After many adventures caused by the pandemic, Disney studio’s 59th animated feature film, Raya and the Last Dragon, is finally available on Disney+ in France from June 4, 2021, even if we only regret not having it. widescreen. Warning: some spoilers!
The latest Disney branded story takes us to Kumandra, an imaginary world where humans and dragons once lived in harmony until the arrival of a relentless evil force that forced the dragons to sacrifice themselves to save humanity. 500 years later, human rivalry brings back this evil entity, forcing Raya to follow in the footsteps of the legendary last dragon to restore peace among the people.
Seen this way, the film directed by Don Hall, Carlos Lopez Estrada and Paul Briggs is another early quest that recycles the new formula for Disney princesses, with badass feminist figures without much love, like Vaiana, Mérida de Rebelle, or Elsa. from Frozen. As in the previous Forward (our review here), it’s about finding – or rather reforming – a shining magical artifact to restore the world to some of its magic in the past.
Like Mulan, Raya is a heroine of Asian origin who wields a sword far better than a feather duster, encounters cute dragons and devotes herself to her country, hoping to save her father first. Fa Zhou. And like every Disney, this film is a gentle moral carrier with humanist values, here about trust, unity and forgiveness. And all of this goes hand in hand with the obligatory funny-useless sidekicks and cute mascots designed for merchandising. Nothing new, then.
However, Raya is a bit colored out of the box and presents a more original story than it seems. If the quest for eternal initiation is indeed at the heart of the predictable story, it is darker and more dramatic than usual. Unlike her predecessors, Raya is far from a dreamy young girl who wants to discover the world and fulfill herself. He does not seek independence, emancipation, or even adventure that is forced upon him and thus wants to find his lair rather than abandon it.
Away from the benefactor’s daughter who warms hearts and souls on their path, Raya is otherwise wary, lonely, but above all disappointed and resentful, like her best enemy Namaari, who subconsciously wants to regain her childhood hopes and dreams, thereby strengthening the emotional springs. already very present. The result will probably be agreeable and happy, the way it is delivered is far more surprising and totally adequate to the issues expressed, leaving Namaari the sole ruler of the fate of the world and the film without a real antagonist.
With no real adventure, Raya adopts the classic video game treatment to unravel the story and its bits of adventure, with different stops corresponding to the part of the artifact to be recovered. The twists and turns follow each other fairly quickly, with ease at times, but above all the generosity in terms of action, which doesn’t fade in favor of musical interludes like in Vaiana or Frozen. If some of the fights are short enough, the choreography is always spot on and the animation is nearly limitless in terms of fluidity and aesthetics.
Here’s a point to agree on: this film is a work of goldsmiths, with all the visual ambitions of a blockbuster. The attention to detail is simply stunning, whether for natural elements such as light, rocks, sky or water, as for the characters, their hair, their expressions or their clothes. So much so that today it is undoubtedly the most successful company from a technical point of view.
The universe itself is rich enough and much less cluttered than it looks, despite hastily explored different territories and character duplication without much interest in the plot (it’s really a pickpocket baby at best). In order not to lose its young audience, this film takes the time to expose its mythology in a special sequence that becomes a new field of expression with a mixture of different animation styles and techniques.
As well as balanced humor that rarely falls flat (thanks to Geraldine Nakache doubling up on Sisu in French), Raya also offers more enchanting sequences. They’re filled with magic and poetry, accentuated by bright colors and dreamlike music that work so well during viewing, failing to stay ahead after that and a matrix of blonde heads (yes, we thought of Libérée, Délivrée right away).