Mulan (2020) is probably the first big blockbuster that fell victim to the dreaded Coronavirus. What I mean by that is, it was scheduled to be released in theatres with a strong, glitzy premiere in London, but ultimately the folks at Disney+ decided to release it on their platform instead. But how much of a loss is it for movie-goers that they were unable to see it on the big screen?
First, the plot. We’ve all seen the animated Disney version of this movie, right? Well, minus talking comedy dragons and jaunty tunes, the plot is virtually the same. Mulan is the daughter of an honoured warrior, and when the Emperor of China declares that each family must dedicate one son to the armed forces, she takes it upon herself to secretly run away to enlist, dressing up as a man to avoid detection. Once with the other recruits, it becomes clear quite quickly that Mulan is much more gifted than any of the men around her.
Like the other Disney live-action remakes, this movie has very little soul and won’t be remembered in five years. As I’ve said before, it just feels as though these live-action versions are pointless and quite honestly a Disney cash cow. Where the directors and the writers could have really delved into Chinese culture and background, this is over-simplified and quite tedious. Even if the animated edition wasn’t as loved as it is, I’d wager that this movie still wouldn’t be thought of fondly in the future. A failure in that regard.
Thankfully Mulan does get some things right: the casting is spot on and ethnically appropriate (finally!), the costuming is quite the spectacle, there’s some glorious music (which, by the way, deserves to be heard in theatres), and some complex and interesting fight sequences to name the most prominent. Previously, I alluded to the fact that movie lovers have been served an injustice by pulling this from the big screen, and with all the above points considered, this only strengthens such an idea.
Let me expand.
Some of the visuals are pretty great (I particularly enjoyed the avalanche sequence, which was by far the most exciting sequence of the film), but honestly I expected more. I wanted vast landscapes filled with hundreds of fighters and battling in Game of Thrones style armies, but it all seemed much smaller than it should have been. It’s mostly well-made, but should probably have been saved for the cinema. For a movie with an absurd $200million budget, it seems like Disney should not have jumped the gun so quickly with this one.
Paced well but devoid of heart, this adaptation falls short due to its attempt to be too realistic. Part of the charm of the animated Mulan feature film were its sidekicks and witty quips courtesy of Eddie Murphy. Whilst there are one or two laughs in this, it doesn’t come close to the original, and is certainly not as whimsical and fairytale-driven as a Disney movie should be.
On top of that, the characters here are just not likeable enough. Of course you root for Mulan – it’s impossible not to – but is she likeable? Not particularly. That’s not to say Liu Yifei doesn’t do a good job, it’s just that the material she has doesn’t give her enough to work with. Plus, there’s the added controversy surrounding the actress and her questionable moral views that may turn viewers off even before watching the movie, but I won’t go into that here.
Honestly, I’m giving this a 2 Q rating purely for the technical effort that clearly went into it. However, a much better script was necessary for anyone to really get on board. On the whole, this remake is a snoozefest and it should have been saved for the cinema.
Mulan will be available to stream on Disney+ from December 4.
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