Voices of: Auli’I Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison
Directors: John Musker, Ron Clements
Moana is treacherous; I mean the film, not the character. It makes you suffer the first half, giving you one after another clichéd versions of your own childhood issues, and parental control. While we have seen children growing up in movies, parents seem to never grow up. Each movie that begins with the childhood of the central character puts us through the same routine affairs of parenting. This representation of parenting is not just flawed, but it also tells us that parents will never evolve, they have not evolved in the past and will not be evolving anytime soon. It seems like all of the collective human learning over centuries has failed at this very task, which is central to our survival as a species. An easy escape for storytellers is to balance the equation by simply putting in a character that helps the child make sense of all this control, usually in all stories it is the grandparents, this story too has a grandma, who is so much of a relaxed soul, always willing to go out for an adventure and inspiring children to listen to their calling; it is such a contrast between the father of Moana and the grandma that one wonders if they are mother and son.
While Moana tries its best to bring out a strong girl character, it fails terribly to make a statement on the patriarchy of society since Moana’s mother has hardly anything to say. Why is it that children always have to prove things to their fathers? Papa, please calm down. After the first half, the movie becomes very interesting. Sadly, the interest does not arise out of any major transformation in the story, but simply because of the theatrics of the animated Dwayne Johnson. One wonders if it is possible for an actor to perform like that in reality, and that’s where the beauty of the medium of animation lies. Maui is the demigod, and he is so much fun I am already looking forward to seeing more of him, and seriously Johnson is so much more than just his heavyweight body. The character that truly stands out in the movie is Tamatoa (voiced by Jemaine Clement).
In his short cameo, Tamatoa lives up to the shiny appearance he is carrying. He is one character that has absolutely no backstory, no ambitions to conquer the world, does not look for love or any appraisal. He is simply stunning. My advice to the viewer is to focus for those few moments, and absorb everything that Tamatoa has to offer in that short duration, he is the absolute description of “cool” that is timeless. The effort to indulge the South Pacific culture as most other reviews have put it to be are not very honest. It seems more like a colonised South Pacific, where the visual cues are native but the ideas, sentiments and language is all forced upon, in the exact same way that colonisation does. I guess Disney too is a colonialist, trying to impress upon all cultures of the world its own understanding of life and civilisation.
The treachery of the plot is also the fact that Maui, the demigod, grandma, the storyteller are not aware of who Te Ka really is. The volcano monster that takes away the fishhook from Maui, and is fighting the ultimate battle is actually in pain and is scared, is looking for something that was taken from it, something that made it so heartless and cruel. In this grand heroic story of the little Moana who crosses seas in order to return something that was stolen, oddities are plenty. Hei Hei, the Chicken for instance, that could easily have been snack, becomes the sidekick. What I am still trying to figure out is how can the Chicken be so dumb to not be able to pick grains, while still being intelligent enough to attempt suicide several times when he realises there is danger that he just cannot face.
The writer is founder, Lightcube Film Society...