How Far Disney Will Go
After Disney Animation’s surprisingly mature and incredibly successful film, Zootopia, the bar was set pretty high in terms of what to expect. In fact, Disney Animation has delivered one great film after another in recent years from Tangled to Frozen to Wreck-It-Ralph delving into more relevant films with the same humor and charm. It appears that Disney has entered yet another “Golden Age” of films and Moana is a movie that expands the list of amazing stories that people of all ages can enjoy. Moana not only excels in its visuals, songs, and simple story, but also expands to some more emotional themes that humanize and tie the film together.
The film follows the story of the titular character Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) who is the daughter of a Polynesian chief on her island. Moana yearns for adventure, and when blight threatens to destroy her home she is chosen by the ocean to go on a quest to save her home from darkness. Along the way she must recruit Maui, a shapeshifting demigod, (Dwayne Johnson) to restore a mystical artifact to its rightful place.
The voice work done by the two main characters is masterful and allows for a unique personality. Cravalho’s Moana is the character who is on her mission to help her homeland. She allows the character to feel strong willed and independent yet vulnerable. She makes the character feel triumph and intrigue during the more light hearted moments but provides real weight when faced with hardships and more emotional scenes. This is a great protagonist for a future generation to look up to as the film smartly avoids a love story and focuses on her mission to save her people. Her singing voice is also phenomenal striking a beautiful tone that carries the themes of the film.
The standout is by far Dwayne Johnson’s Maui. “The Rock” has become such a popular icon due to his charisma and charm and he carries that over with the character Maui. He is arrogant and brash, and yet you just can’t help liking him for all the charm and personality he has. One of the standout songs is Maui’s “You’re Welcome” and even though Johnson is not as phenomenal a singer as Cravalho, the song still is a lot of fun thanks to Johnson’s voice work. He, as well, is able to deliver on the more emotional parts of the film where we learn more about Maui and what drives the character to do what he does.
The story of this movie is fairly simple: Moana must return an artifact to its rightful and everything will be all right. However, it is the simplicity of the plot that allows the film to expand upon much more interesting themes. One of which is the idea of belonging and where home truly is for someone. Moana yearns to be away from home and explore and find out what her place in the world is. This can be extremely relevant to a college student as they navigate a new territory trying to find a purpose in the world. She struggles, learns, and has small victories that will shape who is she is to become. Deciding what one may want to do or where they want to go with a career, Moana is a character that portrays those struggles in a very human way that makes her relatable.
The songs are really well done and well choreographed, providing perspective on a culture and telling a story in each one that adds to the development of the story. One song may come across as the new “Let It Go” from Frozen as it has a similar message and tune but the other ones fare well with a great tune and small messages within the lyrics. Lin Manuel-Miranda should be praised for the songs he has crafted to bring this film to life.
The film is absolutely gorgeous in its visuals. From the water’s bright blue and fluid motions to the darker animations of a lava monster, Disney has really gone above and beyond to showcase their artistic talent. The movie is completely computer generated, but the film benefits from it with the vibrant colors and impeccable attention to detail that brings the world to life. It almost feels as if the world is realistic and alive that I could reach out and feel the water as the characters set sail.
The one flaw I have with this movie is the ending as it did feel a little abrupt, however it is a very sweet and endearing ending that I can overlook its quick pace.
Disney has yet again proven that is the pillar of animated films with Moana. The movie has two fantastic leads discovering things about themselves while also on their simple quest. The characters have deep layers to them that the film wisely explores to provide commentary on relevant themes presented today. The music and visuals and great and bring a great character to the film that allows it to thrive. All though the plot is a little too simple and familiar and the ending may feel a little short, Moana excels in almost every other aspect giving some new standards and hopes for future Disney films to come.