Movie review: Disney’s 2020 Mulan

After Disney’s live-action remake of the iconic 1998 film Mulan arrived on Disney Plus, the world has begun a debate: did Disney make the right choice with this film?

The movie was planned to come out on Mar. 9, but after the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., Disney continued to push the release date back until settling on offering it through their new streaming service, Disney Plus. You could watch it for $30 early, or you could watch it for free months after it came out.

However, there has been a lot of recent controversy about the movie. A trending #BoycottMulan has started up on social media, and many have taken that path. The hashtag was started after title actress (Yifei Liu) showed online support for the Hong Kong police, a recent political issue.

There was also the fact that Disney filmed in Xinjiang, an area in China, and thus credited some groups that feature propaganda.

Off the politics, this version was based more on the ancient Chinese legend instead of the 1998 film. It took a more serious and historic aspect than the original.

So, as they say in the 1998 film, let’s get down to business.

Yifei Liu stars as Hua Mulan in the movie. [Photo Credit: Disney Studios]

For starters, the visual aspect of the movie was beautiful. It was full of sweeping landscapes, rich colors, and captivating costumes. The sets for the movie were done well to every last little detail, and represented the culture of ancient China as well. The cinematography was gorgeous.

However, there were many things that were taken out from the 1998 animation. Mushu, the sidekick dragon, was gone, as well as the Lucky Cricket and Mulan’s grandmother. There was also no scenes with the ancestor ghosts, and a major point: there was no singing.

Although the songs are very catchy and bring humor and excitement to the older movie, I feel that taking out the singing was a good call. This adaption was much more serious. Also, some of the melodies from the classic ballads are incorporated in the background instrumental, particularly “Reflection”.

A downside of a more serious film though is that there was a lack of humor and witty dialogue. Although the dialogue wasn’t bad, there were very few parts to laugh along with and feel connected to the characters.

It was missing the Disney.

Anonymous freshman at Cherokee High

This version was also not as iconic as the original, and there was also not a lot of humor and strong bonds between Mulan and the side characters. In the original, Mulan is supported by three comrades that we want to cheer for also.

In this adaption, there were few side characters that were as strongly highlighted. It was harder to connect with them.

Mulan surrounded by several of the ensemble characters in the 1998 film. [Photo Credit: Disney Animation Studios]

Instead of Mushu, Mulan’s father sent a mythical creature called the Phoenix with her along her journey. The Phoenix acts as a guardian and whenever Mulan is miraculously saved from a close scare, we can see the Phoenix flying overhead.

Another point that was also added was an internal force called chi. According to the movie, everyone has a chi, particularly warriors. It was discovered that Mulan has a particularly strong chi, which is both a good and bad thing.

On the darker side of the chi, there’s a witch fighting against Mulan, Xianniang (played by Li Gong). She is the example of the use of chi to gain great power for the sake of greed.

Several people have compared the chi to the Force from Star Wars, and to this is somewhat agree with. I feel like the Force is a much greater external power that can affect those around you. The chi is an internal power that affects you and allows you to do other things.

The choreography in the film was incredible. I can hardly imagine the work that went into all of the tricks and stunts that went into this movie. From rooftop leaps to flips on horseback, and also with the battles scenes and hand combat, the choreography was filled with exciting bursts of energy and engaging endeavors.

We watch Yifei Liu sprint across walls, dodge forces of arrows, and of course, leap and kick so intensely during combat its almost similar to a fierce but graceful dance.

Yifei Liu dressed up for a Mulan event. [Photo Credit: IMBD]

On the action side, there’s also the fact that the movie was rated PG-13, the first and only “Disney princess” movie to have a rating that high. Although there is much more violence, there is very few graphic, gory scenes.

Did all of this pay off though? Although the movie itself was very beautiful, it was missing in humor and heart. I didn’t very emotionally connect with Mulan and I felt that the “roles of a woman” was a bit enforced too far.

There was also the comparison of Mulan to her sister (yes, a sister!) where Mulan was the rash, older sibling and the sister was meek and obedient. I didn’t feel like the addition of a sister was really necessary, but it didn’t take away from the movie at all.

Lots of changes and fine-tuning were made from the original. All in all, the original was just like the animations–bright, comical, and iconic. This adaption had a more serious edge to it.

Disney did a good job, but it could’ve been better. I certainly did not dislike the movie, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

In closing, Mulan is worth seeing but not quite worth the $30. I would definitely watch it in December, though, when it becomes released for free. I give it 3.5/5 stars.

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