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Raya and the Last Dragon Movie Review - Tradition and Trust Rule!

A nation forever divided cannot stand.

Reviewed by on Mar 01, 2021
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. This beautifully-animated tale of a divided people reunited by trust hits home in our volatile political environment. Strong women make a difference.



In Raya and the Last Dragon, once, in the Asian country of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived peacefully together. When dark monsters called the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, the Druun have returned and, as guardian of the dragon gem, the last remnant of the once-mighty dragons’ power, it's up to young Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), her pet companion Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk) and friends she gathers along the way, to track down the last dragon to stop the Druun for good. On the way, she’ll have to reconcile with and trust Namaari (Gemma Chan), another strong young warrior woman, in order to save their divided nation.

Raya on her quest across ruined landsRaya on her quest across ruined landsCourtesy of Disney

Rolling Along

While travelling on what, at first, appears to be a giant, rolling rock, young warrior woman Raya crosses ruins, a wasteland that, she says, was once lush. 500 years ago, this was the nation of Kumandra where humans lived with dragons who brought rain, water and peace. It was a paradise. Then the Druun came, turning everyone plus the dragons into stone and laying waste to the land. The last dragon Sisu channeled all of her magic into a gemstone and blasted the Druun away. Everyone came back to life except the dragons and Sisu couldn’t be found. The people fought over the powerful gemstone. Kumandra divided into five lands named for parts of a dragon; Heart, Fang, Spine, Tail and Talon. Heart hid and guarded the stone and Raya and her father Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) were some of the last of its guardians.

Young Raya with beloved dad BenjaYoung Raya with beloved dad BenjaCourtesy of Disney

Invitation to Dinner

When Raya was a tween, her father, in the hope of reuniting Kumandra, invited leaders of the other four lands to a dinner. Someone must take the first step. The other lands wanted the gem. Their people thought it provided power and prosperity to any nation who held it.

The people of the Land of TailThe people of the Land of TailCourtesy of Disney

Raya made friends with tween princess of Fang, Namaari. They both considered themselves “dragon nerds” and both have single parents. Raya realized that Fang didn’t have enough food. Namaari showed Raya an illustrated scroll that said last dragon Sisu is alive out there somewhere at the end of a river. She is a water dragon. Trusting Namaari, Raya showed her the hiding place of the sacred gem but Namaari was using her and, while Benja and Namaari’s mother Queen Virana (Sandra Oh) talked, soldiers of Fang entered the chamber followed by people from the other lands. They fought over the gem and it fell and broke into five pieces and a purple smoke Druun is released. It was repelled by even a piece of the gemstone so all five pieces were grabbed by the different lands for protection.

People of SpinePeople of SpineCourtesy of Disney

Run for Your Lives!

The Druun were repelled by the power of the gemstone but also by water. Benja gave daughter Raya the piece of the stone and tossed her into the river just as a Druun reached him and turned him and many others, to stone. Raya was then the only guardian. Six years later, in the land of Tail, Raya’s rolling “rock” turns out to be her pet Tuk Tuk, a combination of a pill bug, armadillo and pug dog.

Baby Tuk TukBaby Tuk TukCourtesy of Disney

He has grown up to be huge and is also her transportation. She has Namaari’s scroll and has been using it to hunt for Sisu, the last dragon, hoping that her power can reunite the lands as her father wanted. At the head of the last river, Raya lights candles and does a ritual calling for Sisu saying she trusted another human and now the world is broken.

Sisu holds a piece of the sacred gemstoneSisu holds a piece of the sacred gemstoneCourtesy of Disney

Sisu Appears!

Sisu, a large, furry, friendly dragon, appears, has no idea where she is and thinks that she has saved humanity as intended. Raya explains that it is 500 years later and the Druun have returned. Sisu’s brother and sister dragons are still stone as is Raya’s father and other people. The gemstone is broken. Raya only has a piece.

Sisu will help Raya save the people from the DruunSisu will help Raya save the people from the DruunCourtesy of Disney

Sisu admits she is not the most powerful of the dragons. They will have to find the rest of the stone in order for her to have her full powers back and gain the powers of her siblings. They leave but, suddenly, Namaari enters with other warriors riding huge cats. She wants her scroll back and also wants to put the gemstone back together but for her land of Fang not for the reunification of Kumandra.

Namaari wants her scroll backNamaari wants her scroll backCourtesy of Disney

On the Road

On the way to find the Chief of Tails, Raya and Sisu come across a cave full of booby traps. The Chief has been killed long ago by them. Her skeleton holds her chunk of the gem and they retrieve it….carefully before being attacked by “toot a boom” bugs whose farts blow up! On holding the gem piece Sisu gains the power of shapeshifting that belonged to her sister dragon. She is now a human woman.

