Friday, December 23, 2016

Quick Critique: Moana

I have a lot of issues with Disney. A lot of them. They homogenise their entertainment to a disturbing amount, and soak up pretty much every property they can get their hands on to put their branding on them. They are one of the richest, most influential and powerful media conglomerates in the world, and yet still manage to keep on this rather false feeling face of positivity and family friendly material. And you know the absolute worst thing about them? They keep making movies I love

Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) is destined to take her father's place as chief of their village on a small Polynesian island called Motunui. However, their crops start to fail and the fish begin to deplenish. This is due to the demigod Maui (Dwayne 'The God Damn Rock' Johnson) stealing the heart of island goddess Fiti a millenia ago. Moana, chosen to find Maui and have him return the heart, defies her father's wishes and fulfills her lifelong passion of voyaging the oceans.

Moana manages to do something new with the Disney 'Princess' formula by attaching it to an entirely new culture. The brilliant look into Polynesian culture with painstaking detail, but with that brand of Disney magic to make it accessible and so much fun. Moana herself is just such a likeable protagonist that it's just a joy to see her fulfill her love of exploring and the hilarity of how hopelessly unprepared she is. On top of being about the finding yourself theme, it actually takes a few turns on it and has her both accept her birthright but change it in her own way. That and the ingenious way they turn the destiny trope on its head really makes the film stand out.

On top of that, The Rock is a hell of a lot of fun! He fits the innocent zaniness of the House of Mouse like a glove, has an incredibly enteratining song, and his story of wishing to be wanted fits perfectly with the main theme of finding yourself in your own way. Both Johnson and Cravalho have great chemistry, and are really one of the best buddy duos of the year.

Do I even need to express the brilliance of the technicals? The amount of detail and advancement directors Ron Clements and John Musker put into this project is ridiculously commendable. They made a new machine to get the waves exact! The scene at the beginning with baby Moana walking into the ocean is gorgeous, fully detailed and completely immersive. You can walk into this world.

Also the music is absolutely amazing! Co-written by Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, a lot of care was thought of to make it respectful to the Polynesian sound and spirit. Some of the lyrics were even written in the Tokelauan language. Also they're catchy as hell! Seriously, if we don't blow this soundtrack up like Frozen's was, we have failed as a species. Also, keep in mind that Cravalho was 14/15 when she recorded these songs. Also the music adds to the best scene in the film, but I will not dare ruin that for you!

What else can I say? Moana is classic Disney, modern Disney, and cultural Disney all rolled into one. Wonderful cast, highly emotional, funny, spirited, easy to get wrapped up in, and just an absolute treat. Obviously it's fun for all the family, but I dare you to watch it, grown adult, without tearing up. I. Dare. You.

Also the Grandma is awesome. Managed to beat The Rock as my favourite character. That's impressive.

Also this chicken is the one of the funniest goddamn things ever.



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