Review: Moana topping box offices worldwide

Shwetha Sundarrajan, Reporter

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The newest Disney animation, Moana, is topping box offices around the world. This is the latest movie in Disney’s attempt to represent various cultures- starting from Mulan, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Merida, and now Moana. Previously, Disney has faced criticism from viewers for drawing their female protagonists with unrealistic body types as well as portraying cultures incorrectly.  With Moana, producers have addressed those complaints.

According to the producers, a team of animators went to the South Pacific islands where they met with chiefs, navigators, experts, and natives to understand the Polynesian culture. To make sure the culture was accurately portrayed, a group of  anthropologists, cultural practitioners, historians, linguists, and choreographers from islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Mo’orea and Fiji came together to work on the movie. The main character, Moana was additionally praised by viewers for having a realistic body.

The story starts off with  young Moana who stumbles upon a strange green rock on the beach. Before Moana can pick up the stone, she is scooped up and taken back to her village by her father, where we see Moana’s growth into a young girl through a musical. Moana is a strong, independent girl, and she’s ambitious to explore. Throughout the movie, we can see that she’s fierce, persistent and she’s eager to learn.

Moana yearns to go out into the sea, but is forbidden to do so by her father, who states that there is no need to go beyond the reef. Still, she yearns to adventure beyond her island home. When ecological disaster strikes the island, Moana’s desire to go beyond the reef is strengthened so she can find out why her island is suffering.

With the help of her supporting grandmother, Moana takes a boat and her dumb-witted animal sidekick Hei Hei to find the solution to their disaster.

Moana’s grandmother regales a ancient Polynesian tale of Maui, a demigod with a magical fishhook who defeated sea monsters and pulled islands up from the bottom of the sea. It was fabled that Maui stole the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti, who Moana suspects is causing the ecological disasters. She sets out to find Maui so he can restore the heart, which is in fact the green stone Moana stumbled upon during her childhood. Moana’s grandmother found the stone as well and kept it in her necklace until she passed it onto Moana.

Moana’s first few days at sea are rough, but the heart of Te Fiti enchants a wave of water which protects Moana through those first few days. As she journeys towards the island of Te Fiti to restore the heart, a storm destroys her ship and maroons her on a deserted island. She soon realizes that the island is inhabited by the demigod Maui, who traps her in a cave and steals her ship.

Maui, who is voiced by Dwayne Johnson is portrayed as large and muscular, with wild and curly hair. Tattoos adorn his body, each one regaling a story of Maui’s past achievements. Maui is portrayed with the “it’s hard to be humble” personality, as showcased in Lin-Manuel Miranda song, “You’re Welcome.”

To restore the heart, Moana and Maui must fight the sea monster Te Ka, who Maui fears after Te Ka stripped him of his powers and his fishook. Unfazed by Maui’s terrifying stories of Te Ka who emerged from the island as Maui escaped with the heart of Te Fiti, Moana still sails on amidst Maui’s refusal to fight Te Ka. The pair encounter various challenges on their journey, including a boatload of vicious coconut creatures (don’t ask why, I have no idea what the producers at Disney were thinking).

The soundtrack features songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i and Alessia Cara, with lyrics in English and the Tokelauan language. The voice actress playing Moana, Auli’i Cravalho was also featured in some of the songs. The complete album is available for free streaming on Spotify.

Former Disney princesses have faced criticism for not being a role model for young girls, with Disney propagating the stereotype that girls should have slim bodies and waists and that a girl’s role should be to marry a guy and live happily ever after as a princess. With Moana, however, Disney has broken those stereotypes.

Overall, the film was a fantastic blend of Polynesian culture and classic Disney magic. Amid controversies from Polynesian critics, the movie raked in $18.8 million and stands first in the box office ratings for three consecutive weeks.

I’d give Moana a rating of 4.5 out of 5 points, because Disney has finally embraced the girl power mantra and has started representing marginalized cultures.



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