Mulan, a warrior at heart, goes to war in place of her father after the Emperor summons the Imperial Army to defend their country against an evil warlord.
This is not the Mulan of the ’90s, let’s just get that out of the way now. Not that that’s in any way a bad thing. I’m saying this with all due respect to the animated film. It may not be in my top five but one that I enjoyed nonetheless.
There are no songs, there are no walking talking dragons. Disney could have gone two ways with this: keep the lighthearted kid-friendly vibe and create a highly CGI’ed movie geared towards the younger kids, or keep the film more grounded and created a sprawling adventure epic with large battle sequences. They chose the latter. And I for one am very glad they did. The original Mulan was great for what it was, but with the live-action remake, the chance was given to create something more. And they succeeded in creating both a grounded and a wonderfully mystic epic all in one.
Mulan is introduced as an adventurous kid who, much to the dismay and embarrassment of her village, goes completely against what they believe a woman should be. She’s playful, she shows no fear, she aspires to be more than just a match for a husband. She sees her chance when the Imperial Army is summoned by the Emperor. When it is decreed that every family will present one man to fight and defend their kingdom, Mulan’s father pledges his service. A frail, older man, he says he is honored to serve but he knows it will only end in sacrifice. Mulan knows this as well and takes her father’s sword and armor and rides to take his place, disguising and presenting herself as her father’s son.
I won’t get into any more specifics to avoid spoilers. But I will say that it was $30 well spent. The look and feel of this film is wonderful. And while I’m sure that CGI is used quite a bit, it’s very well done and just adds to the visual appeal of the movie rather than crowding it with effects and characters that would only detract from what the core feeling of this film is supposed to be.
The battles are a little fewer and far between than I would have expected, but I feel this is done for a couple of different reasons. One, in place of the large continuous battle scenes, they have been interlaced with more personal touches, focusing on individual soldiers and the movie’s main character. And the other simply because, well, it’s a Disney movie. The battle scenes serve their purpose without becoming overly violent. Put simply, it’s a PG-13 movie, and so sho much more would push the boundaries of what the rating, and Disney, would allow.
The casting is also top notch. I had never heard of actress Liu Yifei before Mulan was announced but after seeing her performance as Mulan, she is definitely one to watch. Her fellow soldiers were also great additions and all showed great camaraderie on film and good chemistry with each other. And it goes without saying that the martial arts genre fan in me was ecstatic to see the addition of the great Jet Li as the Emperor and the also great Donnie Yen as Commander Tung. While their screen time is limited, they both have such charisma that it adds a huge weight to the film and made me wish their characters were shown more than they were.
Oh, and I can’t forget Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan. I’ll always see him as the actor who became Bruce Lee. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and you’ll see. He does a great job at the villain and perfectly exudes evilness whenever he is on screen. And keep your eyes open for a cameo by the original Mulan, Ming Na Wen, towards the film’s ending. Definitely brought a smile to my face to see her if even for a few seconds.
I was racking my brain to find any misgiving I might have with this film. And after much thought, I can’t think of one. Sure, the battles could have been a little longer, but with the runtime being just shy of two hours, I think it was a great blend of epic sword and sorcery and a more personal character story. I, for one, am definitely in for repeated viewings of this one and I think you will be too.
Just a quick little side note about my thoughts on this. Yes, the Coronavirus has changed things. We all know this. Theaters are just starting to open back up. But Disney made a different choice in releasing this film. They could have waited and waited and waited some more for an ideal chance to release it to theaters but it would have been a big gamble on a 200 million dollar epic. The fact that it’s offered on Disney+ at what they call their Premium Access may anger some, but really why should it?
Okay, so it’s an extra $30 on top of whatever you are paying for your subscription. But for a film that was originally made as a tentpole summer release for Disney, it’s perfectly understandable they would make this decision. If you were to see this in theaters, at $10 average per ticket (at least where I live), if I took my wife and two kids I’d end up spending more than $30 anyway. And now, having paid $30, I own it. So aside from the absence of a large screen and surround sound, I believe I came out on top.
The act of purchasing was a snap. I personally purchased it on my iPad through the Disney+ app which entailed tapping on the “Get Premier Access” option and confirming the $29.99 fee. This took all of ten seconds and my thumbprint for verification on my tablet and it was on my account and ready to go. I ended up watching it through the Disney+ app on my Xbox One. Since I had payment options already set up on my iPad it was the obvious and quickest choice for me.
Head on over to Disney+ and watch it for yourself. Let me know what you think!