Whale Rider - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Whale Rider Reviews

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½ April 14, 2017
A coming-of-age story about family, self-worth, and challenging gender roles and unfair traditions, "Whale Rider" is extraordinary.
April 10, 2017
The movie was truly a spiritual masterpiece...
February 28, 2017
In terms of sheer emotional gravitas, Whale Rider is one hell of a movie. Castle-Hughes was so amazing she reduced me (a grown adult) to tears quite a few times during scenes where she had to constantly try and prove her worth amidst a male-centric Maori culture. The constant pin pricks into the cushion of our emotions can be a little draining but that said, it's one of the most wonderful movies to come out of Oceania.
½ November 13, 2016
The 2002 film "Whale Rider" starring Keisha Castle-Hughes in her first film, tells the story of a 12-year-old girl as she dreams and works her way to becoming the chief of her people, a small group of Maori in New Zealand. Despite her grandfather's objections, she can prove herself to not only the tribe but to her grandfather as well, that she is fit to be chief. Though the film does follow traditional coming-of-age conventions, what makes this story different from what we have seen before is the intensity behind Castle-Hughes's performance. The road to chiefdom is not an easy one for Castle-Hughes's character Pai. Her grandfather is the chief of their tribe, and her absentee father is next in line for the title, but he chooses not to take his place. This leaves Pai's grandfather Koro to search among the tribe's teenaged boys for a suitable leader. Pai, though only a girl believes she can be that leader, her grandfather refuses to see that, the main argument against is that she is only just a girl. And while story convention dictates how this narrative should follow, the expected being that the girl can convince her grandfather that she is capable of being chief, the story takes a different route. In one crucial moment of the film, during a school assembly for the town, Pai recites an essay about honor and her love for her grandfather, even saving a seat of honor for her grandfather, but he does not show. This is where the film takes a turn to a more spiritual take on the Maori people. Throughout the movie, we are treated to an inside look at the practices and traditions of the modern Maori people, how the worship and how they live. The processes Koro takes to find a strong leader, as well as how the community rises to take care of each other. It is when Koro does not show up to the school assembly that we that is was not his anger that kept him from hearing and seeing his granddaughter, but something greater than all the people of the tribe. Without spoiling the film's ending, the last act of the movie can demonstrate to the audience that even in a modern world, there is still room for traditions and spirituality to help bring people together in an inspiring and magnificent event.
½ November 13, 2016
The 2003 film "Whale Rider" starring Keisha Castle-Hughes in her first film, tells the story of a 12-year-old girl as she dreams and works her way to becoming the chief of her people, a small group of Maori in New Zealand. Despite her grandfather's objections, she can prove herself to not only the tribe but to her grandfather as well, that she is fit to be chief. Though the film does follow traditional coming-of-age conventions, what makes this story different from what we have seen before is the intensity behind Castle-Hughes's performance. The road to chiefdom is not an easy one for Castle-Hughes's character Pai. Her grandfather is the chief of their tribe, and her absentee father is next in line for the title, but he chooses not to take his place. This leaves Pai's grandfather Koro to search among the tribe's teenaged boys for a suitable leader. Pai, though only a girl believes she can be that leader, her grandfather refuses to see that, the main argument against is that she is only just a girl. And while story convention dictates how this narrative should follow, the expected being that the girl can convince her grandfather that she is capable of being chief, the story takes a different route. In one crucial moment of the film, during a school assembly for the town, Pai recites an essay about honor and her love for her grandfather, even saving a seat of honor for her grandfather, but he does not show. This is where the film takes a turn to a more spiritual take on the Maori people. Throughout the movie, we are treated to an inside look at the practices and traditions of the modern Maori people, how the worship and how they live. The processes Koro takes to find a strong leader, as well as how the community rises to take care of each other. It is when Koro does not show up to the school assembly that we that is was not his anger that kept him from hearing and seeing his granddaughter, but something greater than all the people of the tribe. Without spoiling the film's ending, the last act of the movie can demonstrate to the audience that even in a modern world, there is still room for traditions and spirituality to help bring people together in an inspiring and magnificent event.
November 1, 2016
The Review of Whale Rider by Leander Herring Jr.
This movie for me was an enchanting and ultimately enthralling New Zealand movie about the struggle of one ardent and determined young Maori girl to fulfill her destiny. The movie starts from Koro (Rawiri Paratene) is the chief of the Ngati Kanoahi tribe of Whangara. They reside in a coastal fishing village in New Zealand. Times are extremely hard for these people who can barely scratch out a living. Koro is extremely disappointed that Porourangi (Cliff Curtis) has no interest in becoming the next chief. However, when his son's wife becomes pregnant, Koro begins to hope the male he seeks to lead the people will be born. Unfortunately, the boy and his mother die in childbirth. However, a twin sister survives, and Porourangi names her Paikea after the tribe's venerated ancestor who is said to have arrived in their village on the back of a whale after his canoe capsized. Koro is furious that his son has given the infant this sacred name traditionally reserved for a male child; he shortens the name to "Pai." The grieving Porourangi, an artist, decides to go to Europe and so he leaves his daughter with his parents.
Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) grows up knowing of her grandfather's disappointment that she is not a boy. Despite that barrier between them, they do bond and by the time she is 12 years old, he is picking her up every day from school on his bicycle. Nanny Flowers (Vicky Haughton) has a special place in her heart for Pai and gives her the moral support she needs. When Porourangi returns home on a visit from Germany where he works as a sculptor, it is clearer than ever that he has no intention of accepting his destiny and becoming Koro's successor. Porouangi offers to take Pai back with him but she chooses to stay in New Zealand.
