into a ball. Raya and the Last Dragon is a reminder of the things that Disney has always been capable of doing so well at its heights, a marvel of character design, world-building, and canny choices. It unfurls a richly realized Southeast Asia–inspired fantasy realm called Kumandra, made up of craggy deserts, snowy bamboo forests, floating markets, and canal-shielded cities.

There’s a lot of backstory to hurry through, enough to make it easy to see Raya and the Last Dragon as a strategically calculated, spinoff-ready bit of corporate IP that will come back to these details in some other form. But the film has bursts of real transcendence despite that. Sisu, who embodies what at first seems like naïveté, and later a radical optimism, is responsible for many of them. Awkwafina’s gently comedic vocal performance does a lot to establish the character as a holy innocent, joyfully using the powers she accrues to bounce through the sky and always insisting that the right gift can mend all divisions. Namaari is key to the others. Her borderline romantically charged conflict with Raya becomes the central relationship of the movie, with the pair torn between feeling like they can only look out for their own people and a desire to act on behalf of the greater good.

The two young women may be enemies, but they share a capacity for wonder, especially when it comes to dragons. The film’s highlight isn’t a fight sequence, but a moment in which Namaari has an encounter that reminds her that the world is not all a struggle for survival — that it still has the capacity to surprise and to offer hope. It’s moving not because it’s topical, but because the unguarded expression on her face feels so true.

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Raya and the Last Dragon

March 5, 2021

Action-Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Raya and the Last Dragon travels to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together in harmony long ago. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well. Raya and the Last Dragon features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran as Raya, a warrior whose wit is as sharp as her blade, and Awkwafina as the magical, mythical, self-deprecating dragon named Sisu. Characters also include a street-savvy 10-year-old entrepreneur named Boun, the formidable giant Tong and a thieving toddler Noi with her band of Ongis.

Rated: PG Runtime: 1h 30min Release Date: March 5, 2021

Directed By

Produced by.

Rated PG

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Favorite Food Memory Featurette | Raya and the Last Dragon

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Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon | Now Available on Digital & Blu-ray

Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon | Now Available Early on Digital

Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon | Now Available Early on Digital

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Raya and the Last Dragon | Watch it Now

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Raya and the Last Dragon | Epic

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Raya and the Last Dragon | Lead the Way

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Crafting Raya Featurette | Raya and the Last Dragon

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Raya and the Last Dragon | International Trailer

Raya and the Last Dragon | International Trailer

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Raya and the Last Dragon | Big Game Ad

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Raya and the Last Dragon | Trailer Reaction

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Raya and the Last Dragon | Official Trailer

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Raya and the Last Dragon | Official Teaser Trailer

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Raya and the Last Dragon - EMEA Banner - Activity Packet

As an evil force threatens the kingdom of Kumandra, it is up to warrior Raya to leave her Heart Lands home and track down the legendary last dragon to help stop the villainous Druun. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

As an evil force threatens the kingdom of Kumandra, it is up to warrior Raya, and her trusty steed Tuk Tuk, to leave their Heart Lands home and track down the last dragon to help stop the villainous Druun. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

As an evil force threatens the kingdom of Kumandra, it is up to warrior Raya, and her trusty steed Tuk Tuk, to leave their Heart Lands home and track down the last dragon to help stop the villainous Druun. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Raya and her best friend, Tuk Tuk, have always teamed up for adventure. When they are grown and their world is threatened, they journey together through the Lands of Kumandra to find the legendary last dragon and save the kingdom. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Raya and her best friend, Tuk Tuk, have always teamed up for adventure. When they are grown and their world is threatened, they journey together through the Lands of Kumandra to find the legendary last dragon and save the kingdom. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Part pill bug and part pug, Tuk Tuk has been Raya’s best friend since she could hold him in the palm of her hand. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Part pill bug and part pug, Tuk Tuk has been Raya’s best friend since she could hold him in the palm of her hand. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The magical, mythical, self-deprecating dragon, Sisu.

The magical, mythical, self-deprecating dragon, Sisu. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The street-savvy entrepreneur Boun.

The street-savvy entrepreneur Boun. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

A formidable giant named Tong.

A formidable giant named Tong. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

A thieving toddler, Noi.

A thieving toddler, Noi. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Noi's band of Ongis.

