This review was originally posted months ago but I deleted it because......I was gonna use it for a school assignment and I didn't wanna leave this up so my lecturer could search and accuse me of plagiarism. lmao

Anyway, I ended up not using it and I decided to put it back up.

So right off the bat, I have to say that this movie is very.....average. It honestly feels like a tv episode padded out with songs to make it feature length. Moana is a likable enough character, I can almost pinpoint exact moments where she's like previous Disney female protagonists like Ariel, Pocahontas, Mulan and Rapunzel but maybe that's just me being a seasoned Disney fan.

I do like the fact that the story has no allusion to marriage and romance at all instead of being dismissive or condescending towards those concepts. The songs are okay, I probably just need to listen to them a few more times to really get the hang of them. One thing I will say is that the transitions into the songs are rather forced and awkward in my opinion.

I understand that some people love the authentic pacific island culture, and if that stuff is important to any of you out there, great but honestly, I don't really care and I don't think most people do either, including the average Polynesian person. Striving for authenticity and accuracy is appreciated but when making a movie, unless it's a documentary, telling an interesting or entertaining story should come first in my opinion, and I don't think Moana really did that.

Sidenote: I know the elephant in the room is the racial aspect. No one cares when a depiction of European or white culture is inauthentic or inaccurate but we won't get too deep into that today.

Let me compare Moana to other Disney movies for a second. Take Aladdin, a movie with quite a few twists and turns but still easy to follow, and even though Aladdin is the star, you get quite a few different perspectives. Aladdin has the main plot, Jasmine has a subplot, Jafar has a subplot, even Genie to an extent has a subplot, and at some point or another, the film is being told from their point of view.

Because Moana doesn't really have a clear cut fully developed antagonist, it already has one less setting, one less subplot and one less perspective than the average Disney movie. The reason why villains can be important in my opinion is that it can give the writers an opportunity to really explore the world the movie takes place in. Villains and side characters can have a whole different backdrop centered around them.

But even then, this movie doesn't really use the few side characters it does have. For example, in The Little Mermaid (1989) while Ariel's on land trying to win Eric over, we cut to a scene where King Triton is racked with guilt over upsetting his daughter. Maybe we could have had a scene where we cut back to the island, maybe we'd see how much worse the situation had become while Moana was away or see how much this situation is really affecting her father? I feel like that would have fleshed out the movie more.

Moana just feels very “one track”, it's like tunnel vision. It's just two characters (Moana and Maui) on a trip together, and even worse, they're not in the most entertaining setting either, the middle of the ocean. With other Disney movies, you felt like you were getting a full scope of the world because we were following a lot of characters and their respective conflicts.

Here are some examples

Snow White (1937)-Snow White, The Queen, Seven dwarfs (especially Grumpy)

Cinderella (1950)-Cinderella, Lady Tremaine, The King (Prince's father), the Duke

Sleeping Beauty (1959)-All three fairies, Aurora, Maleficent, Phillip, the Kings

The Little Mermaid (1989)-Ariel, Triton, Ursula, Eric, Sebastian

Beauty and the Beast (1991)-Belle, Beast, Gaston, the Castle's staff (Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts)

Aladdin (1992)-Aladdin, Jasmine, Jafar, Genie

Pocahontas (1995)-Pocahontas, John Smith, Ratcliffe, prominent characters among both the tribe and the settlers

Mulan (1998)-Mulan, Mushu, Shang, Shan Yu

Princess and The Frog (2009)-Tiana, Naveen, Dr. Facilier, Lottie, Lawrence and even some of the sidekicks

Tangled (2010)-Rapunzel, Gothel, Flynn, Maximus

A movie like Brave (2012) is pretty much about Merida and Elinor, but at least while they had their conflict going on, you could cut to King Fergus and the other men in one scene and Merida’s brothers in another. And even if most of the movie is just following around one group of people (like most of Mulan and Tangled) you had multiple characters with a bunch of different dynamics. That's a reason why sidekicks are important too, it would get boring with 80% of the movie just following two characters.

Granted, there IS such a thing as too many characters/perspectives (Princess and The Frog kind of crosses into that territory) but still give us something. I thought other members of the tribe were gonna go with Moana on her journey or at least the pig. It's just two characters, Moana and Maui, and a chicken, who can't even communicate non-verbally like most animal sidekicks, on an adventure. And the characters they meet along the way just show up or reappear to move the story along, and except for her grandmother's spirit and the crab, even THEY don't really talk.

A lot of elements in this film just felt like the writers were ticking boxes off a Disney checklist and relying on the scenery/animation and the music, which aren't really all that groundbreaking to begin with in my opinion. The scale of this movie just feels very....small and it doesn't feel as whole as the other Disney films