A Review Of The Film Whale Rider

The film Whale Rider takes place in a Maori tribe in New Zealand. It tells a story of Maori tradition where only males can carry knowledge and legends from one generation to the next. The story has a running theme of tradition and immense pride which are things that are present in many different cultural groups around the world. Paikea played by Keisha Castle-Hughes was born with her twin brother, who unfortunately died along with Pai’s mother during birth. The lighting and music choice in this scene shows that something solemn had happened. We know this because the music is slow and quiet and the lighting is dark as all happiness has gone away. We instantly see a bond between Vicky Haughton who plays the part of Pai’s grandmother who she calls Nanny Flowers and Paikea as she mumbles something lovingly to baby Pai.

Koro played by Rawiri Paratene is very traditional and unaccepting of females to lead the tribe. Koro won’t accept that the female baby Pai will be named after the ancestor who legends say rode on the back of a whale to the east coast of New Zealand. In his mind and in the Maori tradition this name should have been bestowed upon a male child of the tribe. The person who rode on the back of that whale was a man, that is why the tribe only allows male leaders to rule the tribe. Porougangi played by Cliff Curtis is the father of Paikea but leaves the hospital upset because of Koro, his father doesn’t appear to care that his wife has died during childbirth, he only wanted a grandson so the male child would continue the tradition of the Maori tradition. Niki Caro the director of this movie has thought this movie out extremely well with the traditional costumes, face painting and customs depicting the Maori culture. The director effectively using lighting to sets the mood, dark lighting setting a sad, ominous mood. Light lighting being used to create a happy, exciting, joyous mood.

The main part of the movie is the story of 12-year-old Paikea, who is born to the destiny that she will be the future leader of her Maori tribe although her grandfather believes this honour should have gone to her stillborn twin brother. This beautiful stories lesson to us all is that sometimes change is necessary for traditions to continue in our modern world and they can still represent the culture and ceremony of the past. The director Niki Caro treats the Maori traditions with the utmost respect as the story unfolds. She tells a story of the changing of culture with snippets of humour and the hope of a tribe. It’s a story of great spirit. Throughout the movie, we hear Maori music and rituals telling a story on the screen. Along with the traditional costumes, we witness Paikea with tradition Maori face painting during cultural dancing.

Paikea lives a happy childhood but throughout the story, there is always an underlying current of the need to prove herself to her grandfather. Koro has a lot of warmth and love for Pai. There is a heartwarming scene during the movie where Pai is being teased by people at school and Koro comes to the school and stands up to the people teasing her.

Pai has a great connection with whales and there are a few beautiful scenes where this connection is shown. Koro is on a mission to find the next leader and set up a challenge to the tribal boys with an ending that surprises everyone. Koro realises that for his beloved tribe to continue and flourish he must adapt to changes and that he can still bring honour to his ancestors.

I think this movie is a great movie with little pops of humour here and there and a great message of “The courage to believe in yourself and striving to succeed” This movie shows Pai growing up and building the confidence to stand up and show she is the one to lead the tribe into the future. This shows that she is growing up and gaining respect for herself and believing that the call she made was the right call. Although, I believe some parts of this movie were a little dull lacking an entertaining plot. I give this movie a 4.2 out of 5. I recommend this movie to anyone ages 12-85. 

16 August 2021
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