The live-action remake of Mulan has generated a lot of buzz so far, but not the kind Disney probably hoped for. The much-anticipated remake was tagged with a # BoycottMulan hashtag as star Yifeh Liu loudly supported the Chinese government against democratic protesters, which sparked the movie trend on Twitter last Friday. But even before all of this exploded on the Internet, many fans – and critics – were skeptical, if not disinterested, in the latest rework of the classic Walt & # 39; s Vault cartoon.
Mulan, which was originally slated for release in March, like so many other potential blockbusters, never had a moment on the big screen and finally came to Disney + that weekend. Although fans and critics reading about it already knew they shouldn't expect any musical numbers or the comedic pizzazz from Mulan's dragon pal Mushu, the comparatively serious tone and fight scene here was surprising. It's clearly not the license cash grab we usually see from the company in terms of doll sales and princess dress up potential. The filmmakers and the company really tried to do something a little more sophisticated here, and for the most part they did it. Many will be disappointed with the lack of whimsy or humor, but for adults who grew up with the original, it's actually a pretty cool and refreshing makeover.
Directed by Niki Caro of Whale Rider, Mulan is breathtaking to look at from the first picture. From the colorful village moments to the gilded backdrops of the Imperial Palace to the fight scenes that are reminiscent of the dramatically choreographed fights in the Wonder Woman film, every shot has a mood and a purpose.
This purpose is to convey Mulan's growing up like in the original film, but here things get more metaphysical with a narrative about chi, the source of power and life. It is called "Qi" here and in this story it brings our young heroine superhuman "human-like" balance and strength. To use the feminist subtext, there is another strong female figure whose qi abundance is not celebrated, but condemned as witchcraft. Li Gong's Xianniang can turn into birds and she is also a brutal fighter. So if she's helping the bad guys against Mulan and the Chinese army, you know there's a showdown and probably an alliance ahead. (With her tribal makeup and dark nail swag, this character could sell himself to the Disney villain fan base even if Mulan doesn't turn out to be marketable.)
The 1998 animated original was a living musical buddy film and romance too, and this one isn't one of those things. The basic story is the same: when China is attacked by Rouran forces from the north, Mulan disguises himself as a man and joins the Chinese army to stop her injured father. A better warrior than any other soldier she joins, she ends up almost single-handedly saving the Empire.
If you look at it with the original in mind, you'll miss the comedic one-liners and probably also Li Shang (Mulan's love interest). He was merged into two characters for the new movie because, as producer Jason Reed said, in the #metoo era it was "not appropriate" to have Mulan's commanding officer as a lead. When Mulan joins the army here, she meets Commander Tung (Donnie Yen), who acts as a father figure / mentor, and a cute comrade named Chen Honghui (Yoson An), who bonds with Mulan as a boy and becomes a girl in she falls in love. She seems to have little interest even with the stencil up, resulting in a beautiful and notable negative from the princess / prince savior trop.
Yet it is the love story that made Mulan so meaningful to so many, even beyond, seeing an Asian character as a hero. A proponent of queer / pansexual love, before many understood what it meant, fans viewed Shang & # 39; s development of feelings for Mulan's male alter ego, ping, as not only comforting but also groundbreaking, even if a gay topic wasn't the intention of Disney was. In 2020, when the focus is on gender equality and positive portrayal of LGBTQ + at the forefront of culture, Shang & # 39; s removal has been labeled a misstep, or worse, just lingerie, but it really isn't. If you ask us, Honghui seems to have been quite seduced by Mulan in Boy Drag from the start, which suggests sexual fluidity in a more natural way than the cartoon.
If anything, what makes this story a series – and frankly makes most of the film incredible – is Liu himself, not the lead male role. With full lips and a beautiful bone structure, the Waifish actress couldn't even be bought for a minute as a boy in a bun. So when we get her big reveal, she'll fall super flat. The vibrancy the film tries to evoke from there almost doesn't make up for it, but with a budget of $ 200 million well spent, the movie's magical magic makes it all.
Available on Disney + through Premier Access ($ 29.99).