Mulan is a fantasy action film directed by Niki Caro. The plot sees young woman Mulan (Yifei Liu), defy Chinese society by riding off to take her fathers place in battle, thereby becoming a solider and later a legend.
So before I get into this I want to again address my bias. The lead actor Yifei Liu defended the police’s brutal response to the Hong Kong protests, which is a sickening fact, but one I nevertheless tried to remove from by mind while watching so I could stay objective.
On the scale of Disney live action remakes this felt comfortably along side the Lion King. The reason for that is though there are a few changes, that are mostly insignificant and hurt the film, it still feels very familiar to the original animated version.
By removing Mushu and the songs from this film, you get a very joyless experience, that tries to go for realism and sticking to the source folk tale, until it gets bored of that and puts in magic and shape shifters just for the hell of it.
Furthermore, the film totally undermines Mulan’s personal journey by having her already be quite competent right from the off. In the original animated version, Mulan was terrible when she started off and got gradually better over the course of the film, here she starts off already quite a good fighter and then becomes a superhero by the end. I am not kidding with the superhero thing, when she becomes herself, she is cutting down groups of men twice her size in seconds and hitting people with arrows who are incredibly far away with ease; it is deeply unbelievable and laughable when you consider the realism angle.
There is also quite a bit of China pandering throughout, where they will randomly say how great the country is and how honourable and proud its ways are. I found this to be as off putting as bad product placement, but I am not hugely surprised Disney did it as they’re clearly aiming this one more at China than anywhere else.
I found Liu to be a likeable enough lead, the jokes they kept in from the original still worked for a laugh and she had enough charisma to keep the film afloat.
Moreover, the villains were improved from the original, we get a new secondary antagonist introduced, who seems very interesting, but the film does very little with her. The reason I say they’re more improved this time around is because they’re far more imposing and threatening.
In that same vein the action is also well done and is easily the standout point of the film, the battle scenes are well done and well-choreographed, with a clear martial arts inspiration. They were the saving grace of the film.
Overall, a deeply needless film that fails at being realistic and ends up as a pandering joyless experience with some cool fight scenes.
Yifei Liu is a likeable enough lead
The villains feel more scary
The action is well executed
The failure at realism
It is joyless and hard to get through
Ruining Mulan’s arc
Reviewed by Luke