Mulan review: How does the movie fare after its long awaited release?
Not a reflection of the original we all know and love…
Mulan, one of the most anticipated releases of 2020 for Disney fans, is finally screening in cinemas after being postponed for months due to the pandemic.
Seats booked, we anxiously waited, all the while performing martial art moves (not quite as artistic as in the movie), to try and to dodge spoilers and other reviews in our path.
Before you head in to watch the film, it’s worth noting that Disney strived to fix the historical inaccuracies and other errors it had made in the original film.
That being said though, how much did Disney actually change…
The film begins and immediately we are introduced to a major tweak in the tale. Unlike the animated movie that released back in 1998, Mulan has powerful chi (qi) – an ability that allows her to perform acrobatic tricks, run along walls, kick away swords thrown at her and much more.
But, she isn’t the only one with this superpower. We are introduced to Xianniang – another female character with similar and stronger abilities who is in cahoots with the enemy (Rouran warriors, not Huns) as they look to capture the Emperor.
That’s plenty changed already, in our opinion, but soon fans of the original are given a bit of reprieve as they witness Mulan taking her weak father’s place in the imperial army.
With eyes glued to the screen and invested in Mulan, as she tries to keep her true identity a secret from her comrades, her cool chi abilities get pushed to the sidelines of our mind. But this isn’t the only fact we tend to push aside…
With no talking animals or musical numbers (sigh), we inadvertently forget that this is a Disney production. Upon further research, we understand that this was done deliberately by film director, Niki Caro, to tell of the dark tale in a more realistic manner. Another source also pointed out that soldiers do not sing when going into battle. Fair point.
There to bring us back, however, is the dramatic dialogues and artistic action scenes. Come to think of it, Mulan from the ’95 original didn’t have any intense one-on-one combat scenes, with the Disney princess only using her smarts and quick-thinking to eventually defeat the enemy.
So, while the fight scenes are an added bonus to the live-action remake, it perhaps teetered a little close to being over-the-top and some scenes even reminded us of a fight scene akin to that in a Bollywood movie.
Credit must be given to actress Yifei Liu who played Mulan, as cinematographers confirmed she did 90 per cent of her own stunts in the film. Impressive. Prior to her fight scenes in the movie, Yifei Liu also had to battle 1,000 other actresses to get the role, but while certain scenes did show off a warrior spirit, at times her performance fell a bit flat, leaving us wanting more.
The many hurdles Mulan faces on the road to her victory seemed almost seamless, even for a Disney movie. Xianniang’s role is vital to this remake and at times even steals the spotlight away from the actual hero of the film. However, she was missing from the original and the story still ended the same way, which left us wondering if she was even needed in the film at all, as cool a character as she was.
Had she been the only protagonist in the film, it would have been different – but that would be changing the original release a bit too much.
That being said, with all the add-ons and strong characters the film is enjoyable, but we expected a little bit more drama and curveballs without straying too far.
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Did we miss some of the absent characters? Yes.
Did we miss the songs? A strong yes!
Did we enjoy the movie? Yes. But, you wouldn’t have to twist our arms off to decide if we preferred the live-action or the animated film… because the answer will always be the latter.
Verdict: Worth a watch, but we reckon that those who haven’t seen the animated film will love it more. 3.5/5
Run time: 2hrs, PG, at cinemas across the UAE now, book your tickets at whatson.ae/cinema