Disney princesses are a lot different than they used to be. While early Disney princess films like Cinderella and Snow White were based on fairy tales and feature damsels in distress who end up being rescued by princes who whisked them off to a happily-ever-after ending, Disney has been breaking that mold with heroines like Moana, Frozen‘s Elsa and Anna, and now Raya of Raya and the Last Dragon.
Raya isn’t just a princess; she’s a highly skilled warrior who embarks on a quest to save the world, and she’s pretty awesome. Raya and the Last Dragon received critical acclaim and quickly became a fan favorite for a good reason.
While we love the film, there are a few things that stood out to us. As magical and empowering as Raya and the Last Dragon is, some of its moments bring up a lot of questions — but only adults will notice them. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Are the tribes of Kumandra the only nations in the world of Raya and the Last Dragon?
Is Kumandra the only area of civilization in the world of Raya and the Last Dragon? It’s certainly the only one we see in the film and the only one that appears on maps, which brings up a lot of questions about the geography of the fictional realm. Is it just a really small planet where other areas haven’t formed? Or is it in a remote part of the world that hasn’t had contact with other areas?
The continent may be the only one there is, which would explain a few things, like why no other nation tried to invade after the dragons were turned to stone and Kumandra broke up into bickering tribes instead of being one unified country. The nation formerly known as Kumandra would have been very susceptible to being colonized by a stronger nation, so it seems likely that, if there are other landmasses on the planet, they are far away. Or perhaps it’s the only inhabitable area. This seems improbable, but so does the fact a dragon-shaped river runs through the land, so maybe we should just take this with a grain of salt.
Raya and the Last Dragon seems eerily current
The fact that Raya and the Last Dragon was released in the middle of a global health crisis and also features a devastating plague is a coincidence, but it’s still eerie. When the concept for the movie was conceived several years ago, no one could have predicted that a pandemic was just a few years in the future, but it’s still pretty spooky that the people in the movie are also dealing with a pandemic.
Raya and the Last Dragon portraying a nation whose people have turned against each other, though, was deliberate and very much a reflection of the times. Co-writer Adele Lim told Entertainment Tonight that, as the film’s team was working on laying out the plot for the film, “we could see that people were becoming more divided, more fractured, and a lot of us are parents and that is not the world we want our kids to grow up in.”
Why aren't there more people guarding Sisu's gem?
So let’s get this straight. The Heart tribe was entrusted with Sisu’s gem after the Druun were banished and there were no dragons left. Aside from the gem being historically significant, it’s also a powerful magical object. So why isn’t it guarded better? Sure, there are some security measures in place, with the gem being at the end of a trap-laden tunnel, but the only defenders of the gem appear to be Raya — who is a child at the beginning of Raya and the Last Dragon — and her dad, Chief Benja.
This seems incredibly irresponsible. Shouldn’t something so valuable have more protection? Why isn’t someone guarding it around the clock? Everyone knows that the other tribes are upset that Heart has had the gem for half a millennium, so how on earth are they not more concerned about someone trying to steal it? Are they complacent, certain that no one will be able to get past the security in place? Or is this just really bad strategizing?
Is the Heart tribe the real villain of Raya and the Last Dragon?
After the dragons turned to stone, the people of Kumandra break into five warring tribes, with the Heart tribe keeping the gem Sisu used to banish the Druun. This leads to resentment from the other tribes; Chief Benja explains to Raya that this is because they think Heart is prosperous because they have the gem.
Chief Benja denies that the tribe’s flourishing has anything to do with the gem, and he attempts to unite with the other tribes to once again form Kumandra. While he makes a compelling speech about peace and unity, it’s clear that the other tribes are struggling, and Namaari hints at a food shortage in Fang when speaking to Raya.
If the gem doesn’t bring prosperity to whoever possesses it and if Chief Benja is so interested in unity, why doesn’t he offer to share it? Or work to help the other tribes meet their needs? If the gem doesn’t help them in any tangible way, where’s the harm in sharing it? Are they just hoarding power to themselves while other tribes suffer?
Why does everyone still believe in dragons?
