Film Critic and Writer for ComiConverse.com, the Founder and co-host of the official Nerdcast Network Podcast
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Disney’s Moana is making waves in cinemas, the next in their critically acclaimed animated line-up. Our Film Critic Jordan Samuel has seen the film and brings us the official ComiConverse review.
Film Review: Moana
Walt Disney Animation have a brilliant track-record of late, with each one of their new ideas and existing franchises providing fun family entertainment. Other big studios have tried to copy the formula, but have ended up forgetting what made the animated Disney pictures so enjoyable. Attention to detail and engaging scripts that feel both mature and childish at the same time; with some movies delving into slightly dark themes (ie. The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
This is something that has followed the studio since the 90’s, with each picture getting a warm reception, tackling themes which otherwise would have been untouched like racism (Zootopia).
The new focus on Polynesian culture is a rich and thought-provoking one, and a culture that has never truly been discovered on animated film. Disney attempts to change all that with Moana, a project that featured on a Pacific Islands girl who embarks on her own terrific adventure.
But does it work?
An adventurous teenager sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfils the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.
Disney’s Moana is a near-perfect family animated movie, which beautifully depicts Polynesian ethos. Providing a backdrop for a future franchise with some amazing looking locations and animation, feeling fresh in a genre full of boring looking family films. Directors Ron Clements and Don Hall deliver a movie which introduces us to some great characters who could hopefully inspire a new generation of children to love film magic.
Moana is a musical, comedy and adventure that includes beautiful animation – unlike anything I have seen since the original Ice Age film. Environments are so pleasant to look at, overflowing with the animals, which add to the immersive Disney inspired Polynesian islands.
It also features an all-new soundtrack from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, that will be sung by kids for a while. I hate musicals with a fire, but Disney’s Moana is the exception. Each song works in the film’s context.
The typical princess trope found in previous Disney films, is thrown out the window here with Moana, a strong empowering female character who doesn’t take any nonsense. The story is about an adventurous teenager Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) who sails out on a daring mission to save her own people. During this wild journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who helps her in a quest to become the master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.
Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho is Moana, a native from the island Te Fiti who carries great responsibility as she is the heir of the island. Rejecting the idea, she attempts to escape her birthplace – but the she meets Maui the demi-god who points her in the right direction to save her island. Moana is not the typical Disney hero, as her motivations are more grounded within her world instead of the crazy stuff seen in the likes of Frozen. Moana comes across as the most heart-felt character I have seen in animated film in some time
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson makes his animated debut as Maui, who thinks he is the greatest. I love the electricity in his voice-over work, he was known already for being great in front of a mic during his WWE career. This continues in his portrayal of Maui. Moana doesn’t trust him at first but the pair make a connection which was sweet to see unfold on screen. He is the comedic relief for a good chunk of this picture, but the script does give him a meaty bit near the end which was well done.
Disney’s Moana is a smart film, which both will excite young children and adults alike. the script is smart with writers not holding back on giving the audience, a message of being yourself teaching a lesson to children which is something I can commend.
In the era of generic 3D animation, coming from studios like Sony – this is a breath of fresh air in a crowded kid’s movie genre with powerful themes and intelligent characters. Moana is a must-see film for fans of animation and even good movies in general, providing a feel good treat this holiday – perfectly giving us a taste of this rich culture.
Jordan Samuel is a Film Critic for ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @JordanESamuel
Moana is a classic Disney adventure drifting away from the cliche princess tropes seen in the previous endeavours, kids and adults will love this sweet winter treat.