Noi's band of Ongis. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Discover Raya and the Last Dragon Products at DisneyStore.com

Raya and the Last Dragon Pillowcase

Raya and the Last Dragon Pillowcase

Raya and the Last Dragon Charm Necklace

Raya and the Last Dragon Charm Necklace

Raya and the Last Dragon Flower Pendant Necklace

Raya and the Last Dragon Flower Pendant Necklace

Raya Disney Story Doll – Raya and the Last Dragon – 11 1/2''

Raya Disney Story Doll – Raya and the Last Dragon – 11 1/2''

Raya and the Last Dragon Light-Up Living Magic Sketchbook Ear Hat Ornament

Raya and the Last Dragon Light-Up Living Magic Sketchbook Ear Hat Ornament

$26.99 $12.98

Sisu Pendant Necklace – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon

Sisu Pendant Necklace – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon Bedding Set – Twin / Full

Raya and the Last Dragon Bedding Set – Twin / Full

Raya and the Last Dragon ''Fearless'' T-Shirt for Girls – Customized

Raya and the Last Dragon ''Fearless'' T-Shirt for Girls – Customized

Raya Classic Doll – Raya and the Last Dragon – 11 1/2''

Raya Classic Doll – Raya and the Last Dragon – 11 1/2''

Sisu Classic Doll – Raya and the Last Dragon – 11 1/2''

Sisu Classic Doll – Raya and the Last Dragon – 11 1/2''

Raya Sunset Silhouette Mug – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Raya Sunset Silhouette Mug – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Raya and the Last Dragon ''Fearless'' Graphic Case-Mate iPhone Case – Customized

Raya and the Last Dragon ''Fearless'' Graphic Case-Mate iPhone Case – Customized

Raya and the Last Dragon ''Be Strong'' Stainless Steel Water Bottle – Customized

Raya and the Last Dragon ''Be Strong'' Stainless Steel Water Bottle – Customized

Little Noi and the Ongis Tote Bag – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Little Noi and the Ongis Tote Bag – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Raya Sunset Silhouette T-Shirt for Women – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Raya Sunset Silhouette T-Shirt for Women – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Raya ''Protector of the Light'' T-Shirt for Kids – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Raya ''Protector of the Light'' T-Shirt for Kids – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Sisu Human ''Loyal'' T-Shirt for Women – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Sisu Human ''Loyal'' T-Shirt for Women – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Boun and Ongis ''Team Work'' T-Shirt for Boys – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Boun and Ongis ''Team Work'' T-Shirt for Boys – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Tuk Tuk ''Let's Roll'' T-Shirt for Men – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Tuk Tuk ''Let's Roll'' T-Shirt for Men – Disney Raya and the Last Dragon – Customized

Ray and the Last Dragon OtterBox iPhone Case – Customized

Ray and the Last Dragon OtterBox iPhone Case – Customized

Figment Fig-Clair Disney Munchlings Plush – Specialty Treats – EPCOT Festival of the Arts – Micro 4'' – Limited Release

Figment Fig-Clair Disney Munchlings Plush – Specialty Treats – EPCOT Festival of the Arts – Micro 4'' – Limited Release

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Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is a sumptuous fantasy — but it makes a mess of Southeast Asian culture

The animated fantasy is a gorgeous, if generic, vehicle for a great Disney princess.

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movie review raya and the last dragon

Disney’s latest princess film, Raya and the Last Dragon, delivers a lush, beautifully animated, endearing, and engaging story. It’s funny and well written, with dark, layered themes, memorable characters, a pair of deliciously kickass teen girl rivals, and perhaps the most overtly political messaging Disney has pushed in decades. Plus, it’s a fantasy adventure that promises to bring Disney fans a long-awaited treasure: Raya, the first Southeast Asian Disney princess.

But it has drawn its share of skeptics, and for good reason: The film, premiering on Disney+ and in select theaters March 5 (with an accompanying short film, Us Again) , is a conundrum.

The film’s writers, Qui Nguyen ( The Society ) and Adele Lim ( Crazy Rich Asians ) are, respectively, Vietnamese American and Malaysian American, and copious research has gone into Raya to make the film feel true to Southeast Asian viewers. The dragons in Raya are mainly based on Southeast Asian folklore, and the visuals and settings are mainly drawn from the region’s real geography.

