Monday Movies: Moana 2017

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Moana was co-directed by Ron Clements and John Musket, and is the latest film to be released by Disney animation studios. It stars Auli’i Cravalho as Moana, the young daughter of the village chief of a Polynesian island. Moana is brought up being told to never leave her island, because the outside world is a dangerous place. She also grows up hearing a legend that tells of a saviour who will return a stolen gem to a goddess, and stop the imminent darkness that is threatening their world. Moana sets off to become this saviour, and find the demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, who will then return the heart of the goddess Te Fiti.

The film follows several archetypes that we have come to expect from Disney princess films. First of all the disobedient child. Whether rightfully or not, the title character is almost always strong willed and in opposition to their parents or parent. In Tangled much like in Moana this involved the main character disobeying orders to never leave their home. Second there is a main ballad sung by the main character that will prove to be an ear worm. For Frozen it was Let it go, for Moana, How far I’ll go. Third there is a character, sometimes the love interest, who the main character dislikes but has to work with, and in time grows to love either romantically like in Princess and the frog, or in this case platonically. Lastly, there is always a cute animal sidekick. In Moana it is Hei Hei the chicken, in Cinderella it was the mice, in Aladdin the tiger, in the Little Mermaid it was flounder. Whether or not they can talk their is always a cute looking animal sidekick. Ironically a character in Moana does poke fun at these archetypes while still managing to represent each and every one of them. Unlike many other princess films however, Moana does not include a love interest, which is a welcome change from the commonly utilized only true love can ensure a happily ever after trope.

Unlike most other films however, Moana’s story is underdeveloped. It seems to focus more on visual effects, which were brilliantly executed, comedic gags which were sometimes poorly received, and the representation of Polynesian culture. Another recently released Disney film, Zootopia was gorgeously animated, but made use of a powerful and rather mature storyline that catered to both children and adults. In contrast Moana was more of a structure of tropes that stitched together a thin story. It was however, fun and enjoyable to watch, but in my opinion was not quite as thought out as Zootopia.

The animation was breathtaking, and I particularly enjoyed the use of water as a sort of character. Each background was rendered to look so realistic that I actually felt as though I could reach out and touch it. The music was incredibly catchy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda introduces one of the best Disney soundtracks in years, with a particularly compelling villain song. One of the best things I can say about Moana is the characterization of Maui, particularly his tattoos. Each of his tattoos could move and tell stories, and that was a brilliant story telling element. Each scene was very fun, and it was never boring. Moana made use of several thrilling action scenes, including some interactions with pirate characters, and a destructive evil entity.

Another important praise goes to the voice actors and the respectful representation of a culture which is not often represented on the big screen. A lot of research went into the representation of Polynesian culture and it really shows. Everything from the uses of coconuts, to the importance of tattoos showed the amount of effort that the Disney team put into getting it right. Despite my criticisms I really did enjoy this movie and would go see it again.

Grade: A-

Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musket

Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk

Runtime: 1 h 47 min

Rating: G

I hope that you all enjoyed my first of hopefully many movie reviews. Cinema has been a huge passion of mine ever since I was little, and I have recently developed a love for film criticism. I plan to along with my regular posts, release some film reviews as well. I may not be able to release one every single Monday, but I will  have one up every other Monday at the very least.

*I originally posted this review on another blog of mine, but decided that I would combine my two blogs to make it easier on myself and give you all a better idea of my interests and what is important to me*

Cheers and much love

-Danielle

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