December 15, 2016
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Disney’s recent animated princess movie, 2016’s Moana, tells the story of the heir to the chieftain of a small island community and her journey across the ocean to prevent an apocalyptic ecological disaster slowly destroying her native island.
Bearing all the hallmarks of classic princess movies, Moana is a lighthearted, family-friendly adventure musical starring Auli’i Cravalho, a newcomer to major show business, and Dwayne Johnson, seasoned Hollywood star.
The film has already received widely positive reviews, with aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic awarding it a 96% and 81/100 respectively. Critics praise its story, characters, animation, voice acting, and setting.
Overall, we thought the film was excellent as well. The characters were strong, if a bit archetypal, and the adventure was engaging and fantastical to the perfect degree while remaining relatable. The music, expanded on in an article by fellow Production writer Perla Limon, was another strong point of the film, propelling the story and fleshing in the tone.
The main plot of Moana follows the eponymous character Moana (Cravalho) on her quest to restore the world’s mythological order with the help of the demigod, Maui (Johnson), who originally set the world out of order .
Moana’s journey presents a strong coming of age story, with a character experiencing discontent in her status quo life and finding a new perspective from her adventure. Though we’ve seen this before it works well in Moana, with the oceanic setting and mythology providing the story a unique flavor.
Maui’s supporting role shows a strong hero experiencing a lapse of identity, similar to that of Thor or Hercules; however, with a new position in the story as a part of Moana’s adventure rather than as the center of his own film, Maui’s arc is refreshingly unique as well.
Without getting into spoilers, the general plot details are just as effective and engaging as the characters. Moana’s island is the most recent among many to experience a destructive natural force as a result of Maui’s stealing the artifact that balances the ocean’s natural order, and the two set out to return the artifact to its place and resolve the disaster.
Overall, the film is strong, concise, and effective, and its admittedly generic elements, such as character archetypes and plot typicalities, are balanced by its unique and engaging environment.