But the film’s production team has drawn criticism from Southeast Asian viewers for casting East Asian actors in many of its most important roles, rather than Southeast Asian actors. Though the title role went to Kelly Marie Tran , a Disney fan favorite of Vietnamese descent (known for Star Wars ), the main cast also includes Awkwafina in the role of the “last dragon,” Daniel Dae Kim as Raya’s father, and Gemma Chan as Raya’s nemesis Namaari. They are respectively Chinese and Korean American, Korean American, and British Chinese.

Voice actors have been fighting to win roles that reflect their ethnicity, a fact that led to early criticism around Raya and its casting. But there is another worry about the use of East Asian actors: The blending of the distinct and varied cultures of Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and half a dozen other nations has left Raya and the Last Dragon feeling indistinct and insensitive.

Fans of the Airbender / Korra franchise might be reminded of those series and note that they did much of what Raya is trying to do now, better, 15 years ago. Movie buffs may feel like Raya has taken 80 percent of its beats from other animated stories, from The Lion King to The Dark Crystal . But the most disappointing thing about Raya is that Southeast Asian Disney fans may struggle to find any identifiable part of their specific cultures in the film’s gorgeous but messy world-building.

Raya is the story of a society struggling to reunify and a girl struggling to trust in the wake of betrayal

movie review raya and the last dragon

Raya (pronounced “RYE-ah”) is set in a fantasy land called Kumandra, a blend of Southeast Asian nations and cultures. The real-world region consists of about a dozen countries, including parts of India and the South Pacific, which between them encompass hundreds of miles, languages, cultures, and islands. In Raya, this diverse part of the planet has been condensed to a group of five loosely defined tribes who aren’t clearly mapped to any specific culture but instead to parts of a dragon: There’s Fang, Talon, Spine, Tail, and Raya’s home, Heart.

Centuries ago, Kumandra was a happy land freely cohabited by the five human tribes and dragons, until the land was invaded by a strange monster species called the Druun, who turn everything they touch to stone. It’s not clear what the Druun live on, or how they arose, or how to fully defeat them. They’re essentially a purple-cloud plot device for everything that comes afterward — several centuries of geopolitical strife. The Druun wipe out the dragons, but one, Sisu (Awkwafina) sacrifices herself and uses all her magic to vanquish the Druun threat. With no dragon magic to protect them, the tribes of Kumandra fall into conflict.

When we meet Raya, her father, the leader of Heart, is trying diligently to reunite the tribes once and for all by convincing them to trust one another. Raya is still just a young girl, so she’s easy prey for Namaari, the daughter of the visiting Fang leader. They bond over their shared love of dragons and a wish to find Sisu, who, according to legend, was never killed in the Druun war, but instead went into hiding. When Raya entrusts Namaari with a secret, however, Namaari betrays her, setting off a chain of events that leads to the sudden return of the Druun.

The resurrected Druun turn masses of people into stone, including Raya’s father. The planet falls out of ecological balance, and the divisions between the remaining tribes grow even fiercer. With no alternative, Raya devotes herself to trying to find the river where Sisu may be hiding, in the hope of getting her help to heal the world.

The dragons of this universe draw inspiration from the benevolent magical dragons of Vietnamese folklore, with a design based on the naga folklore of Thailand and other countries. They’re delightful, non-threatening, and non-fire-breathing — colorful serpents who fly, swim, and generally behave like wriggly pets. As voiced by Awkwafina, Sisu is a fun addition to the Disney canon of magical sidekicks; she’s wisecracking but earnest, rambunctious but wise, and her loving nature is a good foil for Raya, who’s vulnerable but much tougher, thanks to Namaari. Meanwhile, Namaari has grown up to lead her home tribe, Fang, but has begun questioning the aggressive direction of her clan.

Determined to reunite the tribes as Raya’s father always intended, Raya and Sisu journey to each of the other four lands to try and steal the remaining dragon crystals they each control, in hopes that uniting all the crystals can return the dragons to Kumandra, vanquish the Druun, and bring peace. Predictably, this road trip brings them lots of new friends and enemies. The biggest enemy of all, of course, is Raya’s archnemesis — but if you’re vibing the Airbender -ness of it all, you’ve probably guessed that Namaari may turn out to be the reluctant ally Raya has needed all along.

