Movie Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon was released March 5th, 2021 both in theaters and Disney + despite the COVID- 19 Pandemic. Raya and the Last Dragon brings representation of the Southeast Asians to the Disney Universe both by animation and by the cast.  

The film begins with the story of Kumandra throughout the land, when the evil spirits Druun ruin the happiness, destroying everything and turning the people and Dragons to stone. The last dragon standing was Sisu (Awkwafina), who concentrated all of her magic into to gem, banishing the Druun. It revived the people, but the Dragons were still stone. Kumandra was gone. The people were divided into the five tribes of Fang, Heart, Spine, Talon, and Tail. Each tribe wants the gem but the Heart Tribe has kept it safe. 

Fast forward 500 years later, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is being trained by her father Chief Benja (Danial Dae Kim) to protect the gem. Chief Benja explains to Raya that he has invited the other tribes to share a meal and work on creating Kumandra. Raya doubts him but puts on her best. During the meeting, Chief Virana (Sandra Oh) of Fang, has brought her daughter Namaari (Gemma Chan), encouraging the girls to befriend each other. The girls become close quickly, Namaari even gifted Raya a dragon pendant. With that, Raya brought Namaari to where the gem was being held but Namaari betrayed her by setting off a firework, allowing her Mother and tribesmen to know where she is. Namaari tries to steal the gem herself but Raya fights her off. Chief Benja realizes what is happening and goes to Raya’s side to fight off the Fang tribe. Talon, Spine, and Tail also arrive. They all want the gem. Namaari accidentally breaks the gem into 5 pieces, with tat the Druun return. Each tribe grabs a piece escaping as best they can. Chief Benja knew he couldn’t make it and threw Raya, who was still holding the piece of gem, into the river, before turning into stone.

6 years later Raya and her trusty sidekick Tuck Tuck are rolling through a desolate Tail territory. It was the last place she would search for Sisu to come alive and save them all. Raya finds a ship-wreck and enters. She summons Sisu who comes alive. Raya explains the situation and Sisu tells her that she did not create the orb but used the orb her siblings entrusted to her to defeat the Druun. Sisu takes the piece of the gem and begins glowing. Realizing that the pieces each have one of her siblings’ powers, Sisu agrees to help Raya retrieve the rest and defeat the Druun, restoring the world. 

Together they trek to a Tail temple. Which was bobby-trapped but Raya and Sisu got around it. After they retrieved the second piece, Sisu turned into her human form. Namaari arrives, mocking her for searching for Sisu before attempting to hurt her. Sisu and Raya escape the temple on Tuck Tuck and find a ship that is Captained by a young boy named Boun (Izaac Wang). They hire Captain Boun to take them to Talon. 

While walking through the market of Talon, Raya is distracted by a baby con artist, Noi (Thalia Tran), and her three monkey-like Ongis. The team stole the pieces off of Tuck Tuck and fled. Raya and Tuck Tuck gave chase. Finally, they caught up grabbing the gem pieces back and paid the team to help her distract the guards while she grabbed the next piece, only to find that the Talon leader was Stone and the new leader was ruthless. Meanwhile, Sisu wonders through the market using “credit” when the Talon people turn to tell her she’s stealing. A little old lady, Dang Hu (Lucille Song) comes to her rescue leading her to where she would trick Sisu into giving her the other gem pieces. It turned out that the old lady was the chieftess, and using her charm to threaten Sisu using the Druun to scare her but Raya swoops in to not only rescue Sisu but also grabbing the Talon gem piece. They get to Captain Boun’s ship and head to Spine with Noi and the Ongi’s on board. 

Once the group got to Spine territory, Sisu took off to offer the leader a meal. Raya chased after her and the two were captured by the ruthless leader Tong (Benedict Wong). Convincing Tong to let them go after Boun, Noi and the Ongis show up, Namaari arrives with her army to demand Raya to be in her custody. Tong helps Sisu, Boun, Noi, and the Ongis escape while Raya distracts Namaari and her army. Sisu saw that Raya was in danger so she turns into her dragon form and uses smoke to get away but not before Namaari gets a good look into her eyes.

Back at the boat, Tong, Boun, Noi, and the Ongis demand an explanation of Sisu being a dragon and wanting to help. Together they head to Fang. Sisu flies Raya back to Heart to tell her the story of how she and her siblings were the last dragons fighting against the Druun, Her siblings created the gem putting their powers into it, believing that Sisu could defeat the Druun, which she did. After the story, they flew back and used Sisu’s idea of trying to get Namaari to help them.

Namaari found the dragon pendant she gave to Raya with a note. She met them and was conflicted about giving them the last piece. Namaari accidentally pulled the trigger on her crossbow killing Sisu. Sisu fell into the water, which started to disappear, allowing the Druun to start attacking the Fang people. Namaari and Raya were already in the Fang castle fighting when Boun, Tong, Tuck Tuck, Noi, and the Ongis released she was gone and that the magic was dying. They grabbed the rest of the gem pieces and ran to help the fang people. They were successful until they, along with Raya and Namaari fall below the city, surrounded by the Druun. Raya asks them to trust her and give the pieces up but no one wanted to trust Namaari. Instead, Raya trusted Namaari and gave her gem piece up. Boun, Noi, and Tong followed suit with the Ongis all turning to stone. Namaari put it together as the magic died and turned to stone with them but then the gem’s magic reunited defeating the Druun, releasing all the people from stone, and bringing back all the dragons. In the end, everyone was reunited with their loved ones. Raya found her father Chief Benja and Kumandra had been recreated, uniting the five tribes. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I wasn’t planning on paying the $30 on Disney + for Premier Access but I did. Between being part of our Easter Basket present and because I’m prepping to publish The Disney Pixar Connection on May 17th, I wanted to be fully up to date before hitting the upload button. I got more than my money’s worth, we’ve watched it 7 times in two weeks, with 4 of us plus snacks. Totally worth it. Yes, in my and my 8 year old’s opinion, it is absolute gold. Lessons learned, great music and even better the comedy especially Akwafina’s lines, she plays Sisu, get us every time.

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