WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!!
When I first watched the trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon, I immediately had high expectations. The cultural aspects presented, the beautiful palette of colors, the inspiring background music, the action, and the comedic scenes all meshed beautifully to make me excited for such a movie! Also, as a Chinese person born in the Philippines, I was so excited about its Southeast-Asian representation, not to mention that some of my favorite actresses from Crazy Rich Asians, Awkwafina and Gemma Chan, were voice actors for some of the characters! Overall, as far as I could see, I already loved the story, characters, and cultural aspects!
I watched the movie with the rest of the youth at my fellowship (ranging from grades 6-12), and even though I believe that most would assume that such a movie would be catered to younger kids, we all really enjoyed it!
I think a kid in elementary school would definitely be interested in watching it, especially the comedic scenes, creative features of the characters (especially the cool dragon!), and also the action-filled scenes! However, what makes the movie so enjoyable for an older audience is the depth of the lessons taught. Teens and adults will be surprised to see how relatable certain situations are and how applicable the lessons are overall. My parents watched it and LOVED it as well!
● Family: A common recurrence throughout the movie is the theme of family. The main character, Raya, embarks on an adventure with a dragon friend she meets, Sisu, to try to restore her father from the power of evil spirits that turned him into stone. This is her primary motivation, as well as to save the rest of the people of the Heart tribe, whom she considers family as well. Meanwhile, Sisu agrees to help collect the remaining pieces of the gem that will overcome the power of those evil spirits. Why? A long while ago, Sisu had 4 siblings: 2 brothers and 2 sisters. While trying to fight the Druun (those evil spirits that turn people into stones), Sisu’s four siblings tragically turned into stone. However, before doing so, they gave and entrusted Sisu with a piece of the gem before leaving. Similar to Raya, Sisu strives to redeem the lives of her brothers and sisters.
● Trust/Loyalty: This leads to my next point. The values of trust, loyalty, and faithfulness practically form the foundation of the storyline. Sisu first learns the significance of trust when her siblings lay their lives and protect her, believing in her ability to one day fully conquer the Druun. It is this selfless trust, without any conditions, that touches Sisu so much that she becomes all the more determined to not fail her family or take advantage of their trust. In the beginning of the story, Raya trusts a little girl from the Fang Tribe named Namaari. However, when Naamari, whom Raya had considered a friend, betrays her, Raya decides that she won’t ever trust anyone. Thankfully, through encouragement from Sisu, Raya ultimately let hers guard down. When she trusts Naamari at the end of the movie, the Druun are destroyed.
● Reconciliation + Unity: Reconciliation and unity are reliant and dependent on trust. Without trust, there will be no cohesiveness within the group. Neither will there be any motivation to cooperate with others. However, there is also no greater force than unity. Time and time again, countless historical stories have proved that true unity always results in success, no matter how small or minor the group may be. Trust builds unity within a group, restoration of unity gives a reason for reconciliation when conflicts arise, and this continuous cycle leads to the success of any goal the group may undertake. In addition to that, when you know that someone trusts you, you are highly more likely and motivated to do your best, even when you don’t necessarily feel like it.
● Cultural Diversity: Last, but not the least, Raya and the Last Dragon highlights cultural diversity and appreciation. More specifically, it’s the first Disney movie to ever portray the Southeast-Asian culture. The progress from the entertainment industry to showcase more cultures spurs not only cultural awareness and appreciation, but also unity in the world we live in today. The division within tribes in Kumandra can be a representation of the division that currently exists in society. However, choosing to let our guards down and to trust and love others will unite us beyond imagination.
1. Let go and trust. Sometimes, it’s important, even vital, that you stop relying solely on yourself and start depending on others as well. Experiencing the pandemic initially appeared to me as an opportunity to become more independent and learn how to begin doing things on my own. However, I then realized that I don’t always have to rely on myself. Social interaction and dependence are key characteristics of humans and how they best perform! It’s okay, and sometimes the best action, to learn to fully trust in others for tasks you won’t be able to achieve as effectively by yourself 🙂 No matter how many times you’ve felt betrayed, maintain a posture of prudence but don’t be afraid of meeting new friends because you never know how supportive they
can be until you just ask them for some help!
2. Although they seem to be two things that can’t coexist peacefully, we should fully embrace cultural diversity while also maintaining unity. This movie fully emphasizes this point. Although Kumondra was still divided into separate clans, there was no divisive or resentful boundary between them by the end of the movie. Instead, they were all united and chose to work together without compromising their own uniqueness.
3. When you no longer feel the motivation to work hard for yourself, learn to create an intrinsic motivation that is based on contributing more to your friends, family, and to society. Be just like Raya and Sisu, who both kept their eyes and motivation on their family even through the thickness of the storm!
Overall Rating: 20/10 (no exaggeration!!!!)
Review By ~ Joni