MULAN is the latest live-action Disney remake, and personally, one of the few I’ve been most excited about since I learned of it’s existence. I’ve always been a huge fan of the original film. That original movie, at least in some ways, formed my youth and made me into the man I am today; partially for the music, which I love, but I also love the characters and the story, too. It’s the values in that original film that are endogenous to this version, too, so let’s get crackin!
This review is brought to you by the word of the day – ENDOGENOUS: Having an internal cause or origin.
As I mentioned before, I grew up watching Disney’s Mulan. So, one thing I had to remind myself while watching was to just leave those expectations behind and accept whatever I found in this variation. I urge most of you to do the same as well, because this is a live-action remake that takes quite a bit of creative liberties. Is it the same story? Yes, absolutely. Is it the same spirit? No. Not really. If you have any expectations going into this film at all, you might be disappointed. Even though I was fighting the urge, I wanted to expect Mushu. Mushu wasn’t there; something else was, though. Nor were those funny ancestor statues there. Nor was the grandmother and lucky cricket. Nor was the memorable side characters in the war, and obviously, the iconic music was also absent. A lot of these things you come to expect out of Mulan because that was a huge part of the film, and it helped form the attitude and spirit of the original Disney cartoon, but none of that is really necessary for this film to work. The only things that are important are the character of Mulan and the overall story itself. I actually think the film is more impactful and important than it ever has been before.
By getting rid of the grandma, cricket, ancestor statues, Mushu, and silly war characters, the film got significantly more mature and developed a much more meaningful backbone. In short, it grew up. More than that, the film had a much more important stance on feminism. The original cartoon had it as well, but throughout the decisions Mulan makes in the film, it feels less like something Mulan is obligated to experience and more like something that she voluntarily faces, which in turn, empowers her as a capable character. I also loved that her character was introduced as somebody who has always had the potential to do more, but was always held back by societal expectations. That original Disney cartoon is classic and unforgettable, but I argue that this version did a much better job at portraying the direty of why this was actually important to everyone. Not only that, but this film introduced a new villain that wasn’t in the original movie and mirrored Mulan’s own experiences, as the villainous group of warriors also have a lone woman on their team who is basically in there for feminist belief reasons, too.
Finally, just from a technical vantage point, this film is gorgeous, it really is. It has a very keen eye on how lighting and color work, combined with the constantly impressive camerawork, cinematography, and editing made for one heck of a unforgettable experience overall.
If I had anything negative to say about it, it would be that in striving to be more serious, it sacrificed some of the characteristics that helped make the entire cast stand out in the original. What do I mean by that? I mean a lot of side characters are unimpressive and forgettable. When thinking back to the cartoon film, I can still picture every character as clear as day. Everyone was really memorable in different ways, but the only character that was truly memorable here was Mulan herself. The rest of the crew fighting in the war was forgettable, there was no Mushu, so they didn’t have that going for them. They removed the love interest of the captain, probably in reflection of the #MeToo movement where authority figures hitting on those under them can be seen as creepy. The love interest was sort of replaced in a different character, but that’s not as unique or picture perfect.
So, is it a perfect movie? Not really, but I think I can easily say it’s my newest favorite live-action Disney remake. That used to be Cinderella because that movie changed things up just enough and answered questions I’ve always had, like why are the evil stepsisters evil the first place? Mulan did basically the same thing, but because it’s always been a better story, I now prefer this over any of the others. So, let’s go ahead and look at my final rating.
From an unbiased vantage point, there’s a lot of great stuff going on behind the scenes like visuals, cinematography, editing, and even music and sound…even though it’s not the same as the original. From my personal, biased point of view, I had a great time with it, so that score is 96%. Averaging out these two scores together, we come to a final rating of 93%, 93 out of 100 possible stars, granting Mulan with a letter grade of A.
Guys, let’s hear your thoughts on Mulan in the comment section below. Which Disney Live Action remake do you think is the best of the best? And until next time, as always…