Sometimes films feel meaningless despite the fact that they are grand, big-budget spectacles created for the sole purpose of dominating the box office.
Such is the case for Mulan, the latest in Disney’s increasingly draining list of bland, soulless live-action remakes.
An adaptation of the 1998 cult classic animated film of the same name, 2020’s Mulan was met with much hype after its initial announcement. However, its popularity diminished considerably following a string of controversies before and after its September 2020 debut.
These issues range from its female star, Liu Yifei’s, highly publicized support for the Hong Kong police, to the movie’s costly price on Disney Plus after theatres were shut down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Female Warrior Saga
Mulan is a historical fantasy centered around a young teenager living in ancient China who is forced to secretly enlist in the army.
She disguises herself as a male in order to save her elderly father, who has been selected to fight in an impending war against the Huns, despite his frail, ailing health and elderly age.
As she traverses through the barren mountains along with a regiment of soldiers, all of whom are oblivious of her true sexuality, Mulan must face merciless barbarians, combat shapeshifting sorceresses, and worst of all, confront her inner demons in this historical epic.
New Movie: Pales In Comparison
While the new movie has been marketed as a remake of the original flick, in reality, the 2020 blockbuster has more in common with the recent Star Wars movies.
Just like in Disney’s widely-panned Star Wars sequels, the new movie replaces the original film’s initial charm with grueling action scenes taking place in the stereotypical Chinese countryside, stiff dialogue, and plot holes that effectively contradict the established lore.
Sorely missing from the original are Mushu, the fan-favorite, wisecracking, anthropomorphic dragon, and Li Shang, Mulan’s bulky and dreamy love interest. Perhaps the biggest disappointment are the numerous songs that had come to define the original movie -- from the soulful ballad Reflection (which launched Christina Aguilera’s career), to the delightfully ironic pop anthem, I’ll Make a Man Out of You.
The movie includes a new character called Xianning, a literal witch whose only purpose in the film is to serve as a foil for our protagonist, a gesture that may be appreciated if not for her two-dimensional personality.
The pace of the movie is problematic. The first thirty minutes seem to drag on for hours, saved only by a mildly comedic scene improved drastically by well-utilized situational humor. Once the action gets started though, it seems to never end, much to my delight, with fight scenes upon fight scenes that offer viewers enthralling battles.
Unfortunately, once the film reached its final quarter the pacing from earlier all but disappears without a trace, and once again we are subject to filler conversations that hold little meaning and characters who exist for the sole purpose of furthering the plot -- all of which act as a hindrance and at some points even distract from the otherwise beautifully rendered finale.
Overall, Mulan was an enjoyable romp, but not one that I will frequently revisit. The film featured enjoyable parts, above-average acting, and action delightfully woven into the storylines. However, it lacks a certain refinement and needs polishing, which is why I award it two out of five stars.