Monday, May 27, 2024

Late to being disappointed by Raya and the Last Dragon

 Our son wanted to watch a Disney movie he hadn’t watched before to celebrate the last day of school. And that’s how we ended up watching Raya and the Last Dragon.

The kindest description I can make of the movie is that it is a _beautifully_ animated outline of a story.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a multi-piece McGuffin scavenger hunt where a new party member joins in every location. So, by the end, we have a ragtag bunch of misfits to save the world.

Man, we have all seen this more times than I can count in cartoon, comic books, movies, video games, and plenty of other media. And I don’t fault Raya and the Last Dragon for using the formula because it works.

But a big part of why it works is because it’s about the journey, not the destination. It’s about the cool action sequences along the way. It’s about how we get to know the characters and how they develop. And so much of that is skipped over and barely crammed in because Raya and the Last Dragon needs to be at least twice as long to pull it off. 

One tiny scene really struck me. Tong, the hulking, one-eyed warrior, is the only one who knows the con-baby’s name is Noi is because he checked her shirt for her name. It gives us a complete other side to the character, reminding us that he is a parent who lost his child to the Druun. And it is strong because it shows, not tells.

And the movie needs so many more little moments like that but we were lucky to get even one since the running time doesn’t give us time for that.

I have heard that Raya and the Last Dragon started out as a TV series, not a movie. I find that easy to believe. And while it would have lost the animation per minute budget, getting the time for character and plot development would have been worth it. Room to breath might have made Raya and the Last Dragon good.

Unfortunately, as it stands, it is too bland to remember.

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