On March 5, Disney released their newest animated feature film, “Raya and the Last Dragon” both in theaters and on their online streaming platform, Disney Plus. If you are still too wary of the pandemic to venture out to a theater to see Disney’s newest film but are still eager to watch it, unfortunately, you will still need to spend a bit of money. On top of the preexisting subscription cost you would pay for Disney Plus, “Raya” is the second time the platform has released a title with “Premier Access,” meaning that you must pay an additional $30 for the film. Once that payment has been made, you can watch the movie as many times as you would like, but is “Raya” worth that extra money? For many people, the answer to that question may vary. If you were hooked by the initial trailer and/or a die-hard Disney fan, you’ve already forked over your money, but what about the average college student that isn’t as devoted to watching the most recent Disney films?
The first thing you should know about “Raya and the Last Dragon” before buying it is the plot. The movie takes place in an ancient mystical realm based on Southeast Asian tales. The land used to be inhabited by both people and dragons, and they all lived in harmony until a mysterious force called the Druun wreaked havoc across the land. Whenever it came in contact with someone, that person would be turned to stone. As the Druun threatened to turn the whole realm to stone, five of the last remaining dragons banded together and used their powers to create a magic stone called the Dragon Gem that would vanquish the Druun. Humans returned to their normal forms but all the dragons except for one remained frozen in stone. The last surviving dragon went missing. With all of humanity restored, instead of living in peace again, they quarreled over the Dragon Gem and divided themselves into five distinct lands: Fang, Heart, Tail, Spine, and Talon.
I wouldn’t consider any of that information to be spoilers since it is all delivered via voiceover at the beginning of the movie. The only other thing you might want to know about the plot is that an event occurs that, as the title suggests, sends the main character, Raya on a quest to find the last dragon. While the film delivers a timely message, it does so in a very convenient and on-the-nose way. This movie also falls under the usual Disney pitfall that certain plot points are hinted at so heavily early on that some moments are quite predictable. The last major criticism against the film is how it handles worldbuilding. As you could probably tell by the plot description earlier, the world is pretty complicated. A lot needs to be explained to the audience, and while many important points are explained pretty well, there are some things that are not elaborated on well enough and others that are told repeatedly in almost the same way.
That seems like quite a bit of knocks against the movie, but I can assure you that it has a lot of good to it as well. The best thing about “Raya” in my opinion is that I was never bored watching it. It entertained me from beginning to end. It should go without saying that Disney’s animation is top-notch. The film is gorgeous and full of color, and since numerous locations are visited over the runtime, no place ever outstays its welcome. Compared to other Disney movies, this one is pretty action-heavy, and the combat, whether it is hand-to-hand or with weapons, is animated very well with exciting choreography to match. In between the moments of action are moments for the film to slow down, breathe and give moments for the characters to develop in meaningful ways. As the movie reached its climax, I was actually concerned for each character’s well-being, and even though as I said earlier the film’s ending was a bit convenient, I walked away from it satisfied.
With both the pros and cons of the film out in the air, I would guess that many of you with a Disney Plus account are still on the fence about spending the extra money for Premier Access. In my opinion, “Raya and the Last Dragon” is not worth $30. I would instead recommend you handle the cost the way I did: split it with a group of friends and enjoy the movie together. If you are adamantly against spending any extra money and you are patient, you can wait until the movie is free to watch for anyone with a Disney Plus account on June 4.