The Disney animated Mulan is not a movie I grew up on. I’ve seen it and remember liking it but I couldn’t sing a song from that movie to save my life. I didn’t feel the need to, nor did I want to see the animated movie before watching this one. So I am not going to do what a lot of reviewers seem to do, basing my review on how it differs from the movie.
When I became aware of Mulan (1998) I might have suspected that it was based on something, a lot of Disney animated movies are, but didn’t know for sure. The “Ballad of Mulan” is the story, sorry poem, that inspired both films. In this live action version Liu Yifei stars in the title role, alongside Tzi Ma (Treadstone, The Farewell), Donnie Yen (Rogue One), Gong Li (Hannibal Rising, Memoirs of a Geisha), Jason Scott Lee (Seventh Son), Yoson An (The Luminaries, Mortal Engines), and Jet Li (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon, Romeo Must Die).
Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife) is directing, with a first screenplay by Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story‘s Elizabeth Martin & Lauren Hynek, and a revised script by Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World‘s writers Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver.
Premise: When the Emperor of China issues a decree that each family must provide one man to serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Nothern invaders, a young Chinese maiden, Hua Mulan, disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father.
Review: It looks like a Disney film from the very first frame. Bold vibrant colors with beautiful landscapes, the cinematography is stunning. It’s the first Disney live-action fairy tale that seems remotely connected to the others. It’s very reminiscent of Aladdin in that respect. I can believe that these two movies are happening in the same world but in different places.
The colors and the set designs are the first thing that you might notice. The movie paints a realistic view of Imperial China while also adding fantasy and/or magical elements. It’s magical realisms on film. Mulan looks like a fairytale and it has the messages that go with it. There’s a moral to the story, quite a few of them actually.
Throughout the film there are nuggets of wisdom, messages, and they blend to the story – that may be why so many people are stuck on what’s not in the movie. It has (a) beautiful message(s) but everything seems to be done to mostly keep you on an even keel emotionally. The story is not too dramatic, too humorous – it’s quite serious in fact – or too frustrating. All those things are present but they didn’t go so deep into it to incite the full blown emotion. It makes the story feel like it doesn’t have enough heart or depth.
Mulan has a beautiful story with stunning imagery, paired to a great overall message interspersed with action scenes. However there’s not enough heart in it, the film could have been a better, more thrilling emotional rollercoaster.