The Thing About Moana

I watched the movie yesterday, and as always (maybe I am biased) Disney did not fail to amaze. A really big plus point is that neither of the protagonist’s parents died, which is a first for Disney in a while. And a very important thing to remember, please – the story is set, not in Hawaii, but in the Polynesian Islands off the coast of New Zealand.

The movie can be briefly surmised as the story of a girl who is born into a certain tradition (Moana must take up the responsibility of being the next chieftain of her village), that forbids her from doing something that seems to be calling out to her (namely, exploring the sea), but she does so anyway because the ocean chooses her to be the one to save her people from the onset of something that began with an action rooted in legends (the demigod Maui stole the heart – a tiny glowing gem – of the island goddess Te Fiti, thus triggering attacks from a lava demon, Te Ka, who is after the gem).

I found this to be great movie; the soundtrack was amazing, the script was witty and humorous, the visuals were mind-blowing and the subtext was brilliant.

The minds behind the soundtrack are Mark Mancina, Opataia Foa’i and of course the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda. The songs are mostly about self-discovery, self-doubt and also the song which initially takes Moana’s mind off the sea. There were bits of songs in the Tokelauan language as well; although I did not fully comprehend the meaning, the songs are few of the songs that I loved listening to even if I did not know the language. There is also a pompous song sung by Maui, the demigod and a different boastful song sung by a crab-who-loves-shiny-things.

The dialogues and narratives I found funny as well, with just the right mix of emotion, humour and not too many unnecessary dialogues. They were just enough to pull in the audience, while ensuring that the story went forward.

As for the visuals, the trailers speak for themselves. My favourite bits were the goddess Te Fiti and the ocean itself.

When it comes to subtext, people have different aspects that they perceive; what I understood is the obvious “follow your heart” despite what your parents tell you. And also, Maui’s tattoos, which are medals of sort, appear only when he has earned them; this I think sends out the message that respect is earned through deeds that others consider as helpful/altruistic and not when someone does something they themselves believe to be a good deed. And of course, Moana not having a love-interest, but only the help of a friend speaks volumes by itself.

The movie is definitely worth a watch, even two if possible, but….

(Read the next part – two parts because that addresses a different issue and it’s not criticism of the movie.)

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