Big fat spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen it yet.
This is me rambling about some neat details of story and character.
So, we have this non-princessy girl hero.
She does fabulous feats of Hero Journeyness, she’s not a warrior in the usual Marvel Comics or Lord of the Rings way, her tool is a paddle and a boat.
I can relate to that… that blue kayak is the modern descendant of another bit of ancient tech that is utterly fabulous, the arctic kayak of skin and wood.
I can attest to the fact that Moana has far better navigating skills than me, though I can use a compass… even underwater, I have been called topographically impaired. And while I have sailed on public sails on tall ships around the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, and have been allowed to steer some of them, I am not a sailor (uh, is that a sheet or a halyard or….???).
The old navigators were chosen when they were toddlers, placed in tide pools, and when older, taken out on boats, towed behind boats to be “in the wave”… by the time they were Moana’s age, they knew a lot. By the time they were middle aged, they were masters.
We see Moana as a toddler, chosen by the sea for one mission, and chosen by her family for another; leading her people. They appear to be separate things, but eventually are woven together, navigating into a new future for her people.
One thing I noticed is she is apparently the first female in her line to be Chief… and to navigate (both were generally traditionally male occupations, generally women belonged to the land, men to the sea).
She is also surrounded by great big strong males who are often more obstacle than help, but in the end, prove to be allies. Both her father (rivaling King Fergus of Brave and How to Train Your Dragon’s Stoic the Vast for Chiefly Vastness) and Maui (of epic proportions of strength and vastness) guide, create obstacles for her, argue, support, and ultimately need her particular kind of strength.
In Kubo and the Two Strings, the hero journeys to find three parts of his father’s armor to battle his apparently evil grandfather. When he finally dons the armor and fights the grandfather, he is defeated… until he remembers his true power, one gained from his mother, the ability to use music to change the world around him. He changes the grandfather, literally transforms him, and the villagers do the rest, a marvelous healing of a mystical mythical being.
Moana and Maui journey through various obstacles, which Moana proves adept at helping with, sometimes using the paddle as a weapon, as in the kakamora fight, sometimes simply using trickster abilities rivaling Maui’s, as she does with the giant crab.
When she finally faces the Big Boss of the game, the creature responsible for the devastation taking over the world, it is not Maui’s warrior abilities that solve the issue (one of my favorite bits is him without his magic hook, doing a haka… he knows this is the end, but he is not going down without a fight, he is, after all, Maui).
It is Moana’s insight that Te Fiti and Te Ka are the same goddess, and it is healing that is needed, not war. She tells the ocean “let her come to me” and faces the apparent villain with song and understanding, repairing the damage done by the theft of the heart.
This is just a fabulous, thoughtful film, and fun.