‘Moana’: A princess with power, personality


Ron Clements and John Musker return to Disney after “The Princess and the Frog” with the powerful Polynesian tale, “Moana.” The film revolves around the chief’s daughter, Moana, voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, who goes against her parents’ wishes and explores the reefs to obtain the goddess Te Fiti’s heart while confronting the demigod Maui, played by Dwayne Johnson, who had initially stolen the heart. Moana learns how to find her true calling and continue the traditions of her family heritage.

This film begins as Moana learns from her grandmother about the paunamu stone that was initially stolen by the demigod Maui in hopes of taking up the power of Te Fiti. From that moment, Moana dreams of exploring the ocean but is often stopped by her father, Chief Tui, who insists that exploring the ocean is unnecessary, as food, water and shelter can be found on land. During this time, however, the island of Motunui begins to suffer, as the coconuts darken and the food becomes scarce. Moana takes this as a calling to go confront the demigod Maui and restore the stone to the heart of Te Fiti. Throughout the journey, Moana gains her sense of special direction by simply following the nature and stars. She does this while learning how to navigate through the unknown territory while also facing the giant coconut crab name Tamatoa and the villain Te Ka.

The highlight of the story is how powerful the main character is. Moana is a Polynesian princess who finds her moral compass and sense of direction as she navigates through the endless waters in the film. Disney attempts to create a powerful and brave character who fights her own battles as she explores her identity and ultimately fights for the wellness of her people. Disney makes a strong move with this one after portraying their previous female leads as the damsel in distress, like in “Tangled”. Dwayne Johnson plays an equally powerful role as Maui, who although seems big and strong, has multiple internal weaknesses, such as the fear of not being accepted, which he gets over by the support from Moana. With themes of feminism and feminist power being highlighted, it can be seen here that Moana is constantly helped by her grandmother and she in return helps the male lead Maui gain his power.

Another highlight of the film are the musical pieces used throughout the film. Composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”), Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina, the soundtrack of the film was very powerful, as it brought in a sense of determination and provided a glimpse of the struggles that both Moana and Maui had to go through. The pieces were also true to the Polynesian culture, as many of the lyrics were in both English and the Tokelauan language. Many of the pieces included various traditional chants, placed in the scenes in which Moana realized that it was her turn to take on the responsibility and go on the journey for her people.

Along with the music, the various details that were placed throughout the film were very true to the Polynesian culture. The memorable details include the various tattoos that were on Maui’s body which showed the story of the heritage, culture and his own story.

Moana is a very significant film, as it challenges gender roles and social norms of society today. Bringing back an ethnic strong female lead, Disney brings back to mind strong characters like Mulan. This film is a very-much-needed inspiration especially in society today, and allows us to remember the strength of women while also allowing us to appreciate the structure and heritage of other cultures.

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