Sutton Brown’s review published on Letterboxd:
What I liked:
- Movie is visually stunning.
- The two opposing characters have great development and motivations. Raya has her view of unity and trust while Namaari looks out for her own people. The beginning act introduces their rivalry and how growing up has made it worse.
- Emotional sequences really work with the consequences of trust. When Raya doesn't trust Sisu it leads to an unexpected consequence which is felt through the final act of the movie. The final sequence of putting trust in people creates a scene where the tribes work together. This is the big payoff of the journey through the movie.
- The movie has great action sequences. Particularly the final duel.
- The worldbuilding of this movie is truly remarkable in exploring how the tribes operate differently.
What I'm mixed about:
- The template of the movie telegraphs some moments a bit too much. The first part of the movie does a great job at introducing the conflict but is a bit too predictable.
- A movie goes a bit too far with the jokes for a movie like this. Sisu goes for a lot of jokes that don't fall completely flat but don't make me laugh out loud. There are also a couple ideas like the con-baby that don't work as much as they intended. Some people will like it, but it didn't fully land for me.
What I disliked:
- Some of the consequences in the finale are revoked with absolutely no hints. A character in the finale returns with no necessity other than to give a happy ending. This is really frustrating because the way they use this character after the big twist is really good.
Raya and the Last Dragon is another solid adventure from Disney. While the Disney formula can be a hindrance at times, the movie has great characters, worldbuilding, and action. Certainly not my favorite Disney film but is nonetheless a great time at the movies.