Look…I get it…this film has issues. One of the worst was at the very beginning, with the childhood scene, where Mulan is shown to have an overly powerful “chi” power. I think this was a bad representation of how chi works. And, if not for her failures later in the film, potentially doomed Mulan to being a Mary Sue.
Now, it is no secret that I hate the Disney animated films being remade as “live-action” films, and, I put the quotes around those words because The Lion King was NOT live-action, it was still animated. Despite how I feel, along comes Mulan, a 2020 “remake” that changed that. Hell, I didn’t even want to see it. But the ladies in the house put it on, while I was working on some art in the same room. But, my attention was drawn away from work completely when I heard the tea scene. I tried to keep working, I even set a mirror up next to me so I could watch the TV behind me as I worked. But, that lasted about ten minutes when I simply turned from my work and decided to just watch the film for a couple of minutes.
Famous last words.
Then, I was about half an hour into the film when I noticed the two females in the house were not watching anymore. One had gotten up and left the room, while the other was now busily gaming online. But I, the man in the house, was the ONLY one watching the film. And I watched that film to the very end. And I must admit I got emotional, too. Not even the original Disney animated Mulan impacted me that much.
Honestly, I am not a fan of the 1998 film…or any of the Disney animated films that came out under Michael Eisner, save for The Black Cauldron. Eisner’s reign was from 1984 through 2005, and I felt the films he produced were overly formulaic, uninspired, as Eisner was a businessman with no vision, unlike Walt who not only was a master at building and running the business but was also a creative genius. I mean I saw them all…as I AM a parent. I am just not a fan.
But, I digress.
What I found interesting in this film, is that as woke as Disney is, they made a story where the seminal character is a female who embodied courage and strength, both physically and spiritually. But didn’t take the neo-anti-masculine and anti-patriarchal approach, with a ton of excessive “Girl Power,” as they have done in other property films. (Insert the cringy Avengers: Endgame Girl Power A-Team clip) Instead, this film embraced the importance of family and of fathers and showed Mulan struggling to be as good as the men around her as she disguised herself as one of them, AND had significant moments where her being a female played heavily into, but it never felt overdone. In fact, it felt like they did it just right, as her being a female in a man’s world was the seminal theme of the story.
I was also pleased that they didn’t softsoap any details of Mulan’s betrayal of her father’s trust or the warriors she served with. Having her beg forgiveness for having done so, later. How not Rian Johnson of you.
And I want to talk for a moment about the elephant in the room: Communist China. I found it both odd and refreshing that as cozy as Disney is with Communist China, that Disney put so much emphasis on family and individual identity in the film, which is NOT up to communist code. However, that part of the movie will play well with the people in China, as family and honor is a core tenement of Chinese culture. Oh, I am always cool with supporting law enforcement, but NOT cool with it when it is in a communist-suppressed society, and I do not like that Liu Yifei showed support for the communist-controlled police, which means she is against the liberty seeking protesters in China.
But, that is for a conversation on another day, and another format.
Disney gets a B+ on their handling the core themes in Mulan.
They get a B on the music.
They get a D+ on the writing.
They get an A+ on the casting.
They get an A+ on the acting.
They get a C- on the direction.
They get a very liberal D+ on the visual FX. Though we are used to CG environments since 300 and Sin City, I felt it would have been nice if they’d made them a little more realistic in this film.
Based on the ten-point grading scale, that leaves Mulan with a score of B-.
A solid film demonstrating the importance of family and female strength, though marred by weak writing and subpar effects.