I’m having fun doing reviews, though I don’t do them exactly like how people generally do, but that’s fine, because I figure if someone wants to know about the cast, the score, and the rating, there’s a bunch of other sites that tell them better than I can.
So, as my title says, I want to talk about Moana.
Everybody, including me, went into Moana with high expectations, except those who hate Disney Princess movies, and they went in with that expectation.
I will say from the beginning that the advertisers never should have marketed this movie as something made by the creators of Frozen. Frozen is hard to replicate for its own screen writers (have you seen that horrible short that came with the 2015 Cinderella?) let alone for other people.
I tried hard not to watch the movie with a Frozen bias, but I realized that I couldn’t help myself, the result was, upon first watch, I really disliked it.
But now I’ve had plenty of time to reconsider, and I’ve had my sister give me a lot of reasons why the movie was not as bad as I thought, and I liked some of the songs; and the long and short of it is, I have changed my mind.
Now, the people who say (and there are many) that this movie is better than Frozen, are completely wrong. From the first moments of the film there is a different tone and style to it than Frozen, Moana herself is nothing like either Elsa or Anna, and she has no special power, there is not threat form the elements. Plus, Moana is based off of a myth, not a fairytale, and the writers and animators did a good job of making the whole thing feel like a legend.
So, since this is the case, Moana is not actually the same kind of story as Frozen, and comparing the two in that light, is not fair to either.
Just in case you haven’t seen it and don’t plan to (Spoiler alert!) I’ll outline the story. Moana is the daughter of the village chief of an island in Hawaii, not yet called that, of course. she had a love for the sea, that her father discourages for reasons of his own, but Moana can’t help herself. Then we find out the Ocean chose her to be the one to save her people. As we are told in the opening minutes of the film the heart of Tafiti, the Polynesian goddess of creation, was stolen by the demigod Maui, and that brought a curse of decay and death over the world, which now finds its way to Moana’s island. Realizing this, and with some pushing and revelation from her crazy Grandma, Moana finally sets out to restore the heart, despite various setbacks. She finds Maui, they team up, and after a lot of monsters and storms, and Te Ka, the lava monster, Moana figures out how to restore the heart, and succeeds. (You knew she would.)
Okay, so what is negative in all this?
Well, though the story works a lot of the time, it unfortunately breaks down whenever Maui is acting less than demigodly. Also, some parts of it are a little rushed, not very well explained, and why did we need that dumb chicken? But that’s a personal preference, not an actual plot problem.
I have to admit, the movie has no real plot holes, but it has plot rubbish. Maui may be the most unnecessary additional character that I’ve ever seen as part of the whole. But what I really had a hard time forgiving the movie for was that Maui and some other parts, constantly took away the mythic feel of the whole thing. They made it seem cheesy and too aimed at a young audience, and a young audience with low standards at that. The humor was just stupid at many times, and often it was modern, which threw off the movie because the whole point is to feel like you’re way back in time, watching the whole legend unfold before your eyes.
Moana is not the first modern Disney Princess movie to use modern humor, Tangled did in some ways, I’ve seen other movies do it and it worked fine, like Shrek. But those other movies were set up with a much simpler plot that would not suffer from that kind of humor, while Moana, form its conception, is supposed to feel more timeless.
I may be overstating my case, but the importance of this factor really cannot be stressed too much, I winced every time the movie got too modern, because, if I wanted to hear modern jokes, I’d watch a Dreamworks movie or a TV show, for crying out loud, I watch Disney to get away from that.
It doesn’t bother everyone the way it bothers me, but whether it bothers you or not, it does change the tone of the movie and that’s going to affect the quality.
Enough with the negative. What changed my mind about this movie was two things: The first was of course, Moana herself.
I’ve got to hand it to Auli, she kept this character grounded. Moana never is ruined by the stupid jokes, or unnecessary humor around her, she stays down to earth and passionate the entire time, and manages to sell innocent and shrewd at the same time. I have no problem with her character at all, and I would have liked her even better without the plot problems that were not her fault.
The other thing will not surprise anyone who has seen it: The Ocean.
I think the climax of this movie is one of the best parts, but the only thing that made Maui and Hei Hei bearable for me was Moana and the Ocean working together. The Ocean actually behaved just as I would expect it to if it were a conscious creature, and that was what really sold me on the plot. If the Ocean had been too nice, or too magical, it would have felt fake and contrived, but the Ocean being unpredictable and very real at times made it work. I was most into Moana’s head when the Ocean proved more dangerous than she expected, and when she almost gave up, because it was a natural feeling.
I can’t get into the meaning of the movie in this part, so I’ll do it in part two, until then–Natasha.