Friday, December 30, 2016

Movie Review: MOANA

Moana Waialiki is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island's fisherman can't catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti's heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology.

Given the recent streak of incredible films by Walt Disney Animation, it is becoming ordinary for me to be really excited for one of their pictures. Moana does not tamper my enthusiasm. It is the most visually beautiful animated picture I have seen and one that has to spare some interesting stories to the audience, even though its plot and its musical numbers may occasionally stagger.

What hit me really deep about the film was the cultural representation of these people. Other than offering many cue points for reflection on civilization, the way in which this culture is brought to life is really touching. Everything you'd want is given the life brilliantly, from the presentation of everyday life, traditions, and societal roles, to the relation of the people with their land and nature, which is probably the most resonant aspect of the film, right down to the changes that affect the population. This film really touched me on a cultural level. It brought to life a place and people that aren't really given any space in the cinematic medium and it was a joy to be able to experience it and moreover experience it with this level of craft behind it, which always made it forward the story.

That is the background on which our characters emerge, and once again Disney graces us with colorful, rich, and classic characters that really manage to stick out. Moana is a fresh character, her basic dynamic is really interesting and makes for very good and genuine drama in the first act. Moreover, there is a magnificent sequence in which she grows up on her desire for exploration is explained and shown to the audience perfectly. The supporting cast of characters is just as rich and motivated as her, Maui stands out as the classic reversal of the stereotype that Disney does for comedic value and once again it works. Moana's grandmother, too, is a hippy-like version of this culture and it hits good emotional beats both comedically and dramatically. Moreover, the film is quite funny and that has to be given to the great touches of slapstick comedy given to the chicken and the witty touches added by Maui.

Yet, what is possibly the most stunning aspect of the film resides only in its animation. The land and the nature of the places we visit are brought to life in ways I could not have ever imagined. The images are intelligent, rich, and colorful. They manage to never get repetitive or banal, they are just this canvas of beauty and you can't help but be overwhelmed by it. This is especially so because the absolutely gorgeous visuals are combined with sound in extremely smart ways and are used in tandem in order to give the audience a heightened experience and feel the place rather than just look at it. This really brings forth a sensorial experience rather than just a viewing one.

However, Moana does not rank among the very best Disney has offered us recently as it presents some flaws that make it a little choppy. Firstly, the musical numbers can occasionally feel meandering. As I said above there are different songs that are beautiful and bring forth the story and the characters, yet there are as many songs where characters just erupt into singing and it only feels like they are screaming "I am in a Disney film and I'm going to siiiiing as I embark on my journey!" The plot also has a few issues in the fact that it gets incredibly convoluted in a chain of events that really don't need to be there. It is hard to tell where we're at at times and moreover it gives the film some pacing issues towards the end.

In the end Moana serves as a great addition to the Disney canon of their recent years, it is definitely remarkable and certainly not forgettable, whilst it might not be their usual quality, it is still a great ride to have at the cinema.

James' Score: 7.5/10

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