Set during China’s imperial era, the remake of the beloved animated film, Mulan, follows the story of an adventurous girl from a run-down village. In the midst of a war with the Rouran warriors, the Chinese Emperor decreed that every family must enlist one man in the army. With only a crippled, old father being able to fulfill the role, Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) took it on herself to run away and enlist in his place disguised as a man.
A special element Disney added to the film was the Wuxia inspired fighting scenes. Wuxia is a popular Chinese genre that usually consists of awkward jumps that pause in the air and the absurd manipulation of objects. When the movie first showcased Wuxia, I initially thought Disney became cheap and gave viewers a production with substandard special effects. As the movie progressed, I realized that the loud ‘whoosh’ sounds and the unrealistic body movements were intentionally there to showcase Asian culture and to retain the fairytale aspect of the animated film.
Although the movie’s visuals were beautiful and well-thought out, the writing was not. Something that I have always loved about the animated Mulan was her transformation from a puny girl to an admirable warrior with strong leadership capabilities. This is a hefty contrast with the live-action Mulan because when she entered the army, she was already distinguished as someone audacious and mighty. The consequence of this terrible decision was no substantial character development, which made it difficult for Mulan to be someone worth rooting for and excruciatingly hard to sit through the production without feeling disinterested. Even when the truth about her gender was revealed and she was expelled from the army, she rejoined less than a day later without much persuasion.
While I did relish in watching a few scenes, the movie felt subpar overall. Mulan had so much potential and could have helped the Asian community find representation in entertainment tremendously. There is honestly no reason why Disney could not have given Mulan decent storytelling, especially since the movie is a half an hour longer than the original. Anyone who is interested in reliving the Mulan nostalgia should opt to rewatch the animated version.