Aloha my intrepid movie-goers!
Today I discuss the spectacular Disney animated film Moana.
We start out with the tale of Maui, a trickster demigod, who steals an important talisman called the Heart of Te Fiti. This angers Te Fiti, a guardian of the islands, and a monster called Te Ka swiftly defeats him. Maui’s act of chicanery plunders the islands into a cursed misfortune.
The mythical tale segues to a group of Polynesian children and their chieftain. He reassures them there are no monsters. The chieftain’s mother disagrees. Nonetheless, the chieftain, named Tui, is more concerned by his aloof daughter, Moana, and her mysterious love of the sea. He tries to coax her into loving the island and accepting her place as the future chief.
Moana grows up and in her teenage years she discovers all is not well. Coconuts are spoiling and fish are leaving the island. Seeing the lack of resources and the peril associated with that, Moana decides to leave the island to find the cause. Tui, upset by this, orders her not to.
Moana’s grandmother Tala encourages Moana to listen to her calling and shows her the secret of the island: Polynesian long ships beneath a cavern. Moana is then joined by songs of her ancestors; songs of sailing and search of new homes. Instilled with hope and promise, Moana races back to the village and tells her people they were once seafarers. Her fervor once again leads her to propose leaving the island. This upsets her father, but even his wrath would have to wait. Tala falls deathly sick.
Moana rushes to her side, but the dying woman instead begs Moana to set sail; find Maui and make the demigod give back the Heart of Te Fiti. Inspired and sorrowful, Moana sets sail from the island with haste. An image of her grandmother’s spirit soars over the island and past Moana’s raft in the shape of a brilliant blue ray.
It doesn’t take long before Moana is befriended by the sea itself, which is helping her reach Maui’s island. Joined by a mentally handicapped rooster, Moana reaches Maui’s island and helps the arrogant trickster escape. Grateful but not empathetic in the slightest, Maui takes her raft and abandons Moana to the island before the sea restores her to it. The two of them argue with Moana demanding he restore the Heart of Te Fiti while Maui utterly refuses. Before their pointless banter can bore the audience the duo are attacked by walking coconut creatures that seem related to shy-guys from the Super Mario Bros games.
The duo defeat the silent creatures and make their way to a haunted underwater realm where Tamatoa, a giant crab, holds Maui’s hook hostage. Since the demigod made it clear he needs his totem back in order to make it to the island, Moana charges in headfirst. Tamatoa immediately tries to kill her but is instead fooled into talking about himself. The extremely vain crab dances and sings to a catchy musical number while our protagonists extract the hook. Although Tamatoa is much more powerful than both of them, our heroes still escape to the surface with the hook in one piece.
Moana ends up damaging Maui’s hook in a battle with Te Ka, which angers the demigod. He turns into a hawk and flies away leaving our hero to fend for herself. Angry and blaming herself, Moana falls into a slump and thinks herself unworthy and inept to carry out this mission (despite the fact Maui chose to leave her on his own). Tala’s spirit soon appears to comfort and soothe her melancholy granddaughter.
Encouraged, Moana sets sail for the island of Te Fiti to restore the heart herself. She is once again confronted by Te Ka and thankfully Maui shows up in time to save her. Despite his efforts Te Ka is clearly overpowering Maui and there appears no place to set the powerful talisman. Upon further inspection, Moana notices a similar shaped groove in Te Ka’s chest. She then intuits that Te Ka must be a corrupted twisted version of Te Fiti herself. Moana, testing this theory, beckons the monstrous deity to her and gives back the Heart. Within a matter of moments, the fire demon is replaced with a beautiful and verdant Polynesian-looking giant. Te Fiti looks upon Maui with a scowl but restores his hook, nonetheless. She rises up and lays down on the island forming part of its topography.
With this the islands are restored and Moana returns home. Her village embraces her with open arms and cheers. Before she settles in she says goodbye to the trickster god that caused so much mischief and good.
I greatly enjoyed this film! There was no shortage of fun action scenes, jokes, and powerful character development. The main character’s sense of duty is the single binding thread that brings things together and the character herself is interesting and compelling. Her friend and companion, Maui, brings out more of the fun in her and tests her high opinions of herself. Through their cohesion, and tension, we see what Moana is really made of and if she really was capable of carrying out her mission. Notwithstanding, the special effects and music are a wonderful treat to the senses. I truly felt like I was in Polynesia hearing the waves crash beneath my boat as seagulls flew overhead.
Furthermore, Moana is a tale of destiny and identity, and all of it is told against the wonderfully colorful backdrop of Polynesia. We get to see these forces at work through a young Polynesian girl destined to be chief of her island. She is beloved by the sea and the sea has a quest for her. Moana sets out to perform said quest with the help of her animal sidekick and a demigod. The rest is self-explanatory. Because it is so formulaic and yet wildly entertaining this film easily accomplishes what it sets out to do.
Moana feels like a cross between Disney’s Hercules and Legend of Zelda the Windwaker. She is a strong character seeking to set things right between the gods while cruising the high seas with the ocean on her side. I would’ve loved to see her riding the King of Red Lions!
All in all, I’d give Disney’s Moana a solid five out of five stars.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet go check it out today. It’s amazingly fun!
Thanks for reading!