So about all of the Raya and the Last Dragon critique vids…
SO! Firstly, I know that this movie’s fanbase is dwindling overtime, which makes sense, it’s been a while since the movie came out and Disney also did a pretty crappy job in advertising it so-
Anyways, recently, the few people in this fandom have been noticing, over the last few months, a lot of critique videos have come out about this movie in its cultural execution, story, themes and so forth. And while it may hurt some people in this fandom to watch someone absolutely dog over our favourite movie…
They are totally right.
TBH, I’ve noticed a lot of these flaws within the movie since I first watched it and put out that rant about me loving/critiquing the film (which is here if you wanna read :3). And just to make it clear to everyone! It is absolutely okay to still like this movie despite its flaws.
Like yes, Disney did do a wrong move with how they decided to make an amalgamation of different SEAsia cultures rather than focusing on one. Cause while I did feel represented in some factors, it wasn’t an overwhelming feeling of YES THIS IS THE MOVIE, it was more like aw, nice warm and fluffy… even as an animation student I knew I only would refer to this movie when talking about the animation more than then cultural representation.
Which I will still say, that while Avatar the Last Airbender had this same amalgamation treatment… it is still regarded as one of the best animated shows in existence. Why is that exactly? Well, like I mentioned in my previous review of the movie, it is because it had more time.
From my own previous experience with writing, animating and planning stories/short animations, time is what makes or breaks a story. And this can mean anywhere, like in production, run time, release dates, when movie/show airs… etc. In Raya’s case, while the animation was absolutely amazing, the runtime of the actual movie is what was its downfall. And even though I had a paragraph of this in my previous rant, I’ll be more in depth here:
THE IMPACT OF RUNTIME on Raya and the Last Dragon:
The two main things that time impacted the movie by was four things: Themes, Story, Character, and Character Relationships.
The STORY - The story is already such a large and complicated story. I was surprised when I was first watching that they decided to go through this route because the story was so massive, that trying to cram it in under two hours, nicely, it such a huge undertaking. So already, with such a limited amount of time, a lot of exploration of the world and a natural unfolding of the story felt so rushed. This is why I agree with the sentiment that this story should have been given the ‘ATLA treatment’ because so many shows (both animated and live actions) that had gone through this, getting enough time and space to really pace out their stories… which ended up with such breathtaking and amazing stories being told.
The THEME of TRUST - This theme would have been a good idea to explore as it is very nuanced and there are different views of approaching trust across different cultures. However, with how little time they had to focus on the nuances of trust, they decided to go for a more black and white viewpoint. Which definitely did disappoint me since this is such a good theme to investigate! With how polar both Raya and Sisu are with their viewpoints in trust, it could have led to compelling situations about discovering the ‘grey’ of the themes of trust. But, the movie went in the route that Sisu was right with how she trusted her siblings for her to be able to help save the world. However, with the runtime, I understood that it led to all of these nuances being smoothed out with an iron since they didn’t have enough time to focus that with a large story, multiple characters, and it needing to be an action movie too. This all resulting in a theme that was unsubtly shoved in the audience’s faces at times rather than a more paced and subtle one.
The CHARACTERS - I mentioned this in my last review of Raya, but the reason so many characters felt one-dimensional was that a lot of them didn’t have time to actually show or explore their own personalities and backstory, which is an absolute shame since having visual explanations of what happened to them would have me even empathise with them more. So, because of time, a lot of the characters got shortened down to their character gimmicks or types. The only ones really felt fleshed out was Raya and Namaari.
The CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS - One thing this movie definitely forgot it… is that particularly in any Asian countries, the connections to family (blood or not) is really important. That these ties between your friends and ties and obligation to your family is what really cements a large part of our cultures. While the connection between Raya and her father was made, a lot of the relationships between the characters didn’t get explored too much. Again, a shame since this could have been totally a ‘found family’ situation! And let me tell you, I’m a sucker for those. Like I totally imagined Boun being the closest to Raya since he was the first human to join on their quest. Even blood relations, such as Namaari and her mother, could have such a compelling dynamic. But it was left towards the end to create some last minute tension… just imagine how their relationship would have changed over time! But alas, time totally cut it off.
So yes, I still have a lot of feelings about this film, and how it could have done things so much better. So does that mean I hate it? ABOSLUTELY NOT! You’d have to pry this movie out of my stone cold hands. I’m such an asian mum about this as I show my love through ‘critiques’ (and liking all the Rayaari post :3).
SO… of you all agree with my points and haven’t checked out my fanfic… Shameless plug but check it out! It’s the whole reason why I decided to write a rewrite, cause I love this whole film’s premise and just want to bring it to the heights it should’ve gone!