Raya is a gorgeous, accessible film, with engaging characters, a winning heroine, and sumptuous animation from start to finish. It’s a film you’ll want to look at again and again, and its story will hold up fairly well on repeat viewing. As a bonus, Us Again , the short film that accompanies Raya on streaming platforms and in theaters, delivers stunning animation and big-hearted emotions throughout its noisy but wordless seven minutes. Its story of an elderly couple rekindling their relationship through their love of dance pays homage to the grand tradition of movie musicals, from Singin’ in the Rain to La La Land , but also feels like an accidental anthem for a vibrant city whose nightlife scenes have dimmed fully during quarantine. You will cry, so be prepared, but Us Again ’s dazzling seven minutes alone are worth Raya ’s hefty add-on streaming price of nearly $30.

For most Disney fans, the main feature will also be worth the price. Yet the blended version of Southeast Asia on display in Raya may leave viewers conflicted about the way the movie flattens all of Southeast Asia into the land of Kumandra.

Raya treats Southeast Asian cultures like a buffet

Each of the five tribes in Raya’s fractured homeland has its own distinctive geography and what seems to be an approximation of a distinctive culture. But they aren’t recognizably linked to cultures in our own world — not in the way that (to use what still seems to be the best example of this exercise in US animation) the four tribes of Airbender map identifiably to Inuit, Chinese, Tibetan, and Japanese cultures.

Throughout my viewing of Raya, I was confused about what signifiers I was meant to recognize as a viewer; initially, I thought Raya’s tribe, Heart, was meant to be based on Thailand. Then I settled on Indonesia, then on Vietnam; eventually, as the film’s cultural guideposts kept shifting — Thai decor seemed to merge with Cambodian temples, Filipino weaponry, Vietnamese mountains — I gave up.

Hollywood’s push for diversity has also brought with it a renewed understanding of the importance of cultural sensitivity, and Disney’s outsized influence means its films draw close scrutiny . Moana ran into controversy in 2016 because of its buffoonish depiction of the Polynesian god Maui, which some found offensive, as well as the inclusion of elements of Indigenous cultures that some viewers regarded as racist stereotypes. “The filmmakers cut off manageable chunks of exotica,” argued Maori writer Morgan Godfery, “while refusing to keep faith with actual Polynesian histories and mythologies.”

Perhaps because of that backlash, Raya’s creative team doesn’t appear to have engaged an existing mythos at all, apart from the dragon concept. Unlike most films in the Disney princess pantheon, Raya ’s story isn’t taken from any extant cultural source, but comes from the brain of veteran Disney director Bradley Raymond , known mainly for directing sequels like Lion King 3 and Pocahontas 2 . Here, he’s credited with generating the story ideas upon which Raya is based.

That’s not to say that white men or white creatives — or indeed any of us — aren’t capable of generating meaningful stories about cultures not their own. At a bare minimum, doing so requires respect and research, and Raya ’s production did plenty of the latter . In preparation for the film, members of Disney’s production and animation teams reportedly traveled throughout Southeast Asia, making stops in seven countries. In aiming for respectful cultural representation, they created the Raya Southeast Asia Story Trust, an assemblage of various experts including, according to Looper , “a textile expert, linguists (who approved every name in the film), and a visual anthropologist.”

But much of this careful attention to detail seems to have been executed mainly as background aesthetic, rather than as key parts of the storyline or the worldbuilding. While the production team includes numerous East Asian and Southeast Asian creators, including writers, animators, technical effects crew, and producers, most of the project decisions ultimately rested with directors Don Hall ( Big Hero 6 ) and Carlos López Estrada ( Blindspotting ) and their co-directors, Paul Briggs ( Big Hero 6 ) and John Ripa ( Moana ).

The biggest problem, however, is that all of that well-intentioned research seems to have been done for the explicit purpose of flattening Southeast Asia’s diversity, condensing a striking array of distinct cultures into five tribes. Aspects of cultures from other regions are blended in, too. There were numerous times the film’s aesthetics will remind viewers more of Korea and China, and even farther-flung places like Samoa and Central America, than Southeast Asia. Viewers analyzing the trailer have further commented that the film’s temples and architecture are uncharacteristically decor-free, and that the clothing lacks distinctively detailed patterns common in the nations.

