The Lantern reviews the new Disney movie Moana
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Stuck. In the middle of the ocean. We wouldn’t know what to do, with our fancy business suits and cellular devices that don’t get service. Without food on our rickety vessel there would only be three weeks before our bodies drift away and become one with the sea. This may sound like a nightmare to some, filled with images of seagulls circling our scurvy filled bodies, but for the Polynesians, getting stuck in the middle of the ocean was their everyday life. Wayfinding, as they call it, was the process the Polynesians used to find new islands in the middle of nowhere and colonize them. Moana gets to the very depth of the culture of the Polynesians, and shows children how an undaunted heart can take on the world.
Quick disclaimer, I’m a teenage boy who’d rather be shooting pigeons or riding a bike than watching a disney movie made for toddlers. However, this movie struck a chord with me unlike the other recent Disney movies that I considered garbage. Moana reminded me of movies like Snow White or The Jungle Book. On the outside, Moana does not resemble anything like the other two. She isn’t in search of a man to sweep her off her feet, nor is she after love. Once you look on the inside, you see a connection between the undaunted heart of courage. All three movies resonate my can-do spirit, encouraging me to be who I wish to be and explore the world. This was a good reassurance after a lackluster performance for Frozen, for the adventure aspect of it wasn’t worked out very well.
On top of connecting with the older generations and older Disney movies, Moana brings a unique insight into the culture of the Polynesians. The movie tries to explain why there was a gap in Polynesian expansion for nearly 2,000 years, and does a very good job of it with song and dance. The movie entertained a culture panel, who would make rulings and give advice to try and make the movie stick to the culture and the beliefs of the Polynesians. The wayfinding techniques and sailing was spot on, along with the myths of the natives. Nevertheless, it’s a movie and some components of it were taken with some extreme creative liberty. Many did not agree with having the village have a taboo (which is actually a Polynesian word) against sailing and wayfinding; an ingrained belief that is the rock on which the people stand upon.
Whatever side on the isle-land you stand upon, it is uncontested that the coolest part of the movie was how the movie portrayed the gods and demigods. Major polytheistic religions see gods with human characteristic and flaws, this gives them tangibility and reliability, for they are in human’s image. This isn’t the same in Moana. Gods in Moana are humanoid, not human-like. Throughout the movie, not a single god speaks or shows that they can communicate with humans other than signs. This is very cool, for it makes the gods seem more powerful, and less in the image of humanity other than their shape. On top of this, the ocean is not a god nor a creature, but a being that helps Moana through her journey. Whether one believes in all gods, no gods, or One God; it was an eyeopening experience to see the ocean as an all-knowing being that really has no form.
For those who were on the fence about taking kiddos to go see a movie that many thought should be titled ‘Frozen 2.0, but with warm weather’, think again. Moana instills courage in young souls and gives an appreciation for a mostly forgotten civilization. Plus the soundtrack is really catchy, and a lot better than Frozen’s.