Film Review: Moana

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Synopsis: Disney animated adventure set in ancient Oceania.

When a fiery ocean demon threatens her peaceful island home, teenage Princess Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) vows to fulfil her heroic destiny and save her people. Putting her navigation skills to the test, Moana sets out on a daring sea voyage to find the once-mighty demi-God Maui (Dwayne Johnson), the legendary creator of the Pacific Islands and the only one who can help her with her quest.

 Together, they traverse the treacherous open waters, encountering difficult conditions and dangerous creatures along the way, as Moana searches for the mythical island which holds the key to completing her mission.

Film: Moana

Director: Ron Clements

Date: 2016

The hype surrounding Moana meant I not only wanted to watch it, I planned to review it as well. While I did thoroughly enjoy the film, for me personally, it lacked the tingle-grin-like-a-loon feeling I associate with some of my favourite Disney films.

Just like Belle wants more than her provincial life and Ariel longs to be part of another world, Moana doesn’t fit with her people. She longs for the ocean while living with island dwellers who refuse to go out beyond the reef. Naturally, the first song of the film is her longing for the ocean, to be part of something more than what her destiny appears to be.

Cue the island dying and a hero needed to restore life to the entire world. Cue Moana’s destiny changing to something more as she sets out on her quest. I like Moana as a character – she’s determined, headstrong and will let nothing stand in the way of her dreams. She’s also naïve – she has no skills to undertake this quest, including not actually being able to sail despite sailing across the ocean to find an unchartered island. Still, when you’ve got a random chicken accompanying you and the sea on your side, what can go wrong?

If you were a dress, and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.

This is where the demi-god Maui enters the story. The definition of a reluctant hero, all Maui worries about is being adored by humankind. For a demi-god, however, he seems to have had a big hand in shaping human civilisation. Whether it’s being attacked by savage coconuts (I’m not kidding) or facing a vengeful God, Maui wants to keep his powers intact and his magical hook safe.

Of course, our reluctant hero takes a shine to Moana, teaches her to sail and the two form an unstoppable rescue team with the mission of saving the world.

As with any Disney film, Moana is full of hidden messages and meaning. Respecting the Earth is one, along with the understanding that, when treated right, it will provide you with everything you need. Not letting anything stand in the way of your dreams is another, although I’m sure this one has been done. Mulan, anyone?

There’s culture and side-kicks and learning who you truly are. There is songs and battles and quests against seemingly unstoppable magic that can only be won by not giving up and believing in yourself. All in all, it’s Disney in a nutshell.

Moana made me laugh. The characters are strong and their friendship is a genuine one. Like Pocahontas, it shows children there is another way of life compared to the Western culture they are used to. I would recommend it to any Disney fan who hasn’t yet seen it; chances are you will enjoy it.

But although I can’t put my finger on why, Moana won’t make it into my top list of Disney films. Perhaps there was just too much hype. It just didn’t give me the giddy joyful feeling I associate with other Disney films. Still, very enjoyable.


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2 thoughts on “Film Review: Moana

  1. I recently watched this too and really liked it. I was surprised because I had no intention of watching it because of how hyped it was. I loved it because it introduced me to a culture I don’t know much about and I loved that the songs are sung in the culture’s language as well as English, which I don’t think Disney has done before.

    Liked by 1 person

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