“Mulan” Movie Review
Disney superfans have been waiting for a live action remake of “Mulan” for years now. Many were anxious to see how the classic would be reimagined over 20 years later.
After a six-month delay in the United States due to COVID-19, “Mulan” was finally released on Disney Plus on Sept. 4. If users wanted premium access, they had to pay a fee of $29.99 in addition to their regular Disney Plus subscription of $6.99 per month. Those not willing to pay the extra fee will be able to watch the film on Dec. 4 as long as they are a Disney Plus subscriber.
“Mulan” stars Chinese actress Yifei Liu as the title character. Liu is known for her roles in “The Forbidden Kingdom” and “Tong que tai.” Liu’s portrayal of Mulan is as inspirational as the original, continuing the character’s legacy as a feminist role model for young girls.
Like many of the other live action Disney films that have come out recently, “Mulan” has beautiful cinematography. The imagery in the beginning of the film is very colorful, gradually becoming darker once Mulan goes off to war. The direction by Niki Caro is incredible, but if anything, the writing is a bit stale and lacks energy.
The actors are not to blame, though. Audiences may not have gotten classic characters like Mushu or Li Shang in the remake, but actors such as Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, Jet Li as the Emperor and Li Gong as the magical Xianniang definitely made up for it. Jun Yu especially stood out as Cricket, giving a performance that was equally emotional and comical.
One of the biggest differences in the live action version from the original is an overall shift in genre. The original “Mulan,” released in 1998, is an animated musical with elements of action and adventure. The remake, on the other hand, is heavily dramatized and features no musical numbers. However, it stays true to its original spirit as an adventurous, fun story.
Luckily for fans, there are many references to songs from the original film featured throughout the remake’s score. Adapted instrumental versions of iconic tunes such as “Reflection,” “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and “Honor to Us All” can be heard during pivotal scenes.
Lines from these songs are also referenced throughout the script, specifically in the scenes in which they originally occurred. This is the case with “A Girl Worth Fighting for,” as Mulan’s fellow soldiers discuss their dream woman.
However, in taking away the iconic music from this retelling, the creators also lost the motivation for their lead character. A staple in Disney princess films is an “I Wish” or “I Want” song. Not seeing Mulan sing “Reflection” in the live action remake leaves something to be desired for her character’s motivation.
If the audience of this film has seen the original, they understand the storyline and why Mulan goes to war in her father’s place. However, for the new generation, her character’s purpose is not as impactful.
In the past, Disney tended to make generalizations about other cultures in their films. They have noticeably been more aware of this recently, making an effort to accurately portray cultures that are often stereotyped. “Mulan” does a great job of representing Chinese culture. Disney shows the darker, imperial side of China towards the end with action-packed war scenes while keeping the beginning lighthearted and traditional in the boundaries of Mulan’s village.
In making the film, Disney worked closely with the Chinese government to ensure an accurate depiction of their culture, but this brought on more serious controversies aside from the delayed release.
According to Foreign Policy, parts of the movie were filmed in Xianjing back in 2018 during ongoing incidents of human rights abuse. Disney has publicly expressed their gratitude to Chinese government agencies such as the Turpan Public Security Bureau, which has been speculated to be involved in cultural genocide, among other violations of human rights.
“Mulan” star Yifei Liu has also publicly defended the Hong Kong police on social media, following incidents of police brutality back in 2019, according to CNN. Fans even threatened to boycott the film because of Liu’s statement.
Despite the controversy surrounding the film, “Mulan” has still managed to evoke nostalgia in fans of the original, while inspiring a whole new generation as well.
Sarah Simpson is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.