I kept up my weekly blogging streak for three weeks and then broke it immediately once school started. Surprise. Now, in an attempt to get two blog posts out at once, I present to you my thoughts on Moana. A year late, but I’m desperate for content and need to get rid of some of these blog post drafts anyway. So here we go!
I managed to avoid mention of Moana until I stumbled upon a review by someone of Polynesian descent around Christmas time. One of their comments was that the movie’s music wasn’t very traditional at all and felt more like she was sitting through a Broadway show. Curious, I listened to “How Far I’ll Go” and absolutely fell in love. I had that song on repeat for a while, making sure to not spoil any other of the songs. And I made plans to watch the movie in theaters as soon as I could before I got sick of the song.
I ended up watching it this past Monday with the Nerd Herd, and here is a bit of my thoughts! There are spoilers in this post.
I actually ended up spoiling the plot for myself by reading the Wikipedia page. It was a pretty typical plot, but watching the actual movie made me appreciate the overarching theme of knowing who you are as it applied to both Moana and Te Fiti.
Characters & Relationships
The characters I disliked in the movie were Heihei and the “villains” Kakamora and Tamatoa. I didn’t find Heihei’s presence in the movie to add much to the comedy, and the “villains” weren’t particularly captivating. Those scenes did do a good job of showing Moana’s determination and intelligence though.
I liked the development of Maui and Moana’s relationship, especially when he ended up teaching Moana how to sail. The review I read mentioned that Moana’s presence in the quest wasn’t very necessary since Maui always ended up swooping in and saving the day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn’t agree with that assertion. Although Maui had the sailing knowledge and the demigod strength and power to get the duo to their locations and also to hold off the dangerous Te Ka, Moana was the reason why he was even on the quest to begin with. Also, she was able to make the discovery that Te Ka was Te Fiti without her heart. The hero of the story doesn’t have to be the one with the most knowledge and strength, just the person who was writing it to begin with.
I think the movie did an exceptional job of portraying Moana’s relationship with her family members. I loved the scene when Moana’s father showed her the stack of stones placed down by previous leaders of the village.
Perhaps I’ve gotten more emotional as I have gotten older, but here are all the scenes that made me really tear up:
- When Moana’s mother saw her packing and then went and helped her during the reprise of “How Far I’ll Go”
- When Moana’s grandmother was reincarnated as a manta ray, also during the reprise of “How Far I’ll Go”
- When Moana’s grandmother sang that she makes her family proud in “I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)”
Aside from the two moments I mentioned above, all the scenes between Moana and her grandmother were particularly well done.
As for Moana herself, I loved her personality with her desire to sail warring with her sense of duty and her love of her island and her people. I do think that they tried too hard to make her clumsy; let’s just leave it to Anna from Frozen to handle that.
As I’m not Polynesian, I won’t comment much on the songs without any English in them. While I was watching the movie though, I thought a lot about how nice it must feel for people to hear their own traditional language and music.
One-line thoughts for each song:
- “Where You Are” was such a cute song. It was very nicely used to introduce the setting and Moana and her family.
- “How Far I’ll Go” is so filled with youth, vigor, and a hint of optimism.
- “We Know the Way” was a great way to reveal the voyaging history of Moana’s ancestors.
- I loved how the reprise of “How Far I’ll Go” occurred in such a stark contrast to the optimism and naivety that Moana originally sang “How Far I’ll Go”.
- “You’re Welcome” was a funny song. It also keeps on coming back and getting stuck in my brain.
- I was not a fan of “Shiny”. It seemed like a song just thrown in there for the sake of providing a villain song and also for the sake of extending the scene with the villain.
- “I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)” is my second favorite song.
Moana reminded me a lot of Mulan due to their similar themes: knowing who you are and being true to your heart. Once again, I really identified with the main character’s duty and love for her family while also not feeling completely satisfied with the pathway they were expected to follow.
I can safely say that Moana has put itself as my second favorite Disney movie.