When Raya and the Last Dragon opens, no one has seen a dragon in 500 years, as all the dragons have all been turned to stone by the Druun. In spite of this, everyone seems convinced that they did roam the land once upon a time. It’s a bit surprising that the story of the dragons hasn’t faded into myth. Sure, there are stone dragons around, but they could just as easily have been man-made statues.
The fact that Sisu’s gem still exists might lend credibility to the idea that dragons once inhabited the land, but the other tribes haven’t seen it in centuries, so why do they still believe?
It appears that some people may have lost faith in the existence of dragons. At one point in Raya and the Last Dragon, Namaari — who once wholeheartedly believed in Sisu — even mocks Raya for still believing in dragons, which she now believes to be childish.
Why was Raya so quick to befriend Namaari?
Raya seems way too trusting of Namaari, and it makes no sense. While we could dismiss her trust as youthful innocence and excitement at having found someone who loves Sisu as much as she does, it’s established in the film that she doesn’t trust the other tribes.
When Chief Benja tells her that the other tribes will be visiting Heart, Raya reacts by planning how to attack them. Her dad tells her that he believes unity between the tribes is possible, and she seems to take his lesson to heart, but it’s hard to believe that she’d trust someone from another tribe so much that she’d bring them to where Sisu’s gem is hidden. Even if she had learned to overcome her prejudices against the other tribes that quickly, she barely knows Namaari. All it took for Namaari to win Raya over was giving her a necklace. Chief Benja may have taught his daughter how to fight, but he probably should have told her a little more about politics, like why it’s a bad idea to bring the enemy into your inner sanctum.
Sisu's gem broke way too easily
For such a powerful magical object, it’s shocking that Sisu’s gem isn’t better protected in Raya and The Last Dragon. Not only was it lightly guarded by the Heart tribe, but it’s also displayed in the open air in the cave where it is hidden. Shouldn’t it be safely confined in a display case at the very least? Or on a shelf? Maybe on something with edges, so that it can’t drop to the ground easily.
But no, it’s precariously balanced on a pedestal and is quickly knocked off when members of the different tribes begin fighting over it. The gem falls to the ground and shatters into several pieces.
You’d think such a powerful magical object would be shatter-proof, which may be what the members of Heart were thinking when they didn’t place it on a more stable surface. Makes you wonder why such a powerful magical object is so breakable in the first place.
Why didn't Raya's dad use his piece of the gem to fight the Druun?
After Sisu’s gem shatters and the Druun are released, everyone flees from the ensuing plague. Raya and her father, Chief Benja, are in the path of the Druun. They run, but Benja has been wounded, so he sacrifices himself to save his daughter, giving her the piece of the gem he has managed to keep and throwing her over the bridge into the water as the Druun overtake him.
His heroic sacrifice is heart-wrenching, but why didn’t he simply use the gem to fight off the Druun, something we see is possible later in the film? Even if the Druun are too strong and he doesn’t think he can fight them off (or doesn’t know the fractured gem will repel it), why didn’t he simply jump off the bridge with his daughter? It seems unnecessary for him to have remained in the path of the Druun. For that matter, why didn’t everyone jump off the bridge instead of trying to outrun the Druun?
Who took care of Raya after her dad was turned to stone?
Raya is still a kid when her dad is turned to stone by the Druun, and she doesn’t appear to have another parent. What happens to her after the Druun are unleashed? Who takes care of her? How is she surviving?
After the tragic scene in which her father is turned to stone, Raya and the Last Dragon skips forward six years. By this point, she’s a young woman and out on her own, hunting down Sisu, and she seems to be fending for herself quite well. But that doesn’t explain what happened in the time that lapsed off-screen. Did Raya travel the world all by herself immediately following her father’s death? If so, that’s a pretty grim childhood.
There’s also the question of what happens to Heart after Chief Benja is turned to stone. Who takes over as chief? If it’s a hereditary position, who is looking after things while Raya is off on her quest to save the world? And how is Heart protecting itself with Raya taking the stone with her?
Are the people who turned into statues weatherproof?