After the fiasco of 2020’s terrible Mulan remake , in which the film’s East Asian cultural signifiers were put on display but badly mishandled, you might think that a generalized approach is a safer way to go. And initially, I was fully on board with that idea, because I was wooed by Raya’s many other strengths.

Raya herself is a wonderful protagonist, easily one of my favorite Disney princesses by a mile, though she’s justifiably drawn many comparisons to the Airbender franchise’s hot-blooded hero, Korra (they even bear a striking visual resemblance). She’s strong, bold, clever, and raids tombs with all the wiles of Indiana Jones. She and Namaari have a satisfying rivalry complete with thrilling fight scenes. The side characters are a mostly forgettable hodgepodge of typical Disney side characters — there’s a scheming team of monkeys and a conniving orphan baby who are all so outlandishly bizarre they cycled around from “horrifying” to “macabre treat” — but Awkwafina is a gem.

By the time I was near the end, however, the film’s innumerable borrowed tropes really began to get to me. I started to question the construction of the entire project: How many of the story elements really came from Nguyen and Lim, or from the head of story, Thai American animator Fawn Veerasunthorn ? How many from Bradford, or from the six other people who all share story credits with Nguyen and Lim, most of whom are white?

Even the score by James Newton Howard, which I initially found lush and ebullient, increasingly sounded like one of his phoned-in action scores, but with added vague chanting in non-specific languages. As the credits rolled, I found myself studying the long list of English names associated with the score’s production, wondering how it would sound to a Southeast Asian audience member. The outro song, usually one of the highlights of any Disney film, is here a forgettable number called “Lead the Way.” It’s written and performed by Jhené Aiko, an artist of partial Japanese heritage who at one point gives up on lyrics and just starts singing “Kumandra, Kumandra” over and over, as if simply naming the film’s setting could clarify anything for us.

This all may sound like futile nitpicking, but it really isn’t. Raya ’s generic attributes lend the film a vague quality overall. Compared to the memorable localization of Disney films like Frozen , which referenced actual rococo art, or Coco , which fully immersed the audience in Mexican culture, Raya feels thin. Its lack of specificity works against it.

Perhaps the biggest tell that Raya isn’t the representation Southeast Asian Disney fans deserve is that many of them won’t actually be able to watch it with the rest of us — because Disney+ is currently only available in three Southeast Asian countries. If there are stronger objections to be made to this film, the people best in a position to make them may not get to see it.

And so the film mainly leaves me questioning who Raya ’s intended audience is — and whether it was meant to appeal to Southeast Asian viewers. It seems clear that fans deserved a better movie that more fully and overtly embraced their cultures, instead of simply borrowing their beautiful settings for an average fantasy story.

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Raya and the last dragon.

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2 Encanto (2021)

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Encanto centers on the Madrigal family, who live in a rural community called Encanto. The matriarch of the family received a miracle that saved the village and gave the Madrigal family special gifts. But Mirabel Madrigal doesn't have a gift and doubts whether she fits into the family at all.

Encanto wasn't a big success when it debuted in theaters, but it became a cultural phenomenon once it was released on Disney+. Audiences can feel the magic of Encanto in the film's amazing soundtrack. There's a reason why several of the songs in Encanto went viral. The catchy tunes are part of the charm of the story, fleshing out the characters while moving the story forward in a fun and exciting way.

1 Soul (2020)

After landing the gig of a lifetime, a New York jazz pianist suddenly finds himself trapped in a strange land between Earth and the afterlife.

Soul follows Joe Gardner, an aspiring jazz pianist who teaches at a middle school but doesn't find fulfillment in his job. But after an accident leaves him in a coma, Joe must reunite his body with his soul at the same time as he searches for his true purpose. Joe's sidekick in Soul is 22, a soul in the Great Before who is doing everything it takes to avoid being sent to Earth.

Through the eyes of 22, Joe begins to find joy in the small things and understand the meaning of life. Soul deals with mature themes like a person's true purpose in life in a smart and heartwarming way. Soul is one of those rare Disney films that adults can enjoy just as much as children, if not more.

