Review: Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. However, when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned, and it's up to a lone warrior to track down the last dragon and stop the Druun for good.
Disney's latest animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon, is simply superb. It is everything that their recent live-action Mulan remake was not. The animation for Raya is absolutely stunning and the voice acting was stellar. It's a fun adventure from beginning to end that respects and pays homage to South East Asian cultures. Throughout the film, I could spot various references to different cultures from Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam, Phillipines, Indonesia and many others. Even down to the martial arts and fighting styles, their various stances were all inspired from the muay thai, pencak silat, kali and I'm sure from some others that I'm not even familiar with. Even though most audiences will not be able to spot these references, for the Asian community it really makes a big difference to see Asian cultures represented so positively and respectfully. Awkwafina was the perfect choice for voicing the dragon Sisu. Her raspy voice was perfect for the sassy dragon and really added a lot of comedy and whimsy to the character. Even Kelly Marie Tran was really great in her role as Raya. Although I didn't like her character very much in the recent Star Wars, I'm glad she's getting better roles now that will hopefully let her shine more in the future. The inclusion of the adorably huggable roly poly armadillo, Tuk tuk, voiced by Alan Tudyk will surely help Disney sell a lot of tuk tuk plush dolls. And if you're ever in Thailand, you can always rely on a tuk tuk to get you to your destination because tuk tuk is a form of taxi service there. Despite being the only non-Asian on the cast, Alan Tudyk is really amazing when it comes to bringing these quirky and unusual characters to life. Having been a loyal fan of his since Firefly, its really amazing to see how much he brings into each of his roles even if its just a rolling ball of fluff or empty-headed chicken. Although some can rightly criticize that there is a lack of South East Asian voice actors, I do think that this film's positive representation of South East Asian peoples and cultures is still extremely commendable. Its an entertaining film for the entire family with an original story worth telling. The price for premium access on Disney Plus is $30 which is pretty steep but honestly I think this film will be worth your money.
Please listen to our podcast (Episode 13; available on iTunes and PodOmatic) and YouTube channel for an in-depth review and discussion!
Swin: 10/10 - It made me a believer of Kumandra. Worth the premium!
Directed by: Carlos López Estrada, Don Hall
Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some violence, action and thematic elements
Run time: 107 min