Moana: Diverse Dynasty, Monotonous Movie.
Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) a young, ambitious, soon to be chief, sees things disintegrate as an ancient curse falls over the island. It all began with Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a shapeshifting demigod who was cast out long ago, along with his trusty power-granting fishhook, and the glowing stone heart of the island, plummeting deep into the sea. Without it, the island is dying. Moana believes that if she just makes it past the reef, there is a chance at finding Maui, and saving her homeland. But she is bound to the traditions of the island, and her parents urge her to stay. Soon enough, with help from her grandma (crazy, yet likable), she discovers the truth about the past. They were once voyagers! Moana is ready to venture out, just as her ancestors did, and restore the island.
If you think that sounded like an exposition dump, then you’re absolutely right. All of that information was given to us in a blatant, unimpressive way. That aspect of this movie had me groaning, packed with cliches, and dragging on. However, that just sets us up for adventure. It does redeem itself. Stuck on a boat, and placed at odds against their mystical foes, Moana and Maui (and a dumb chicken) go through a number of developments. It was fun to see the confidence keep spouting from Moana. She wasn’t discouraged often, and if she was, she quickly got over it. Maui is meanwhile basking in his ego, and focusing on himself. This duo really holds up the film. Moana also has this thing with the ocean. It chose her for this journey, and it protects her from time to time (but it’s almost inconsistent, and usually just convenient to the plot). Aside from this kink, and a few others, it’s a joy to unfold this story.
Let’s look at (or maybe listen to) sound for a moment. The accompanying music, soundtrack-type stuff, was good. It fit with the tone of each scene, especially the heartfelt ones, and it blended with the setting. But then there’s the original soundtrack. Several of these musical numbers felt out of place, awkwardly sung, and forced in for a quick cash-in on Disney’s part. This did not necessarily need to be a musical. Hamilton’s own Lin-Manuel Miranda, and his counterparts, understand music (and a bit of rap), but they just couldn’t settle it into this film like I had hoped. On its own, however, it was catchy. Songs like “You’re Welcome” and “We Know The Way” can easily stick in your head.
I’ll just clear up any sourness with a commendable feature. This movie had fantastic action. Every sequence was well-choreographed, and fluidly timed. Good on you, Disney. I can give you that one.
Visuals were stunning, but at times jarring. Each of the characters seemed to be cast into a realistic backdrop, and it didn’t always fit. Regardless, the animators did some top-notch work, especially with the lighting, and the water effects (which is important, given that the ocean itself is literally a character). Textures were highly detailed as well, with things like sand and moss really grabbing the eyes. Moving to the characters again, their facial expressions were quite defined, but it didn’t seem like they were subtle enough. That would have helped to humanize them a bit. Oh well, it still worked.
Here’s the verdict: If you don’t care about all of that stuff, I get it. You want to know, simply, if it is worth your time. I’d say it is, as long as you can deal with a touch of cringe, and a healthy dose of inconsistencies. If you adore Disney to your dying breath, this movie will keep you satisfied. I can assure you that.
Moana is plenty of fun, and gorgeously animated into an empowering story. Kids can gain a lot, from its jokes to its accessible themes, and while this one caters to them, you definitely can too. Check it out for yourself!
Guest Author: Sean Chronister