Sisu shapechanges into a human womanSisu shapechanges into a human womanCourtesy of Disney

Namaari arrives and a trap is triggered but she escapes. Raya and human Sisu end up on a boat/restaurant run by young boy Boun (Isaac Wang). He will take them to the next land Talon…for a price. Raya convinces Sisu to stay human. They can’t trust people if they see she’s a dragon. Raya is afraid Boun will poison them with his food but Sisu trusts and eats it right away.

Young Boun offers Raya the use of his boatYoung Boun offers Raya the use of his boatCourtesy of Disney


After floating down a river with horrible Druun lurking on the shores, they arrive in Talon where houses are built safely over water. Raya warns Sisu to stay on the boat. This land is full of pickpockets and con artists. Of course Sisu goes ashore anyway.

A friendly old woman isn't what she seemsA friendly old woman isn't what she seemsCourtesy of Disney

After adventures in which Sisu’s trusting nature gets her in trouble and Raya deals with Little Noi (Thalia Tran), a 2-year-old con artist who runs with three monkey creatures, the Talon gem piece is secured and the baby and her “gang” join Raya’s bunch as they move on to Spine for another gem piece.

Con baby Noi uses charm to get what she wantsCon baby Noi uses charm to get what she wantsCourtesy of Disney

Meanwhile, we learn that Fang is outgrowing its borders and must expand or die. Namaari wants to lead the army to get all the gem pieces from Raya…stronger protection. Mom Virana finally agrees.

Virana agrees to let daughter Namaari get the gem pieces from RayaVirana agrees to let daughter Namaari get the gem pieces from RayaCourtesy of Disney


In the land of Spine, only one giant warrior named Tong (Benedict Wong) is left. All the people have been turned to stone by the Druun. Now Namaari and her army are outside the gates demanding Tong turn over Raya and the stone pieces she carries. Raya and Namaari do hand-to-hand combat and Sisu in her dragon form, comes to help. Namaari sees her, is shocked and just freezes in place. The group is off to the land of Fang for the final piece of the gemstone.

Tong, leader of SpineTong, leader of SpineCourtesy of Disney

Success or Failure?

Will Raya and friends get the final piece of the gemstone? Will the people in the five lands ever cooperate? Will the dragons and humans turned to stone live again? Will Raya ever be able to trust Namaari who once betrayed her? Can they one day be friends? Will the broken nation of Kumandra ever be reunited? What dangers lie ahead?

Raya and Namaari will do battle outside SpineRaya and Namaari will do battle outside SpineCourtesy of Disney

Wrapping Up

Raya and the Last Dragon’s theme of trust and teamwork to achieve unity between enemies is so very current today, especially in the U.S. where our political leaders are at each other’s throats in a divided nation. The “unite to stand” theme applies internationally, however, as well.

Raya tells Sisu she is too trustingRaya tells Sisu she is too trustingCourtesy of Disney

The film focuses on two powerful, determined and skilled young women who are forced to work together and put differences aside for the good of all. Fight skills are well-animated and Raya has one very cool sword!

Raya is ready for battleRaya is ready for battleCourtesy of Disney

The voice actors are great, especially Star WarsKelly Marie Tran as Raya and the delightful Awkwafina as dragon-turned-human Sisu. Banter between the two is very real, fun and yet, at times quite touching. There are tear-jerking moments in the movie along with the action and humor that is often provided by pet/transportation Tuk Tuk, a baby con artist and a few “toot a boom” bugs.

I do think we need to know more about the enemy Druun, an amorphous, purple smoke entity. Where are they from and why do they need to turn humans and dragons to stone….what is their backstory? Why do they look as they do etc.?

Raya with Tuk Tuk in her land of HeartRaya with Tuk Tuk in her land of HeartCourtesy of Disney

The movie’s animation is gorgeous and delicate. I especially love the almost luminous colors used throughout. The usual Disney research into the cultures covered is on display in everything from buildings to yummy-looking noodle dishes and different but related costuming. Wonderful!

Any worries that this Asian-centric movie might be too much like Mulan are unfounded. Yes, the films star two determined Asian warrior women but their goals and storylines are not the same. We know you will enjoy this one and we award four stars.

Raya and the Last Dragon Movie Rating: 4

Raya and the Last Dragon Movie Review - Tradition and Trust Rule!Courtesy of Disney

See Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters and also on Disney+ Premiere Access (for $30) on March 5th.