The live-action remake of Mulan had already had its fair share of troubles before being dumped on Disney Plus. Through a stalled production in 2010 and difficulties in development it has struggled on. Despite people rallying against the remake for having no musical numbers, no talking dragon, and no other animated animals, Mulan persevered and is finally out to the masses.
And we’re thankful for it. After all, the most beautiful flower is the one that blooms in adversity.
Directed by Niki Caro and based on Chinese folklore, Mulan revolves around the titular rambunctious young woman who wishes to bring honour to her family. However, her spirited nature means she is often outcast and misjudged. When the Emperor calls for sons to fight in a war, Mulan is dismayed that her ailing father must fight once more. Secretly taking his place, Mulan heads off to fight instead,
Yes, gone are the musical numbers and Eddie Murphy but in place of them are incredible performances, a stunning score, and impressive battle sequences that will get your heart racing. Caro adapts the story, borrowing influence from the centuries old legend and the nineties cartoon, with a lot of might. Whilst the script may feel somewhat lacking, especially over the bloated two-hour runtime, Caro and crew add vibrant colour, incredible costuming, and striking set-pieces to keep you invested.
Mandy Walker’s score is towering and impressive. Using some inspiration from and musical cues from the cut numbers, the score adds energy to the fights, training, and war yet needed respite in the quieter, more emotional moments.
The performances are wonderful. Liu Yifei as Mulan finds a wonderful core to her character. A young girl who struggles to balance the difference energies within her as well as her duties to her family. As she goes to war, Yifei quietly transforms Mulan into this smart warrior.
Gong Li is her counterpart as the mystical witch who leads the Similarly shot down by her male peers, Li serves as antagonist yet somewhat inspiration for Mulan as the pair have a grudging respect for one another. It is impressive to see such a relationship and, though there are familiar male face such as Jason Scott Lee, Donie Yen, Jet Li, and Tzi Ma, it is Li and Yifei who powerfully lead the cast.
There are many moving moments within the film which sees Mulan transform from a daughter to a warrior to the legend herself, whilst also keeping her (somewhat) grounded in reality. As Mulan confronts what it means to be true to herself, the movie also examines the difficulties and prejudices faced for being a strong, independent woman. The sequences where Mulan faces Xian Lang, an exiled witch who dared to be powerful, are emotional as the two women spar yet find a commonality in their plights. There is further exploration of femininity in Mulan’s interactions with her sister, her father the other soldiers, as well as her culture – whether it is negative or positive. This culminates in an absolutely inspiring heroine for young girls and women alike, especially from an Asian descent.
Overall, Mulan is spectacular. Though most of these live-action remakes are dampened by being unnecessary ventures, Caro and the visionary team behind this take astonish with their take on the story. Mulan is a colourful and vibrant movie with bombastic battles and a heroine with a ferocious heart. Entertaining for all.
It is just a shame that Disney could not follow the virtues of the film – loyal, brave, and true – and release the film in cinemas. Even for a little while: Grand movies such as this deserve to be seen on the big screen.