After her father and many others are turned to stone, Raya embarks on a quest to find Sisu and save the world. The eventual goal is to restore everyone to flesh and bone, but this brings up a question of how durable the stone statues are. Are they weatherproof? If the statues erode due to the elements, will that damage exist on the person’s body when they are restored?
Also, what happens if something happens to one of the statues? If one of them shatters, does that mean that the person can’t be brought back? Can the people be killed when they’re in statue form? If so, who is preventing people from going around and destroying all the statues? Raya’s dad, Chief Benja, is turned to a statue in the middle of a bridge where, presumably, there’s a lot of traffic. There’s no barrier around him preventing someone from running right into him, making it a miracle that his stone-self is still intact by the end of the film.
Dragon magic seems really inconsistent in Raya and the Last Dragon
Is it just us, or does dragon magic make absolutely no sense in Raya and The Last Dragon? It’s supposed to be quite powerful, but the dragons aren’t able to turn people who have been transformed to stone back, and most of them fall victim to the Druun themselves, so the magic does have limitations. There’s also the fact that it’s not really clear what dragons can do. Each one has a different power, and some of them are more powerful than others. While one of Sisu’s sisters can transform into a human at will, Sisu’s power is that she is a good swimmer. Can all dragons fly? Can all dragons talk? Or is dragon magic just a totally random surge of power and completely unpredictable?
Dragons also seem to have the ability to absorb the powers of other dragons, at least through the magical gem — even after the gem is broken but still works, albeit not at full power. This brings up the question of what a dragon might be able to do with that gem. Theoretically, they could just go around stealing different dragon powers for themselves.
Is Fang a matriarchal society?
It’s too bad that we don’t get to see more of the tribes in Raya and the Last Dragon. Hopefully, a sequel will show more of how these societies function because we mostly just see them as antagonists in this film. The Fang tribe seems particularly fascinating, and it appears that it might be a matriarchal society. It’s hard to tell for sure, but we do know that the tribe is run by Chieftess Virana, whose successor is her daughter, Namaari. The Fang Land’s army is also led by General Atitaya, a woman, and has many female soldiers.
If Fang Land is, indeed, matriarchal, it makes even more sense why they initially seem so reluctant to join forces with the other tribes. Most of the others appear to be led by men, and it’s understandable that a matriarchal society wouldn’t want to give up its power or independence.
What's really going on between Raya and Namaari?
Raya and Namaari have a love-hate relationship in Raya and the Last Dragon. They meet as kids and hit it off before Namaari betrays Raya. Namaari is conflicted over this, though, and speculates that, under different circumstances, they could have been friends. Raya keeps the necklace Namaari gave her under the guise of friendship for years, so it’s clear that their brief friendship had a big impact on her.
Throughout the film, they meet a few times and banter in a way that almost seems flirtatious. At times, it seems like Disney is setting them up for a possible romantic relationship, but the film ends with them as friends. While it’s significant that Raya doesn’t end up married or engaged at the end of the film — a rarity for Disney princess movies — it feels like the romantic tension between Raya and Namaari isn’t resolved.
For what it’s worth, the actress who voiced Raya, Kelly Marie Tran, has said she thinks there’s more than friendship between the two women, telling Vanity Fair that, when she recorded her lines, she intended for it to sound as if there were “some romantic feelings going on there.”
Does Raya and the Last Dragon really have a happy ending?
While Ray and the Last Dragon ends on an upbeat note with all the people who had been turned to stone rejoining the world and the tribes finally working to reunite as Kumandra, when you think about it, things are about to get pretty complicated. First of all, there’s the fact that in the six years people have been turned to stone, their loved ones who weren’t have moved on with their lives. Chief Benja wakes up to discover his daughter has grown up — that’s a lot to process. And what about people who were in relationships that come back, only to find that their partners have moved on? This is going to cause some pretty uncomfortable scenarios.
Others may come back only to find that their loved ones have died of natural causes. Kids who were babies when their parents were turned to stone may have been adopted into new families who don’t want to give them up.
Kumandra may be reuniting by the end of Raya and the Last Dragon, but all the chaos could tear them apart again.
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