Raya and the Last Dragon: A Movie Review

Raya and the Last Dragon is a must-see family movie for all ages. Hopefully, Disney can tell more Asian/Pacific Islander stories in the near future.



Meghan Reyes, Reporter

  Disney is back at it with a new princess and an exciting adventure. “Raya and the Last Dragon” officially released on March 5 to theatres and is available for premiere access on the Disney streaming service. 

   Walt Disney Animation Studios’ last movie, “Frozen 2”, made an estimated $1.5 billion. Raya and the Last Dragon has only made $85.8 million. 

   Raya has joined the category of warrior princess alongside Mulan (1998) and Merida (2012). These princesses are characters with sizable knowledge regarding weaponry and typically go on to save a larger kingdom. Another trademark of any Disney princess is an adorable animal sidekick, and in Raya’s case, it is the lovable half-armadillo, half-pug Tuk Tuk.

   The story begins with the prosperous land of Kumandra in a power struggle with the ravenous monsters: the Druun. The dragons, guardians of the land, combine their powers and ultimately trap the Druun underneath the surface. In attempts to possess the orb, Kumandra splits into five kingdoms: Fang, Heart, Spine, Talon and Tail.  

  Five Hundred years later, in the kingdom of Heart, Raya and Tuk Tuk infiltrate the lair of the Dragon Orb. After outsmarting several traps, Raya comes face to face with Chief Benja. Following a short altercation, it is revealed that Chief Benja is Raya’s father, and this was a rite of passage for those intended to guard the orb.

    In an attempt to reunite Kumandra, Chief Benja invited the other four kingdoms to Heart. Raya meets Namaari, the daughter of Fang’s Chief Virana, and leads her to the dragon orb. Namaari turns on Raya and sends up a firework to signal that she has found the orb. The five kingdoms fight and eventually, the orb falls and shatters into five different pieces. The once-thought defeated Druun reappears and begins wreaking havoc on the land. The chief of each tribe takes the pieces, as everyone rushes to evacuate the city. Raya is thrown into the river, which becomes an important detail later, and watches as her father is turned to stone by the Druun.

   The story continues six years later as Raya and Tuk Tuk travel through the Tail kingdom in an attempt to collect the pieces of the orb. After reaching a shipwreck, Raya summons Sisu, the last dragon, who explains that she alone did not make the orb. Sisu and Raya recover the pieces the Tail chief possessed but are met with opposition by Namaari. Eventually Raya, Tuk Tuk and Sisu escape and head to Talon. 

   The group arrives in the Talon marketplace to claim the third gem but is intercepted by baby con-artist Noi and her group of monkeys like mercenaries the Ongis. After an exciting chase, Raya claims the third gem, and Noi and the Ongis join her on her quest. The group next journeys at Spine, where they meet Tong, a fearsome warrior, and the village’s sole survivor. Namaari arrives and Raya holds her off in a fight while the others escape. Before Namaari can defeat her, Sisu saves Raya before leaving with the group for Fang, with Tong handing over Spine’s gem piece 

   As the group gets closer to Fang, Sisu suggests allying with Namaari rather than stealing the final piece, to show trust and goodwill. When Raya refuses, Sisu takes her back to the remains of the Heart and tells of how her siblings’ trust in her was what empowered her to save Kumandra. 

   Raya relents and decides to give Namaari the dragon pendant as a peace offering. Raya and Sisu meet with Namaari, only for her to betray them again. Sisu is fatally shot and with her, the last dragon, dead, all the water from the land disappears. With the water gone, Fang is overrun by Druun. Namaari and Raya begin a huge fight. Tong, Tuk Tuk, Noi, the Ongis and Boun attempt to evacuate everyone from the city. Eventually, the group, including Namaari, comes face to face with the Druun and ultimately destroys it, bringing every petrified person and dragon back to life. 

   Raya and the Last Dragon is a great movie with an even greater message. Raya is a character whose trust in the world is limited after the death of her father; typically Disney characters are naive to the ways of the world and go on adventures for their own selfish reasons. Raya’s personality and the story is a breath of fresh air to the trusting nature audiences’ are used to.

   Like most Disney movies, Raya and the last dragon is a tale of self-discovery. Raya’s father was taken from her and she dedicates her life to trying to get him back. However, she is a very stubborn character and refuses to believe what Sisu says about the world not being all bad. At that point, it does get a bit old. Raya acts like she is the only person affected by the Druun and will not let her guard down to anyone else besides Tuk Tuk. During the final battle scene, Tong even points out that she is “blinded by her rage.”

   The dragon Sisu is a very fun character. She genuinely feels like she has not been in the world for 506 years, almost like Aang from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. She asks a lot of questions about the modern world but also answers/guides Raya in her journey. Awkwafina does a very good job at giving a fun-loving performance.

   The culture of Kumandra is based on bits and pieces from other South Asian cultures. It is refreshing to see a not predominantly-caucasian cast in a film, especially in a Disney film. 

   “Raya and the Last Dragon” is a must-see family movie for all ages. Hopefully, Disney can tell more Asian/Pacific Islander stories soon.