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article imageReview: ‘Moana’ isn’t letting anything stand between her and her mission Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 24, 2016 in Entertainment
‘Moana’ is an innovative, inspiring and striking tale about a young woman who stands her ground and risks everything to save her people from extinction.
Disney has always been ahead of the curve when it came to featuring female protagonists in their animated features. However, more importantly, the types of women portrayed and their narrative trajectories have evolved over the years; though it’s been most noticeable in the last decade. The princess is no longer hunting for a husband or waiting for a prince to save her from her evil relatives or a witch’s spell — she’s going on dangerous quests and vowing to save others. She has become the master of her own destiny and found the strength within herself to accomplish great things. Moana is the epitome of this evolution.
Moana’s (Auli'i Cravalho) tribe lives in isolation, never venturing beyond the reef that surrounds their island. However, ever since she could walk, Moana has felt the call of the ocean — literally. A darkness is engulfing nearby lands, making them uninhabitable, and she has been chosen by the water to restore balance by finding the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and convincing him to return the stone he stole to its rightful place. Moana’s father, the chief, however, refuses to let the future leader of their tribe go on such a dangerous and foolhardy mission. But as prospects for the tribe grow dire, she sees no other choice and goes anyway to ensure her tribe has a future to lead.
This is undoubtedly one of the studio’s best and most distinctive animated movies. It begins in the hero’s infancy and traces her progression into a capable chief-in-waiting; in spite of only being a teenager, Moana is already able to make thoughtful decisions for the betterment of her tribe. Thus, even though it’s against her father’s wishes, she sets out to do what she thinks is best for their people. As every hero needs a companion, she’s followed by stowaway and senseless rooster, Heihei, who would probably starve or drown if it wasn’t for the efforts of others. Moana is also guided by the ocean itself, which is alive and communicates via an anthropomorphic wave that offers a helping hand along the way until she gets her sea legs.
While Moana is powerful but subtle, Maui is loud and charismatic. He loves to hear himself speak and being the centre of attention — mostly because he thinks it’s impossible for anyone to pay attention to anything else in his presence. The fallen hero has shifted his focus to self-preservation, which includes ditching Moana and recovering the magical hook from the gods that granted him the power of metamorphosis. Of course along the way, they eventually find common ground, call a truce and determine to complete the hazardous quest together.
The widespread search that resulted in the casting of 16-year-old Cravalho as the voice of Moana was effort well spent as she instils the character with a great sense of confidence and courage that is balanced against her still youthful vigour and spirit. Moreover, she proves very capable of holding her own next to the naturally magnetic, and in this case extra boisterous, Johnson. He manages to make Maui’s arrogance charming, or at least amusing in most instances, and bumps the whole energy of the film up a few notches. Moreover, his interactions with the little Maui tattooed on his chest are hilarious.
Although large sections of the narrative take place on the barren ocean, it’s still stunning. Vibrant colours pop off the screen, and the fluidity of the wind and water are beautiful. The villain characters are also creatively menacing and definitely leave an impression. The islands are lively and flourishing with human and natural activity, and the mystical elements are even more captivating. This is definitely a movie that will be a must-have for everyone’s collection and a future classic by the studio.
Directors: Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker and Chris Williams
Starring: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson and Rachel House
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