Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) – Don Hall, Carlos Lopez Estrada, Paul Briggs, and John Ripa

Trust, hope, faith in ourselves and in one another. Walt Disney’s latest hero’s journey seems to be the right film at the right time, and has the perfect message for getting through the pandemic that like the druun in the film seems intent on ravaging our world, and keeping all of us apart.

A beautifully crafted piece that pays homage to Eastern philosophy as well as its film and animation styles, Raya and the Last Dragon is an adventure that, I won’t lie, moved me to tears.

In a mythical land where magic and dragons exist, young Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is the protector of the Dragon Gem, intent on protecting it from the other tribes in her land, whom she doesn’t trust, nor do they trust her or one another. They have grown apart after the last confrontation between dragon and druun, despite the hope that the dragons’ sacrifice would unite and save humanity from the monstrous druun which transform its victims to stone.

When she puts her trust in a new friend, Namaari (Gemma Chan) things take a turn for the worse, the gem is shattered, and the druun return.

Now, Raya is on the hunt for the last dragon, in the hopes of stopping the druun and restoring her loved ones. But the dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina) has bigger plans, restore everyone, and Raya’s father’s dream of a united humanity – if they would only learn to trust and have faith in one another.

The cast is incredibly talented, and alongside Tran, Chan and Awkwafina there is Benedict Wong, Izaac Wong, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, and Alan Tudyk.

The film races along to a James Newton Howard score that brings drama to the incredible action beats, and a beating heart to the emotional core of the film – Raya and her journey. With fun and tightly paced action sequences, lots of heart and humour, there is something for everyone in this film, and like the best family films, it never talks down to its audience.

It gives its trust and faith to us, and asks us to carry it on, and pay it forward.

I can’t recall the last time I was so caught up in a film, of any genre. This one holds takes you by the heart, as if it was stolen by a little con-baby, and completely wraps you up in the knowledge and the belief that we can all be so much better if we would trust and have faith in one another – and that we can achieve our aspirations if we work together.

There’s a number of sequences that moved me to tears, but the trust in one another as the film comes to its climax really resonated. I don’t want to be naive, but I want to believe that we can all be inherently good, and do the right thing, and journeying with Raya and her friends fosters that belief, and gives me hope.

This one is a must, whether in the theatre or through premier access on Disney+, as of 5 March, 2021, this is one for the whole family; filled with strong characters and voice performances, beautiful scenery, and wonderful moments Raya wins!

And make sure to check out the animated short that comes with it in theatres, or separately on Disney+, the heart-warming and romantic Us Again.

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