Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Review: Moana

Moana is another fun action adventure about finding your calling
I had extra time off for Lunar New Year and decided to check out another movie, Moana with YTSL at The One in Tsim Sha Tsui. This mall is so narrow that it really shouldn't be a mall, as the space is very awkward, and also manoeuvering to get around is tedious going up and down several escalators, or waiting for lifts.

Anyway Walt Disney seems to have ursuped Pixar completely, as the preceding credits made no mention of the plucky desk light that jumps on the letter "I" in Pixar.

A short film advising to follow your heart for some fun
And now, like Zootopia, there is a short animation completely unrelated to the feature film as a warm-up act. For Zootopia, it was a love story between two Hawaiian volcanoes, which now in retrospect was a hint of Moana, and this time it was Inner Workings.

It's a hand drawn animation that at first looks like a biology lesson in how the human body works (albeit very simplistic), how the brain, heart, lungs and bladder function. The body we see belongs to a young man who rushes to work, but along the way he is distracted by a delicious pancake breakfast, the beautiful beach, and an attractive sunglass stall owner.

However his brain puts his heart, or emotional side in check before arriving just in time to work at Boring, Boring & Glum. It's another reminder to not have a boring job -- how many people in the audience would be nodding? -- and to find your passion in life.

Moana is a strong-willed determined character in the film
Does this mean the next feature length animation will be similar to Inside Out? Stay tuned.

Moana is a great girl power story -- seems like Disney is keen on female heroes these days, as boys don't seem to mind characters like Frozen's Elsa, Merida in Brave, and bunny rabbit Judy Hopps in Zootopia.

Here Moana is the daughter and heir to the chief of the Polynesian island of Motonui, and even as a child she has an adventurous spirit, keen on going into the ocean. However, her father forbids not only her but everyone else from going past the reef, following his own scary experience when he was younger.

But the island's natural environment is deteriorating, so there is not enough coconuts, fruits or fish to feed on. Moana's grandmother tells her she must save the island by taking a green stone that is the heart of goddess Te Fiti and return it to her. It was stolen by a demi-god called Maui, and he must help Moana bring it back to Te Fiti.

Does Maui (left) look like Dwayne Johnson (right)?
It's not clear how old Moana is in the film, but probably a teenager. It's interesting she was not drawn to have the old school Barbie doll shape, but a very sturdy and strong-looking young woman who is also strong-willed and clever.

There's some hilarious scenes involving a really dumb rooster, a very shiny crab with a huge ego, and an army of evil coconut creatures.

When the characters sang, particularly Moana, they felt like they were written and staged to look like a musical. Is this something in the works for Moana, the Musical? Perhaps it has something to do with Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame for writing the lyrics.

Heihei the Rooster is Moana's sidekick, but not that helpful
In any event, girls will enjoy watching the film, boys will get a kick out of Maui, played by "The Rock" Dwayne Johnson -- and yes he can sing! His tattoos are fun too.

The animation here is really impressive. As you watch each successive feature, the computer generated images become progressively more sophisticated. This time the focus was on the hair, the sea, the details of feathers and skin. Even compared to Inside Out, Moana has far more detail that is really exciting to see and appreciate.

Directed by Ron Clements and Jon Musker
Co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams
Auli'i' Cravalho as Moana
Dwayne Johnson as Maui
Jemaine Clement as Tamatoa (the treasure-hoarding crab)
Alan Tudyk as Heihei, the rooster


  1. In terms of the increase of female protagonists: seems like Disney/Pixar's taken a leaf out of Studio Ghibli...

    On another note: while viewing "Moana" and, even more so, reading its end credits, I got to thinking how this Hollywood production must be something that's like a red flag to Trump and some of his supporters in terms of the positive focus being on non-white people, and the crew who made it looking to have a pretty multi-ethnic composition. And long may that continue!

    1. HI YTSL -- this project was started several years ago... It's probably Disney trying to be more inclusive ethnically, and they tried to get the storyline as culturally correct as possible, which is why Maui has hair instead of being bald! I can't help but wonder if the rooster was coincidental for the Lunar New Year! hahaha