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Kelly Marie Tran, Andie Ju & Brandon Soo Hoo To Star In Jing Ai Ng’s Indie ‘Forge’

By Matt Grobar

Matt Grobar

Senior Film Reporter

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L-R: Kelly Marie Tran, Andie Ju and Brandon Soo Hoo

EXCLUSIVE : Kelly Marie Tran ( Raya and the Last Dragon ), Andie Ju ( Beef ) and Brandon Soo Hoo ( The Tiger’s Apprentice ) have entered production in Miami this week on Forge , an indie marking the feature directorial debut of Malaysian-born filmmaker Jing Ai Ng .

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Liz Daering-Glass and Gabrielle Cordero are producing alongside Damian Bao ( Port Authority ) via his Qilinverse production banner. Dave A. Liu ( Dìdi ) is executive producing. Forge is the debut project under Ng and Daering-Glass’s label, Florida Man Films.

Ng, Daering-Glass, and Cordero are alums of the AFI Conservatory. Forge was developed as part of Film Independent’s Screenwriting Lab and Fast Track.

Breaking out with her role as Rose Tico in Star Wars: Episode VIII and IX , Tran voiced the lead role in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and has also been seen on series like Sorry for Your Loss . Up next, she’ll be seen in Season 3 of Netflix’s Sweet Tooth , Hulu’s Control Freak , and Andrew Ahn’s reimagining of The Wedding Banquet .

Recently seen in Searchlight/Hulu’s The Greatest Hits and Netflix’s Beef , Ju’s other notable credits include Stargirl , 9-1-1 , Westworld and Justin Chon’s Ms. Purple .

In addition to Netflix’s Mech Cadets , Soo Hoo recently starred in Paramount+’s The Tiger’s Apprentice .

Tran is repped by CAA, M88, and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman; Ju by Momentum Talent and Literary Agency and Brave Artists Management; and Soo Hoo by Paradigm, DreamScope Entertainment, and Yorn, Levine, Barnes.

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IMAGES

  1. Raya and the Last Dragon Movie Review: An Epic Journey That Hits Close

    movie review raya and the last dragon

  2. Movie Review: RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

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  3. Film Review: 'Raya and the Last Dragon' Brings Representation and Style

    movie review raya and the last dragon

  4. Raya and the Last Dragon

    movie review raya and the last dragon

  5. ‎Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) directed by Don Hall, Carlos López

    movie review raya and the last dragon

  6. Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) Pictures, Trailer, Reviews, News, DVD

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COMMENTS

  1. Raya and the Last Dragon movie review (2021)

    Advertisement. "Raya and the Last Dragon" could have been a traditional princess story—another tale of a young woman chosen by legacy or magic to save her people. It's not that movie. It's a story about fallibility and the uncertainty that often accompanies courage—wrapped up in an unforgettable narrative that pays homage to ...

  2. Raya and the Last Dragon

    In Theaters At Home TV Shows. Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the ...

  3. Raya and the Last Dragon Review

    8. Review scoring. Raya and the Last Dragon offers a new action hero and vibrantly realized realm for Disney animation fans to enjoy. Raya and the Last Dragon is a beautifully animated, action ...

  4. Raya and the Last Dragon

    Full Review | Original Score: 9/10 | Feb 16, 2022. It's a film with a clunky first half but finds more of a groove later in the second. Raya and the Last Dragon displays a cornucopia of amazing ...

  5. Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

    Raya and the Last Dragon: Directed by Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Paul Briggs, John Ripa. With Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan. 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.

  6. Raya and the Last Dragon Movie Review

    Parents need to know that Raya and the Last Dragon is an animated Disney adventure about a warrior princess on a mission. Set in the fictional land of Kumandra, which is based on real Southeast Asian cultures (including Thai, Malay, and Vietnamese), the movie follows Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran), who for years has tried to find a way to reverse a scary, curse-like plague known as the ...

  7. 'Raya And The Last Dragon' Review: An Adventure Film That's

    Raya and the Last Dragon is a lovely, moving surprise. Its big selling point is that it's the first Disney animated film to feature Southeast Asian characters, but like so many movies that break ...

  8. 'Raya and the Last Dragon' Review

    Add Disney's new animated feature Raya and the Last Dragon to the list of 2020 and 2021 movies you'll desperately wish you could see on the big screen. Set in a magical land called Kumandra ...

