… Better late than never …
I just HAVE to do a review on this movie, because, it is literally one of my favorite movies of all time and since I already spend so much time and energy talking to people about it (whether they like it or not!), I figure it’s time to get all of my thoughts out here.
Moana is a story about a strong-willed girl who follows her heart to fulfill her destiny that was bestowed on her as a little girl. This movie is incredibly uplifting and surprisingly emotional. The connections developed between all of the characters are real and they almost feel like family. The cinematography is magnificent, and I was amazed at how realistic they sand, rocks, and water appeared. They just keep getting better!
There are so many parts to this movie that I simply adore. What I would like to focus on is the uniqueness that Moana explores by utilizing her grandmother’s spirit as a large part of the progression of the movie. The patriarchal grandmother, Tala, is the self-proclaimed “crazy-lady” of the village of Montunui. Her understanding of the world stretches beyond the comprehension (because of hesitation, perhaps?) of the rest of the village, including her son and Moana’s father, Chief Tui.
Tala is the oratory guru and spreads the tale of the creation of the earth. She tells about Te Fiti, a Goddess with the power to create life, and how her heart was stolen by Maui, a shape-shifting demigod. This act began the destruction of the earth, slowly sucking the life out of the islands until the earth would inevitably be swallowed up. Tala’s connection to this story of the Goddess strengthens her spirituality, and we begin to see that she is a strong believer in this tale. Tala also believes in reincarnation, as she tells Moana that she hopes to return as a stingray, which matches her tattoo.
While the rest of the village ignores her stories, Moana is enchanted by them. She holds her grandmother in the highest regard, especially since Tala allows Moana to dream and silently encourages her to feed the wild side she struggles to keep at bay. Moana is not allowed to follow her heart, however. Her father does not want her to travel beyond the reef, yet, Moana is enticed to travel the ocean. This struggle grows as she does, and soon her grandmother feels it is time to reveal to Moana that their people used to be voyagers. Tala tells her this because she knows a secret about Moana. The secret being that the ocean chose Moana to deliver the Heart of Te Fiti and save the earth from its inevitable destruction.
The most heart-wrenching part of Tala’s story can be summed up during the reprise of Moana’s song, “How Far I’ll Go.” Tala knows Moana is weary of the ocean after her one attempt failed miserably. However, Tala also knows that Moana needs to leave the island, find Maui, and save the world! The moment Tala reveals to Moana that their ancestors were voyagers, you can see her begin to get weak and tired. There is a theory that Tala’s purpose was to guide Moana to the truth of her destiny, and once that action began to roll, Tala’s life began to dissipate. Extremely quickly, Tala’s life is shortening and Moana is struggling to understand why. You may have noticed that as Tala is lying down, she is beneath a wall scroll which has the form of Maui drawn on it. Underneath him is the image of a stingray, aka, Tala.
Tala insists that Moana leaves immediately. As Moana is rowing away towards the open water and singing the reprise, she looks back at the hut where Tala was laying. Suddenly, the lights go out, and a breeze rushes down the landscape towards the ocean. Once it reaches, you see an illuminated stingray, which heads for Moana’s boat and guides her through the reef safely. It is absolutely beautiful and crushing at the same time. I cry every time!
The strong connection this movie makes to ancestors, family, and discovering where you fit in to the whole puzzle, gives this movie the distinct feature of depth that makes the movie better each time you watch it. The humor and beautiful songs help as well!
I love that Moana is a movie about a young woman on a mission. The absence of a romantic arch is something I hear a lot of other people comment on. Some love the fact that the movie had a strong plot while avoiding the sometimes predictable plot line, while others felt it lacked something without it. For my Miyazaki fans, we are used to strong female leads and I appreciate the fact that a romantic arch is actually less common, therefore, I did not feel that anything was missing at all.
I’m not saying only women will enjoy this movie, however. It really is a wonderful film that has a great story, awesome characters, fun songs, and a refreshing take on story telling. Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is hysterical and downright perfect for the role! The sidekick chicken, Hei Hei, voiced by the impressive Alan Tudyk, is another funny-without-being-annoying character that has his own destiny to fulfill, and he does it well!
Moana feels like an ancient tale while at the same time is a breath of fresh air to the Disney collection! It’s been an instant favorite and I just can’t wait to see what else Disney has in store!