I finally watched Moana the other night, I know, I know it’s late. Don’t hate me. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to watching it, but regardless, I’m so glad I have. It was emotional, empowering and above all, magical. A story about a young girl, who is gifted with a quest to save her people, it is a tale to inspire all young girls. That even if the world is against you, never give up. Set on a small Polynesian island, called Motunui, Moana is the chief’s daughter who longs to travel the seas. As an adventurous child, it is clear that she is something of a wanderer, venturing into the unknown.
Years later, she is chosen by the ocean to receive the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. When the fish become scarce and vegetation starts dying, Moana is sure that this is the answer – the curse was spreading and all would be consumed by darkness if not fixed. However, the story of Te Fiti and Maui, the demigod who stole her heart, is but a mere myth and Moana is forced to escape her island without her father knowing, after the death of her ever wonderful and loving grandmother.
On her travels, she fends off the ocean’s tests and comes across Maui, the demigod who proves to be a loving, hot tempered but well-meaning man, who only wanted to help humanity after his parents shunned him. Much like Prometheus who stole the fire from Olympus to give to the humans, Maui stole the heart of Te Fiti to give the land life, except it came with a price, much like Prometheus’ actions, even though they had good intentions.
Together, they overcome their differences through stories, songs and the beauty they find in the ocean. Over their time, they bond as souls who have been forced into a life that they had not wished for and as they journey to restore Te Fiti’s heart, Moana learns more and more about her own people, about what happened to the voyagers from the past. It brings her closer to her grandmother’s spirit and gives her the power to keep going, even when all else seems lost and Maui has given up.
What I really loved about this film was that it explored a young girl’s journey – not a princess, not a blond haired, white woman’s quest for love. No, instead, this film was based on a young warrior who wishes to restore her island and people to what they had been, to save Te Fiti from becoming consumed by her own darkness. It showcased women’s strength and the power young girls have, their intelligence and beauty is not restricted to what is placed upon them, but so much more.
The exploration into Polynesian mythology was sweet, emotive and beautiful, it was a breath of fresh air, a break from the predominately white narrative Disney films have run with for years. As was the variety in shapes and sizes of the characters in the film, instead of everyone being one type or the other, it felt far more realistic of human body types – a range of figures and appearances which were all empowering and representative.
It also has an addictive soundtrack.