So I watched Moana…
I was putting off watching this movie for quite a while. Truth be told though, I put off watching quite a few movies in 2016. I eventually got out of my rut and gave this film a chance. A chance it proved to completely deserve because it turned out to be an absolute delight.
Okay, basic plot: A thousand years ago, the goddess Te Fiti created the islands and life. After her heart is stolen by Maui (Dwayne Johnson) – a demigod with the ability to shapeshift – a darkness spreads across the oceans and its islands. One of these islands – Motunui – is the home of Moana (Auli’i Cravalho). Moana is the daughter of the island’s chief and heir to his throne. She has always longed to explore the ocean and travel past the reef that surrounds her home. Moana’s dreams come true when she is chosen to travel across the ocean and return the heart of Te Fiti to her. To do this she’ll need the help of the very thief who stole Te Fiti’s heart – Maui.
This film truly was delightful to watch. The film’s story is a rich tapestry which is woven together with the thread of self-acceptance and realisation. Moana is a character who wishes to break away from the mundane traditions and practices that her father has set out for her. Everyone on her island looks towards the soil for their happiness but Moana knows her’s lies outward in the ocean. She’s a wonderful rebel and an extremely likeable character. Yes, you could easily compare her to Pocahontas and there were a few moments where I felt like Disney was just recreating one of their classics. This is purely because of Moana’s rebellious spirit and not overall plot.
The film is a wonderful adventure story that sticks to Disney’s new, post-Frozen style of storytelling where the love story isn’t necessarily between the two leads; but rather the lead and her family. There are also a few jokes which challenge the traditional classification of ‘Disney Princess’ which I really enjoyed. The only shortcoming the film’s plot has is how predictable and formulaic it is. Don’t get me wrong, this film is a delight to watch but it’s not going to surprise you…unless it’s the first movie you’ve ever seen. The film also does a truly fantastic job showcasing and celebrating Polynesian culture. From the ethnicity in its cast to the stunning visuals and representation of traditions and customs, the film pays great reverence to the culture it depicts.
The film’s voice cast, in particular Auli’i Cravalho, are magnificent. I expected Dwayne Johnson to be the lead in this film – and while he is amazing – this film truly belongs to Cravalho. She is brilliant! There is a strength and sincerity in her voice that brings the character to life wonderfully. She is the bedrock of everything that is fun about this movie. Dwayne Johnson also does a fantastic job in this film and continues to solidify his place as Hollywood royalty.
Now this being a Disney animated feature, there have to be a few songs in there. Shortly after leaving the theatre, I downloaded this film’s soundtrack and have been listening to it religiously. I love songs from Disney movies because they have a ‘Musical’ feel to them. By that I mean, it feels like the songs were written for a musical. The songs aren’t just pop songs added to the film to avoid silence but rather rich harmonies which intensify and highlight the emotions of scenes. ‘How Far I’ll Go’ by Auli’i Cravalho is a favourite and is a perfect summation of the character’s angst and journey in the film. ‘You’re Welcome’ is a funny, catchy tune which threatens to get stuck in your head like ‘Let It Go’ did.
Overall, Moana is a wonderful film. It has a strong female in its lead which is a thing we definitely need more of in film. It’s funny, has songs that you’ll be singing along to long after the film ends and a great moral at its heart. It’s definitely worth watching. 7/10