Moana

Every now and again I like to take a break from my deep introspective and consider a movie or show. I’ve talked about The Good Dinosaur, and the show Bitten. Tonight I wanted to discuss Moana.

I don’t want to talk about the whole movie, though it is fantastic, or the bonus content that goes over some of the fascinating history and culture of the Polynesians, but of a single specific scene that as of this writing I have seen probably a dozen times due to rewinding and re-watching it again and again.  If you’ve seen the movie, you may know the one:

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Spoilers ahead – you have been warned.

The scene is when Moana has gotten the heart past the lava-demon Te Kā to the island where she is meant to return Te Fiti’s heart, but the goddess is gone.

Moana turns, and sees the spiral on the chest of Te Kā and realizes that Te Kā IS Te Fiti.  Moana holds up the heart, getting Te Kā’s attention, and then begins this stunning scene.

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Everything about it is beautiful. In the screen shot above you can see the contrast between the fiery lava Te Kā and the ocean, with a bit of light in the clouds to the top right. You can see the reflection of the fire and magma of Te Kā on the waves to either side.

It is just beautiful. The scenes go back and forth, between shots of Te Kā crawling across the path the ocean has made for her, and Moana, walking to meet her.

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During this, Moana is singing. I am not good at describing music, but the song is both sad, and beautiful, and hopeful. She sings “they’ve stolen the heart from inside you, but this does not define you.”

In the screen shot above you can see the strong contrasts of shadow behind her. As she signs “this does not define you” Te Kā has come close enough that her fire and smoke flow around Moana.

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It culminates in one of the best shots in the entire film, and one of the most beautifully composed scenes in a movie I’ve seen.

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Its simply beautiful, with the raging fiery demon to one side, the splash of blue ocean and even a bit of blue sky around Moana, the rolling smoke clouds passing off to the right to reveal her standing there bravely facing this monster that she knows is just a goddess who is hurting.

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Followed by the above shot, which is just amazing as well, again with the contrasts of blue and red, light and dark. It has an almost anime feel to it, and I can’t help but think of movies like Princess Mononoke when I see it.  The above screen shot is now my desktop wallpaper, and it is just so beautiful. Sadly the still image does not do it justice, because this movie is beautifully animated, to the very details of reflections on the water.

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The scene (at least the part of it that I am focusing on) ends with Moana finishing her song which reminds Te Kā of who she is, and placing the heart back into the spiral on her chest, and thus restoring her to Te Fiti.

For those who wish to see the full scene, it is the first minute and thirty seconds of this video:

I enjoyed Frozen, and Tangled, and the other recent Disney movies well enough, but Moana is probably the first one I’ve really loved in a very long time, and this scene is my favorite in the entire movie.  Most of the songs in the movie are fantastic and I love the tribal sound/themes to some of them.

I strongly recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t seen it, and also encourage you to get the version with the bonus content. The information about the Polynesian people in the behind the scenes is just as good as the movie itself, and when watching it again after you really notice their attention to detail when creating a movie about these people.

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