Despite the fact that its female lead gives it her all, Mulan ends up being a lackluster version of the animated classic.
Continuing its plan of bringing to audiences live-action versions of its magical tales, Disney chose to include the Chinese legend of a remarkable warrior and falls short of expectation in the process.
Directed by Niki Caro, Mulan stars Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Jet Lee, and Gong Li.
I grew up watching Disney animated classics and I remember the moments of awe and wonder that I experienced seeing some of the most unforgettable characters portrayed on the big screen.
I have made it a point of duty to watch every single live-action reimagining from the studio and was disappointed after seeing Beauty and the Beast (starring Emma Watson). Nevertheless, I made up my mind to give the studio a second chance.
Lui Yifei plays the titular character; a young girl who does the unthinkable by going to war in her ailing father’s place, disguised as a man.
During the course of her journey, Mulan must make a choice to do away with her deception, risking it all to save her country and her emperor.
The opening sequence got me hooked and with the well-choreographed training scene being undergone by a young Mulan, I thought to myself, “Wow! Disney got it right, thank God!” Halfway through the film and I took back my words.
Maybe it’s just me but the movie felt a little rushed. There were a lot of potentials that could have been used but they were ignored.
One thing that made the animated classic generally accepted was the way it was spiced with humor (the great Eddie Murphy as the tiny dragon Mushu contributed majorly to this). This version, however, is nothing but a joyless and hollow offering.
During the heroine’s training, there was the bond I expected to take place between her and a group of soldiers; something that would metamorphose and prove to be pivotal in the final race to save the emperor’s life. But that didn’t happen. There were a few funny moments here and there, but nothing to leave a lasting impression.
As for the action, for me, that was the biggest letdown. For a movie of this caliber, I expected a whole lot more. It showed that the fight sequences were only quite impressive only when Mulan was involved. Even then, it was too “ropey” (the fact that ropes or strings were used for the stunts was just too obvious and it reduced the fun for me).
During one battle scene, Mulan covers a great distance in mere seconds, successfully getting behind the enemies and attacking them from her vantage position. This was a major flaw that didn’t go unnoticed by me.
Also, the scene where Mulan runs after the witch in bird form was laughably unrealistic. I mean, who hell chases a bird in flight by jumping on rooftops? And to make the scene even more ridiculous than it already was, the heroine was gaining on the creature!
The above point brings me to the idea of replacing the dragon in the animated version with a phoenix here. I get what the filmmakers were going for but it wasn’t really necessary for me. Because at the end of the day, the damn thing didn’t really make any meaningful contribution to Mulan’s fate.
Another major plot hole in the story is when Mulan runs back to her fellow soldiers to warn them about the imminent danger to the emperor’s life. She did that after being banished from the team only for the commander to decide (after the others childishly chanted that they believed her in unison) that she would be the one to lead the attack. WTF!!! I could understand accepting her back but making her the leader of the attack? That was just too rushed if you ask me.
The biggest of the movie’s flaws (one to which the aforementioned ones pale in comparison) is one of the antagonists suddenly becoming ‘righteous’ by taking Mulan’s side and even saving her life in the process. That let me know just how eager the writers wanted to promote the theme of feminism in this movie.
Personally, I have nothing against feminism but when you put in some stupid character arcs just to promote it in your film, you mess up everything.
In a way, I feel sorry for the lead actress because hers was a dedicated performance. That this film fails is entirely not her fault. I wished it could have been something a whole lot more. Maybe, a Chinese female director should have been chosen as that would have probably led to something great.
After many months of waiting, Mulan arrives and leaves an empty feeling, making me miss the delightful and wonderful emotions that the animated classic evoked in me.
I’m not sorry for bashing this Disney’s live-action film. I’m only sorry that it was made in the first place. As a critic said, this is not Mulan. This is a different story entirely.
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