The entire qualities you affiliate with a dragon are upended whenever you ask the comic Awkwafina to voice the half. As Sisu, the eponymous dragon in Raya And The Final Dragon, she’s the primary to confess she’s “not, like, the very best” one. Gangly, goofy and irreverent, with a rapidfire tempo of speaking that rushes into new ideas sooner than she will be able to end the earlier ones, Awkwafina’s expertise and impeccable comedian timing discover a improbable showcase on this heartwarming Disney movie.
It’s the parts earlier than she exhibits up, nonetheless, that really feel a bit of flat. A voiceover from Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) units the scene — 500 years in the past, dragons sacrificed themselves to save lots of the folks of Kumandra, a fantasy world beset by plague. With the dragons useless and solely the tiniest little bit of their magic left, Kumandra splits into 5 factions that preserve an uneasy peace whereas not-so-secretly harbouring a want to steal that magic for themselves. When the plague returns within the current day, it’s as much as Raya to search out the final surviving dragon and save the day.
It’s plenty of exposition to pack into the start of a movie and, regardless of the visible respite that the attractive animation gives, the movie does little else to make its info overload really feel like much less of a, effectively, overload. As a substitute of getting it come up organically over a number of scenes, it rushes to ship this backstory in two main chunks. Raya addresses the primary to viewers, and responds to her father asking if she will be able to title all of Kumandra’s factions with the second. It’s a reduction when she units off on her quest and promptly finds Sisu, who lends the movie a lightheartedness and humour sorely lacking from its earlier scenes.
Their friendship, buoyed by the pure chemistry between Awkwafina and Tran, reinvigorates the movie. Each are wonderful voice actors, with Tran steely and weak in equal measure, imbuing Raya with a grit and urgency that’s balanced out by Sisu’s carefree nature. Every of the factions that the 2 journey to are visually distinct and vividly detailed, with their barren deserts, snowy peaks and bustling metropolis markets immersive sufficient to really feel actual.
Administrators Carlos López Estrada, Don Corridor make optimum use of the animation format, utilizing it to present Raya and Sisu sidekicks that wouldn’t have existed in a live-action movie, comparable to a con-artist child and her three thieving monkeys, and a mammoth-sized tablet bug that Raya rides round. Sweeping photographs of civilizations turned to stone on account of the plague lend the movie a palpable undercurrent of tragedy. The motion scenes, a few of which appear to have lept proper out of the pages of a comic book e book, are tense and well-choreographed.
Not like Mulan within the latest female-led Disney movie of the identical title, Raya isn’t imbued with particular powers or pre-ordained to save lots of her folks. It’s refreshing to observe her stumble, not solely earlier than the weighty problem she undertakes, but in addition within the face of her personal anxieties and belief points. The movie itself falters in components by underlining its message of unity a bit of too strongly, when a visible callback in the direction of the tip does extra to drive house the purpose than any of the on-the-nose dialogue. Its emotional ending, nonetheless, is well-earned and is well worth the visually resplendent journey there.
Raya And The Final Dragon is taking part in in theatres.