Over the last few decades, the Disney studios have been concentrating on princesses or the equivalent of princesses in their animation films, from The Little Mermaid at the end of the 1980s, to Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, to the great success of Frozen. Here is the next contender, Moana.
Moana is a Polynesian name and the film draws on aspects of Polynesian mythology, life in the Pacific Islands, the Polynesians as voyagers. She is a young girl, part of village life, with her parents and a wise grandmother. But, she also goes on a quest.
With aspects of creation stories, and symbols for life, especially in the heart, Moana wants to contact the great hero, Maui, who will help to restore life and order. Although she is not supposed to, she gets the boat and leaves on her quest, her only company being a rooster who is there as the inevitable bird or animal companion but, unfortunately, is too stupid to be really funny, despite a whole lot of efforts.
Storms, boat overturning, but with help from the life-spirit of the ocean, she eventually is stranded on an island where she finds Maui. Maui is of traditional Polynesian build, big and solid, which gives plenty of space for the range of tattoos all over his body, giving the narrative of his exploits, his participation in creation – and, at many times, the various panels coming to enjoyable animated life.
He is voiced by Dwayne Johnson, himself with some Polynesian background, often sending himself up, bursting into a song, You’re Welcome, with some comic episodes, but, having been stranded on his island for 1000 years, he is eager to get away and not eager to help Moana.
By hook or by crook (and Maui’s quest is to find again his spirited hook), he and Moana share quite a number of adventures (and the rooster is still there!). They encounter some mini-creatures with big ships and poisoned darts who capture the heart that Moana has been wearing around her neck, but she shows that she has the warrior touch as well. Oh, and she also has some songs – and so does the spirit of her Grandmother.
There is quite an adventure at what seems a high island, whose cliffs Moana can scale more quickly than Maui, but then a huge central core-hole where Maui finds his hook but they have to deal with this big crustacean, a bejewelled sea creature, who also sings with the voice of Jemaine Clement. It might be good to note here that the credits are very very long and one can listen to the music because Jemaine Clement’s Shiny creature has another minute at the very end of the film!
There is also the Lava Island, with a sinister dark giant creature that they have to confront, Moana standing firm, Maui helping on and off and then disappearing.
It’s not a spoiler to say that everything turns out well for the island, its new life, for Moana and her family in the village, and for restored hero, Maui.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting | Uploaded by: Mary Jennings