  9. Raya and the Last Dragon movie review

    Raya and the Last Dragon. puts a bright contemporary spin on girl power: Review. The demographics of the Disney princess club have been evolving for a while now — fewer narcoleptic beauties and ...

  10. Raya and the Last Dragon

    From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes a new princess-driven fantasy adventure with a focus on Southeast Asian representation and heavy themes involving a sentient plague and trust issues among humans. And it's action-packed and full of laughs, too. Raya and the Last Dragon is receiving rave reviews for its ambitious ideas, stunning visuals ...

  11. 'Raya and the Last Dragon' review: Disney makes history

    Review: 'Raya and the Last Dragon,' featuring Disney's first Southeast Asian heroine, is a moving adventure. The warrior Raya and her trusty sidekick Tuk Tuk in the Disney animated film ...

  12. Raya and the Last Dragon

    Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it's up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey ...

  13. Raya and the Last Dragon Review: The Best Disney Princess Movie Since

    Raya and the Last Dragon is still very much an American story. While the setting may be a fictionalized world inspired by Southeast Asian cultures, Raya 's premise is classic Hollywood: Raya ...

  14. 'Raya and the Last Dragon': What the Critics Are Saying

    Reviews are in for Disney's new animated feature Raya and the Last Dragon, and the critics are generally positive.. Directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Winnie the Pooh) and Carlos López Estrada ...

  15. Raya and the Last Dragon review

    The release of Raya and the Last Dragon is in no way going to reshape that broader view (Disney is after all a cold capitalist corporation) but it does serve as a reminder of the studio doing what ...

  16. Raya And The Last Dragon Review

    Original Title: Raya And The Last Dragon. Ever since Disney overhauled its princess archetype in 2010's Tangled with an agency-seizing Rapunzel, the evolution of its revolutionary heroines has ...

  17. Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

    Raya and the Last Dragon is Disney's best animated film in years, a thrilling, emotional and heartwarming film with a really good message. Kelly Marie Tran gives an incredible lead performance and Awkwafina is also incredible and really funny. Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim and Benedict Wong are all great.

  18. 'Raya and the Last Dragon' Review: Fool Me Once

    Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) had giddily offered to give her pal — a fellow warrior princess with whom she'd bonded over swords and curry — a peek at the dragon gem that's causing all the grown ...

  19. Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) Movie Review

    With richly detailed animation, exciting action and a compelling story about trust, Raya and the Last Dragon has all the makings of a modern Disney classic. Next: Raya and the Last Dragon Movie Trailer. Raya and the Last Dragon starts playing in theaters and streaming on Disney+ Premier Access Friday, March, 5. It is 114 minutes long and rated ...

  20. 'Raya and the Last Dragon' review: Disney mixes a serious message with

    "Raya and the Last Dragon" offers another bold female lead from an underrepresented group and cute sidekicks, embarking on a stirring quest. The deeper message, however, involves the toll that ...

  21. Movie Review: Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon

    Raya and the Last Dragon, the latest animated movie from Disney, is a dystopian adventure set in a Southeast Asia-inspired fantasy world, and features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina ...

  22. Raya and the Last Dragon

    Release Date: March 5, 2021. Genre: Action-Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy. Walt Disney Animation Studios' Raya and the Last Dragon travels to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together in harmony long ago. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity.

  23. Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon review: A sumptuous, messy Southeast

    Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon is a sumptuous fantasy — but it makes a mess of Southeast Asian culture. The animated fantasy is a gorgeous, if generic, vehicle for a great Disney princess ...

  24. Best Disney Animated Movies of the 2020s, Ranked

    Raya and the Last Dragon follows the titular Raya, a strong warrior on a mission to save her father and the world. Many years ago, a mythical dragon saved the land of Kumandra and banished the evil spirits with a dragon gem. As the dragons disappeared, the people of Kumandra started a power struggle that divided the land into five tribes.

  25. Kelly Marie Tran, Andie Ju & Brandon Soo Hoo To Star In 'Forge' Movie

    EXCLUSIVE: Kelly Marie Tran ( Raya and the Last Dragon ), Andie Ju ( Beef) and Brandon Soo Hoo ( The Tiger's Apprentice) have entered production in Miami this week on Forge, an indie marking the ...