This is the story of Raya, a brave warrior from Kumandra, who embarks on a quest to find the last remaining dragon. Along the way she collects a group of eccentric heroes who have to overcome their differences to save the world from the evil Druun, a malevolent force that threatens to turn everything to stone.

This is a beautifully crafted and culturally significant film that deserves the praise it received.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie (for the umpteenth time).

I’m always captivated by the gorgeous landscapes and intricate details of the characters and the surroundings – attention to detail and cultural authenticity shine strong in Raya and The Last Dragon.

I think my favourite detail has to be that when the Druun turn people into stone, they’re petrified in a praying stance.

The Druun are created by a discord between humans and dragons, and they feel a very apt metaphor, consisting of black and purple mist that consume everything in their path.

The animation is stunning, and the way in which the movie seamlessly blends traditional Southeast Asian art and architecture makes for a truly immersive story.

We get a strong female-led cast, which I love, from Raya herself who is capable, strong and independent, to Sisu, the resident manic pixie girl but in dragon-form, and Namaari, the equally strong and independent antagonist to Raya.

And I love that the relationship between these three characters is subtle and complex, it makes it feel more real and draws me in every time.

It feels like true friendship where there’s a constant ebb and flow between people and their beliefs/desires which makes the message of the film – that there is strength in unity – even more enduring.

The film explores themes of unity, trust and forgiveness in a story that’s so heartfelt, yet the action is tightly paced and pulls you in.

They don’t fall into tropey, kung-fuesque fight scenes and more than once there’s an attempt by someone to resolve conflict through talking rather than fighting.

It also isn’t a clear-cut case of good vs. evil and the story explores interpersonal dynamics that are more complex than a simple binary in a beautiful way.

I love seeing a major Hollywood studio making an effort to uplift under-represented cultures on the big screen.

Raya and The Last Dragon draws from various Southeast Asian cultures, including Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, to create a rich and diverse world that celebrates the traditions and myths of these cultures.

I really appreciated the movie’s efforts to showcase and celebrate the richness and complexity of Southeast Asian cultures, despite some critics feeling like the representation isn’t authentic enough and that it simplifies the complexities of Southeast Asian cultures and traditions.

As a fantasy world, in which the world and its peoples are inspired by the real world, it feels authentic for this story.

The portrayals of the tribes was the one thing that felt somewhat stereotypical, portraying the Fang tribe as aggressive and warlike, and the Talon tribe as passive and peaceful – this could have been more varied, though I see a legacy of old kung-fu movies at play here.

Tuk Tuk being named Tuk Tuk is also one of those things that I feel like is a little too on the nose.

Yet the movie’s efforts to showcase and celebrate Southeast Asian cultures is a positive step towards more diverse and inclusive representation in mainstream media, and this is hopefully just the beginning of diversification in big productions.

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