I went and saw Moana for the second time this past weekend, this time in 3D and it was no less impressive than the first time I saw it. On a technical scale the movie is absolutely breathtaking. There must be terabytes of data for every minute of video that plays across the screen and I continue to assert that every frame of the film is a piece of art.
That being said, I noticed the first time I watched it and was reminded during the second viewing that the title character and princess, Moana (who is modelled and rendered beautifully) doesn’t really follow the same ‘you go girl’ pattern that other Disney princesses do.
Moana is a girl drawn to the sea living in a tribe of peoples who live on an island sheltered from the sea by a reef, of which they never leave. Her father, the village chief, is adamant that no one goes past the reef, and is somewhat dismayed at his daughters desire to do so. Moana is in line to become the next chief of the village, but she continues to be drawn towards the open sea.
Now a typical Disney princess story would have Moana fighting with her father until, deciding to take matters into her own hands, she flees the island to ‘find herself’, but this film takes a slightly different turn.
The next part of the post contains some video clips that may be considered spoilers, but they don’t give too much away as far as the plot of the film goes.
Initially Moana is frustrated that she is continually stopped by her father. He wants her to concentrate on her future as chief, but she seems to want to run to the water. Though her grandmother encourages her to find ‘who she is’ there is a point in the following song where the film takes a different tact with this princess than with others!
This song is ‘Where You Are’ and plays early in the movie. In it Moana’s father is trying to convey to her that she can be happy where she is and fulfilling the role she is required to take on some day as the village chief. Though the quality is potato and there’s a couple of skips in the video, pay attention to when Moana starts to sing at 2:50. Unlike other Disney princesses, Moana accepts her responsibility and becomes determined to live the life given her.
Though the clip cuts short, the parts of the film directly following this song show Moana directly interacting with her people and helping them solve problems. It is only after dire need and necessity does she suggest to her father and the people that they go to open ocean, and it is not a request made out of selfish desire, but out of the desire to be a good leader. Though she becomes excited at the prospect, she is not seeking to do so for herself. It is, in fact, her duty to her people that leads her to fulfill her dream and leave the island. This is such a huge deviation from previous Disney princess films because rather than showing viewers how little the adults and fathers know and that princesses should ‘follow their hearts’ it shows a girl who has her desires fulfilled by taking on the responsibility and duty given her. Though Moana’s father is still shown to be against the idea of her leaving, her leaving is not an act of rebellion, but the act of a leader trying to save her people in the last known possible way – all other ways have been exhausted. It’s a refreshing change to the Disney princess trope, and though Moana is shown to be a strong character it is painfully obvious that without the help of the demigod, Maui, she would not be able to complete her mission.
To me, Moana is the greatest film I have seen in a long, long time. The songs are great, the characters are great, the visuals are absolutely breathtaking and the story is light-hearted yet dangerously serious. I highly recommend you watch it, even if you don’t have kids. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
It is now time for me to go super-geek, so just be forewarned.
I have always had a spot in my heart for the sea. I feel, sometimes, that it calls to me. For me to ride the waves, to sail. It is a call I have never answered, being that in this modern day and age it’s not very easy to just get on a boat and sail the ocean. Long gone are the days when you could walk into a port and find guys looking to hire ship hands, and buying a boat is ridiculously expensive. The call, however, has never left me.
This scene, in which Moana discovers why she is drawn to the sea, nearly brought me to tears. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous, but the song of the people, sailing from island to island to create new homes, hit me hard. I want to sail, and will be looking into taking some lessons, but I wanted to share this scene with you simply because it’s beautiful and the song reaches deep into the soul to awaken something primal – mans desire to explore and conquer the earth. It is his mission:
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Now please enjoy one of the many great scenes from this film.