Disney is at it again.
Bringing the heroine Mulan to life, Disney continues their streak of producing live-action versions of their animated classics. As with other recent live-action Disney films (Aladdin and Mary Poppins Returns come to mind), Mulan is filled with stunning colours and visuals. It offers impressive cinematography, including great camera tricks during fight scenes.
Just like the 1998 animated film, Mulan is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. Less prim and proper than the typical girls of that culture and time period, Mulan (Yifei Liu) is more of an adventurous free spirit. At that time, girls were expected to bring honour to their family by marrying a good husband. Understandably, Mulan seemed completely disinterested in being married off to someone she didn’t know yet she is reminded that, as a daughter, she needs to learn her place.
Fans of the original Mulan will notice a number of changes to the story, such as the addition of a new female villain. Initially, I was concerned that a villain with magical powers (more specifically, a witch with shape shifting abilities) would seem a bit silly or unrealistic but I admit that Xianniang (Li Gong) was one of my favourite aspects of this new installment. It was fascinating to see the yin-yang relationship between Mulan and Xianniang. Though using her powers for evil, Xianniang knows exactly what Mulan is going through as both women have strong Chi. But how could that be? At that time, people seemed to believe that Chi was for warriors, not for women. Despite being on opposite sides, there is an understanding and respect between these women. I appreciated that it wasn’t a typical “good guy/bad guy” relationship.
By taking her father’s place in the army, Mulan does the respectable thing as there were no other men in her family. She knew her father would not survive another battle. He could barely walk as it was. However, she had to do this in secret as a woman would never be accepted into the army. She had to hide who she was and pretend to be just another man.
When Mulan finally chose to reveal her true self, that is when she became her strongest and most courageous. The only thing that mattered in that moment was doing everything in her power to save lives. She longed to bring honour to her family, but in her own way.
Mulan’s father, Zhou (Tzi Ma) always said that “there is no courage without fear”. During her journey, Mulan gets to explore this idea and really come to understand its meaning, particularly in the setting of a war. I think that it is a very fitting lesson for this film.
Although the bulk of the film is based during a war and included a number of fight scenes, they refrained from any blood and gore. With a PG-13 rating, I think the live action Mulan should be appropriate for most older children but I wouldn’t suggest showing it to the younger crowd.
Although not the groundbreaking film I thought it could have been, Mulan was very entertaining and I would recommend it. The cast was perfection and I believe they did the animated classic justice.
Mulan is streaming now on Disney+.