Raya and The Last Dragon (2021) Review: Beautiful But Formulaic (Written By Jaeden Noel)
Raya & The Last Dragon is the newest film out from Walt Disney Animation Studios. The film follows young warrior Raya in the world of Kumandra, a world where dragons once roamed and protected. After their extinction, we follow Raya on her journey to find the last dragon & save Kumandra from evil. Beautifully animated and meticulously creative, Raya & The Last Dragon has quite some quality to it. However, that does not come at the cost of a formulaic story.
The realm of Kumandra is one of the most interesting worlds in recent Disney movies. Inspired by Southeast Asian countries, it was so engaging and riveting to explore this unique and cherished universe. Kumandra is divided into 5 regions whose tensions are at an all-time high for the upheld dragon gem. This made for some of the most hardcore fightings I've ever seen in a Disney property ever! Raya definitely pushes the boundaries of how far Disney can go with these types of things & I'm here for it!
Kelly Marie Tran & Awkwafina both kill it in their roles of Raya & Sisu the Dragon. Specifically, Awkwafina who should really do more animated stuff because she absolutely nails it with her line delivery. The whole group dynamic that Raya has going for itself is really sweet. It's got the token animals & funny baby to win over kids, and a smart, driven protagonist that parents can appreciate. Did I mention how beautiful the animation is? The animation on display in Raya and The Last Dragon is simply breathtaking. There were so many instances where I simply couldn't believe this was animated.
Everything else, however is insanely formulaic. You can see where Raya and The Last Dragon's story is going to go from a mile away. Why? Because it follows the same formula we've all seen many times on display in Disney's catalog. While I wouldn't say it's bad, its story & direction are just too safe now. This pattern has been the same for years and it's getting to the time where things have to change up. Take a look at the flourishing creativity that came with Soul last year! Even though it was technically Pixar, we know that Disney has access to the same insanely creative writers as they do.
At the end of the day, Raya and The Last Dragon is perfectly fine. It's not worth rushing to check out, but once it becomes a part of the base streaming services catalog there's no harm in throwing it on for the family. I appreciated how mature some of the themes can be, but there's no value to that if you're outcome feels like we've been there & done that before.
Raya and The Last Dragon gets a 3/5!