Review: Mulan doesn’t have the strength of a raging fire

Courtesy of Disney

Disney has been tapping into its animated classics and remaking them into live-action films, and they have been making the studio a lot of money. The next live-action remake out of the House of Mouse is Mulan, and it will be available on Disney+ for a hefty price. Have no fear since the film will be available in December to all subscribers without an extra fee. As for our take on the film? Mulan was not as swift as the coursing river and did not have the strength of a raging fire.

With the live-action remakes bringing in a lot of cash for Disney, there’s no sign of slowing down. Who can blame them when films like Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King have grossed over $1 billion each. And then we have Mulan, an adaptation following a young woman’s journey of becoming a Chinese hero. Fans of the animated film will be disappointed that there are no songs or cute pet animals. At least there’s the music nods and a giant phoenix flying around.

Courtesy of Disney

Yifei Liu has quite the shoe to fill as Mulan, and she doesn’t quite reach that level. Since this is a remake, it’s hard to not compare her performance to that of the animated film. She’s not as endearing or charming as Ming Na Wen’s version, and she isn’t able to carry the film as the legendary hero. The supporting cast is all wasted, with the script not giving them much to work with.

The film also misses a lot of buildup for the character motivations. Mulan fights for the army to prevent her dad from joining, but in the film, she zips through all the beats like nothing. There are no dramatic scenes of her transformation to becoming a male soldier, which was a big deal back then. There’s one scene featuring both the father and daughter have a moment together, but the emotional connection was absent.

There are issues with the pacing, which interfered with character development and the consistency in battles. One scene had Mulan appearing out of nowhere behind enemy lines, and that’s due to poor editing or lack of footage.

Mushu is a fan-favorite character in the original film, but with the filmmakers focusing more on the Chinese tale, it’s not surprising to see him gone. In the remake, he’s replaced by a phoenix, but even that felt tacked on and pointless. In the end, its only purpose is to be a visual metaphor for Mulan’s determination.

Mulan at its core is about a woman who defies the odds by joining the Chinese army to fight a war against the Northern invaders. The film features fights after fights, but it never captures the scope or epicness.

As a fan of Jet Li and Donnie Yen, they have their moment to shine with their fight sequences. It’s not much, but it did put a smile on my face when it happened. Li’s performance feels off since it sounded like his voice was replaced by another actor with a deeper voice and a different accent. Maybe Li’s voice has changed over the years, but for those familiar with his work, it’s noticeable.

Star Wars’ The Force is inspired by qi, which is a vital force that flows through all beings in Chinese culture. In Mulan, the filmmakers decided to make qi similar to the Force, where certain characters now have a large amount similar to Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. In the wuxia films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, the protagonists have superhuman abilities mainly due to their dedication and training. In Mulan, she just has it.

Final Reaction

Mulan suffered from pacing issues and not once did I feel invested in the characters. The film has battles between the Chinese army and its invaders, but they never really felt epic. The highlights were Donnie Yen kicking ass and the music nod. As a result, Mulan doesn’t get down to business.

Score: 2/5 Atoms

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