Saturday, 15 April 2017

Film Review No. 22 Moana (PG)

Strong Points:
Simply astounding animation
Great voice acting
Disney Magic
Catchy and clever songs
Pork the Pig and HeiHei the Chicken
References to other Disney films

Weak Points:
Some lines felt shoehorned in - I'm not a princess
Felt like fewer songs than normal
Pork the Pig was there and then not
Would Maui have really taken the stone to begin with?

In-depth Review:
Ah, Disney. You've given us two great Classics this year, both completely different. Zootopia was a non-singing film featuring anthropomorphic animals with a sprawling story and far-reaching look at the world and inhabitants. If that film felt new in the Disney realm, then Moana is at the other end of the spectrum, with its tightly focused approach to storytelling. Here you have singing. You have laughs (as did Zootopia). You have animal sidekicks and you a journey from point A to B with growth for all characters along the way. They both work, and show the versatility of Disney's Animation Studios.

I don't normally start off with graphics in my reviews but this film deserves special mention because of just how amazing they look! Disney has really stepped up their game in the animation department both in their 3D Animation and CGI, and wow have we the audience reaped the rewards of their hard work. The water looked phenomenal, the colours were in-depth and varied and the faces were full of life. Everything just looked really, really good.

It also sounded very good, with voice talents of Auli'i Cravalho and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, the latter being someone I'd never have pictured being in a Disney movie, much less an animated one featuring a talking crab. But he (and the rest of the cast) are superb, bringing boundless energy to the film. Even the singing is excellent from Moana's belt of a song in How Far I'll Go to the Bowi-esque Shiny and The Rock's You're Welcome. Each one was a different style of song and helped to show off each of the characters (helped by the fact that the writer is Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton and In The Heights fame). The songs were also much better paced than that of Frozen, which was pretty devoid of singing in the second act, however, I still believe that there weren't enough songs!

Story wise the film is a pleasant journey to finding one's self and, while still in Disney's comfort zone, has enough twists and turns to make it an enjoyable film. The inner battles of the two main characters really felt believable, and the motives of most of the characters did as well. I say most, as, while Maui probably wanted applause enough to risk life and limb getting the Heart of Te Fiti, he must've known it wouldn't have been a good idea to steal the heart of a goddess, right?

The film had comedy in abundance as well, from the animal antics of HeiHei the chicken and Pork the pig (who makes a quick exit in the film sadly), to the casual back-references to their previous films that Disney has gotten great at making. 'You better not sing' and 'if you're a girl with a dress and an animal sidekick then you're a princess' lines were my favourites. I did, however, feel like Moana's defiant shout of 'I'm not a princess!' felt a bit shoe-horned in there.

Lastly, one thing I didn't expect was the variety in villains from the Kakamora - sentient coconut creatures to Tamatoa - a giant crab and finally Te Kā - a giant lava/darkness creature. They were all very well designed and inspired from real Polynesian legends - the level of research and detail Disney did for the film is great to see.

Conclusion: overall the film was a welcome diversion from real life, while still teaching the odd life lesson here and there. And while there may be controversy about Disney appropriating culture or body shaming (they just can't win, can they?), it's nice to see Disney taking risks.

Rating: 90%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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