Here’s the answer: They did not have personalities. No inner lives. No conflicting impulses. which — additionally to their esophagus-with-hipbones body frames, and eyes so large they might are creatures who’ve evolved to life in benthic caverns — is what makes them seem so flat, one-note and passive.
Raya, voiced marvelously and with deftly nuanced emotion by Kelly Marie Tran, may be a Disney princess, technically: She’s the daughter of Chief Benja (voiced by Daniel Dae Kim) during a land called Heart. But she’s tons quite that — she’s a warrior, for one thing (the film’s numerous fight scenes are thrillingly choreographed). And she’s something else, something no Disney Princess before her has been: She’s complicated.
Specifically, she has trust issues. Big ones. Which is sensible , as long as it had been a sudden but inevitable betrayal that began the glorified fetch quest that forms the film’s plot.
If you are not paying strict attention during Raya’s opening monologue, you’ll miss an entire lot, so here’s the gist: The land was once whole and good and peopled with (dragoned with?) many dragons, on the other hand some purple cloud-monsters came along and turned most everyone to stone.
The last dragon remaining, named Sisu, unleashed an excellent power from a spherical gem, which banished the purple bad guys, but she disappeared within the process. within the aftermath, the people divided into five warring, mutually distrustful nations named for various parts of a dragon — Talon, Fang, Spine, Tail and Heart.
Five hundred years later, an effort asleep talks leads to the dragon gem getting shattered into five pieces. Raya and her adorable pillbug pal/mount Tuk-Tuk began to seek out Sisu and recover the five shards, reuniting the land and therefore the people within the process.
From that elevator pitch, you’ll perhaps can discern that the essential mechanics of Raya’s plot comprise your standard fantasy epic starter kit. Where the film comes brilliantly alive is within the details: The stunning landscapes, the bustling cities, the vocal performance of Awkwafina as Sisu, the hilarious contributions of a particular badass toddler (no spoilers, but trust me), and therefore the friendship between Sisu and Raya, which serves the plot whilst it’s allowed the breathing space to exist in and of itself.
But back to Raya’s trust issues: The film smartly grounds them in her reality the maximum amount as her psychology — it is a incontrovertible fact that her wary, suspicious nature ideally suits the dark, fallen world round her , which Sisu’s sunny, optimistic outlook results in bad outcomes, again and again. A lesser, more linear film would find a faster route to Raya’s finally recognizing the great in people , but the screenplay keeps putting it off, exploring what passes, in an animated Disney film, for nuance.
It’s her flawed nature that creates Raya the foremost compelling, most sympathetic and most layered Disney princess within the company’s long history — and what makes Raya and therefore the Last Dragon the simplest Disney animated feature in a few years .