Koro rounds up all the 12-year-old boys in the Whangara community and begins passing on the ancient chants, tribal lore, and warrior techniques to them. He is convinced that the future chief will emerge from the group and establish himself as the chosen one. Koro is enraged when he finds out that the determined Pai has been listening in on his lessons and taking private instruction on stick battle from Koro's other son. She is forbidden to continue in this training. Koro is heartbroken when he throws his whale bone into the ocean and not one of the boys manages to retrieve it. But Pai has several surprises for her tradition-bound grandfather that will open his eyes and the rest of the tribe to her true destiny.
This enchanting and beautifully acted New Zealand film is written and directed by Niki Caro based on a 1986 novel by Witi Ihimaera. The deeply spiritual message of the drama is that Pai must pursue her destiny as a leader in face of the powerful patriarchal tradition espoused by Koro, who is inflexible in his attitudes toward women. The arduous struggle of this determined girl to find her true place among her people is one that will resonate with women around the world. The extraordinary performance by Keisha Castle-Hughes richly conveys the conflicting emotions Pai feels in her turbulent relationship with her grandfather. Zeal is a commendable attribute in pursuit of a calling from the spirit world, and Pai uses solitude, silence, and prayer as practices to keep her in touch with her ancestors and the whales that play a major role in the dramatically rich final segments of the film.
It relates to the Indigenous Religions, because in the journey, one sees perseverance and the ability to overcome obstacles just like in the Indigenous people. Similar to many other religious figures that were misunderstood or mistreated; she overcomes obstacles eventually whether they are mentally, physically or socially. Pai overcame the inability to be chief through her own inner knowledge of her destiny. She knew she could be the chief and knew it would be Koro who had to understand their journey and its meaning. Her perseverance impacted her community by reminding them that the traditional values are the key to life. By Pai being in tune with herself, her surroundings, spirituality and ancestors, it allowed her to complete her spiritual journey.
½ September 9, 2016
Best kid actor ever! Movie was good but not great. Whale talking was pretentious.
July 9, 2016
A superb little movie that I've long enjoyed. Whale Rider is set in a deprived Maori community where the village elder is struggling to maintain traditional custom with modern life. He and his wife are left to raise their granddaughter after her mother and twin die at birth and her grief stricken father leaves to seek his fortune elsewhere. The girl, Pai, brilliantly bought to the screen by Keisha Castle-Hughes, wants to make her grandfather proud but he feels constrained by tradition which dictates that the mantle of village leader can only be passed on to a male heir. The performance by Castle-Hughes is assured and touching. This is exemplified by a tear-jerking scene in which Pai recites a speech she has prepared for her absent grandfather to a room of villagers at a school concert. Whale Rider is a marvellously observed, small tale in which director/writer Niki Caro manages to tackle big issues without bashing you over the head with them. This is a genuinely good "family" movie which is does not sugar coat issues but manages to deliver a satisfying and upbeat ending and makes a refreshing change from slushy, bigger budget coming of age movies.
½ April 14, 2016
Three years later, I am still scarred from this abysmal excuse for a film. Maybe it would have been better if I had not been forced to do a film analysis of it but the horror of Grade 9 English class will always remain.
April 4, 2016
Rating: 82%
Though it may come across as odd to some viewers, Whale Rider is a promising and entertaining drama with a talented cast and gripping plot.
February 24, 2016
heard this was way good?
November 3, 2015
The film is so realistically filmed that touches the line between documetary and fiction film. The story although is really engaging and the young protagonist is a revelation.
June 16, 2015
Touching coming of age movie that cheer out loud good
½ June 14, 2015
Good tale of conflict between traditions and the new era. Not the best, but has a great performance from the lead to make it worth the watch.
May 12, 2015
Beautiful cinematography and music but a boring and lame movie attached to it. Have no idea how the lead earned a nomination for this honestly
½ March 21, 2015
One of the most enchanting and lyrical children's movies that can rank with classics like "National Velvet," "The Black Stallion," and "E.T." Thirteen year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes is extraordinarily affecting as a young Maori girl, who dreams of becoming the chief of the local tribe against the wishes of her stern grandfather (Rawiri Paratene), a man who believes in the strict adherence to ancient legend that only a male can assume leadership and ride the whale. Although the outcome is predictable, the simplicity and emotional resonance of the material become mythological. A sequence where Castle-Hughes recites a Maori chant at a school concert, amid her grandfather's absence, is incredibly touching. Cliff Curtis, a versatile actor who can convincingly play a multitude of nationalities, is the girl's father. Written and directed by Niki Caro. Based on the book by Witi Ihimaera. Cinematography by Leon Narbey, Music is by Lisa Gerrard. Filmed on the beautiful, windy New Zealand coast of North Island.
½ March 6, 2015
An odd movie, high with family emotions and tinged with the always good antipodean humour, this gives an insight into the beliefs of one of the native clans of New Zealand, which, to be frank, is quite bizarre, but surely unique.
February 26, 2015
A tale of freedom for girls!
February 5, 2015
What are your thoughts on the movie? it has significant meaning to change.
What were the main ideas of the movie? To accept new ideas
How did the movie make you feel and what did it make you think about as you watched? Sad and overjoyed with the different changes
What were your final thoughts about the movie and overall comments on the big ideas and plot? I thought that it was great how the grandfather learned to accept his granddaughter
What do you think the overall point the makers of the movie were trying to make? That as time goes on we have to accept that things will not always be the same and that change will happen
Did you enjoy the movie? Yes I thought that the movie was a really go movie and had really good meaning to it.
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