by an 11th grade reporter
Featuring a predominantly Asian American cast, Disney presents it's first Southeast Asian princess in the new movie Raya and the Last Dragon. The story takes place in Kumandra, a land the shape of a dragon’s body. After powerful dragons sacrificed themselves to save humans from the Druun, the land was split into five parts: Fang, Heart, Spine, Talon, and Tail. Raya is the princess of Heart, daughter of Chief Benja. She grew up hearing of her father’s dreams to reunite the lands of Kumandra. Chief Benja decides to invite the people of Fang, Spine, Talon, and Tail for a meal.
At the very start, Raya meets another twelve-year-old, Princess Namaari. They approached each other apprehensively, knowing Heart and Fang don't get along well. Yet, once they realized how alike they were, they became close friends. They talked about how much they disliked uncomfortable clothes, and how they admired the great Sisudatu— the dragon who saved the world. Raya leads Namaari to the Dragon Gem of Sisudatu, which Heart was given responsibility to protect. In an unexpected turn of events, Namaari shoots fireworks into the night sky, signalling other tribes to their location. Tribes fight over the Dragon Gem, eventually causing it to shatter. This releases the Druun into the world, again. The Druun are shadow-like monsters that turn people to stone. Chief Benja takes a piece of the broken Gem, in an attempt to protect his daughter. The other chiefs’ follow, taking a piece of the Gem for each land.
Six years later, Raya sets out to find the last dragon with her adorable sidekick, Tuk Tuk. Through many obstacles, Raya finds herself face to face with Sisudatu. Yet, this is just the first obstacle, with many to come. Raya and the Last Dragon is a good Disney movie for those that don't like song-packed cheesy animations. Plus, Namaari isn't one of those antagonists that exist for the sake of existing. She has a backstory, one that makes her seem reasonable compared to other Disney movie “villains.” Namaari is able to shine a light on the importance of trust, and believing in the unseen aspects of life. Moreover, the character development of Namaari shows the audience that the right thing to do isn’t always clear. While the movie is nearly two hours long, it is worth watching.