Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Nicole Scherzinger, Jermaine Clement, Alan Tudyk
Directors: John Musker, Ron Clements
A CG-animated adventure from Disney about Moana, a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself to her family and save her island. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui, and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous fiery creatures and defying impossible odds.
Times have changed. During the 90’s Pixar emerged with their brand new CGI technology and original stories while the animated hits from Disney were unable to reach the heights of critical and commercial hits such as Aladdin and The Lion King. While Disney may have bought Pixar in the years that followed there was always a distinct difference between the Pixar and Disney movies with Pixar emerging as the winner in quality.
Although Pixar still put on a grand show when they bring their ‘A’ Game (see Inside Out) a reliance on sequels and prequels or original movies with a less-than-stellar reception has tarnished the brand. Meanwhile the Disney animated movies have seen a resurgence over the last few years with delights such as Tangled, Brave, Wreck-it-Ralph, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia (review here) all entertaining fans and critics while straying from the traditional Disney Princess formulas. Oh and a little film called Frozen.
Pixar’s latest films included the well-received Finding Dory and the already forgotten The Last Dinosaur while Disney’s Animation Studios have just release Moana, a wonderfully executed film that once again places a female lead in the main protagonist role while the traditional male hero is only involved when the female forces him to make a move. Both characters are served well by the story and their respective actors are suitably cast for the roles with Dwayne Johnson playing on his muscle-bound image to great delight. Unlike the excellent ensemble of Frozen most of the other characters simply exist to move the movie along and are far from developed however this is fine in this particular movie, allowing the leads to flourish within a compact but well-delivered story.
The most astounding area of the film lies within the intricacies of the animation which is amazingly detailed and smooth, delivering atmosphere and personality in every fantastically rendered environment. Twenty years ago elements such as the look of water and fire were difficult to provide in a CGI animated movie whereas now there is a certain delight in the way fire flickers and water flows along the screen, adding to the artificially created mise en scène.
The soundtrack is another success, although more of that lies with the scene setting melodies rather than the future kareoke classics despite a couple of particularly strong tracks. One could complain that the movie does follow a traditional and therefore somewhat predictable hero’s journey however when the journey is such fun and looks so good you should always go along for the ride.
Check out the trailer and one of the songs from the film in the videos below