Monday, April 5, 2021

Raya, the Last Dragon, and Trust

I stand corrected, ever so much more than expected. Last November, I gave a brief complaint if you will about what I thought the plot of Raya and the Last Dragon would be based on the trailer. I was entirely incorrect, making my complaint unfair for this particular film. In my defense, though, they did give a certain impression in the trailer that was extremely different from how the film turned out to be. And that was probably on purpose: while a trailer should give viewers a sense of what a movie is about, they can also intentionally hide the true details so as to still surprise and delight when they actually see the film itself. You don't want to give everything away in just the trailer, after all.

So what I'm referring to is the plot of one hero going out on a quest to perform a task that will set everything right in the world. Like I mentioned before, I don't mind the existence of such a plot; I just don't want to see it all the time. Small deeds, not great ones, are what we as individuals have to contribute to the world--and it is these small contributions that make the world go round and turn dark to light. So imagine my surprise when I found that this conversation is exactly what Raya and the Last Dragon addresses. 

Raya is on a quest of sorts. But mostly she's just someone reeling from a mistake she made in the past. She's someone with no friends or family or support. She's someone with no plan, just an aching wish to somehow find the way to make things right. And she doesn't even believe that she can do that; she's hoping the last dragon, Sisu, will do that. All her hopes pend on help from Sisu. So Raya has tasks. First to find Sisu, then to find the rest of the gem pieces. But they're just tasks. She isn't special for having done them. And doing them doesn't "fix the world." 

Notice as Raya goes along that she picks up companions from each of the tribes. They're all different, and they don't necessarily even become friends over the course of the movie. But they choose to work together all the same. This is also what Sisu admits when she tells Raya about when she and her siblings made the gem: they all put their magic together and trusted her with the use of the gem. It was a team effort, not something any of them could have done alone.

And so it is with Raya and her companions. In the end, they don't drive out the Druun with power or might but by their willingness to trust one another. It's kind of like a team-building game you might play in elementary school, where you learn that you have to put all your pieces together to make them fit. So exactly as I said, it's the little actions within our own little spheres of influence that make the world go round and drive out the dark. Raya doesn't rally the troops or fight a battle or give a grand speech to the world. She just chooses to trust Namaari and in so doing encourage the others to do the same. 

It's a simple but effective theme. 

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