Good day to you ladies and gents and welcome to the first of three new film reviews, today I had a lovely three film session at the cinema and now I’m going to talk about one of my most-anticipated films of 2016; Moana. I thought after Zootopia, I wouldn’t be expecting anymore animated Disney films this year but then I remembered this was coming out towards the end of the year. The trailers definitely had my interest and the positive word of mouth coming out of the US recently got me really giddy for its UK release. So is it good or not? Well read on and find out!
So for those not aware here’s a brief synopsis:
“This film tells the story of Moana, the strong-willed daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe, who is chosen by the ocean itself to reunite a mystical relic with a goddess. When a blight strikes her island, Moana sets sail in search of Maui, a legendary demigod, in hopes to save her people.”
The story is definitely not anything new if you’re familiar with Disney animated films, this means that the story beats and overall doesn’t offer too much new and plot’s easy to predict, that being said, Moana has so much more to offer with its culture, characters and life lessons. The film’s just so different with its spirituality, mythology and magic, and deals with themes of self discovery, family, destiny and having courage in the darkest of times. One of the key aspects that I loved was Disney’s approach to the Polynesian culture and mythology, it felt like the behind the film did the research and were able to create a world with its own sense of identity. If I had any nitpicks I’d say the film was quite humourous too though not nearly as funny as I’d hoped, and it definitely felt more child-friendly than it was for adults and I kind of wanted something a little darker.
As for the cast they were great. Let’s start with the stand out star, Auli’i Cravalho as Moana Waialik. Here we have a character’s who is headstrong, athletic, kind and charismatic and from a young age she’s likeable and destined for better things, and over the course of the film she grows and becomes so much more, and I loved Cravalho’s performance especially with her singing. And then there’s Dwayne Johnson as Maui who is fun yet self-centered. Just when I thought I couldn’t love Johnson any more than I do now, he voices a shape-shifting demigod and the dude’s on fire in this role. Johnson brings all of the charisma from his life-action roles to Maui who is fun, charming and larger-than-life, he kind of reminded me a lot of Genie from Aladdin. I also loved the chemistry between Cravalho and Johnson, it clearly showed through the character back and forth which was delightful and hilarious. Jemaine Clement was a surprise favourite as Tamatoa, this character was quirky, strange and funny. Rachel House did well as Gramma Tala offering some great moments between her and Moana, and Temuera Morrison I was just about able to recognise by voice as Chief Tui Waialiki, he was really good. Nicole Scherzinger was fine as Sina Waialiki, and no offense to Alan Tudyk because I love his work both in live-action and voice acting, but I thought he was wasted as Heihei; a character I didn’t even know had a voice until the credits rolled.
When it comes to the presentation it was incredible. Visually Moana is one of the best animated films I’ve seen in recent years, there was a great deal of care given to the 3D CGI and even after seeing incredible visual spectacles like Toy Story 3, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6, Disney are still finding ways to create these insanely detailed and realistic films but still retain the charm and familiarity of their traditionally animated films especially with the character design. The art direction is fabulous, the colour palette is vibrant and varied and the mixture of 2D and 3D animation is inventive and pretty. Oh and that soundtrack by Mark Mancina, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i is gorgeous, I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the songs I got into and it was also impressive how they incorporated both english and the Tokelauan language. Straight from the beginning I was into “Where You Are” and then enjoyed “How Far I’ll Go” (though maybe it’s because it appears more than once), “You’re Welcome” was one of my favourites, but I think the stand out was “Shiny” damn that song was catchy and a pure delight. 😀
In conclusion Moana was a lovely film that continues Disney’s streak of impressive animated films, and while it is a little familiar in its story structure, the cultural elements, amazing visuals, strong characters and catchy soundtrack make it worth a watch.
So have you seen Moana and if so what did you think of it? Be sure to drop your thoughts in the comment section below and I’ll see ya on the next review! 😀