Only in 2020 could a remake of “Mulan” be one of the year’s most controversial movies.
The movie has been thrown under a significant amount of scrutiny for a plethora of reasons. Many are disappointed by changes to the original film – most notably the absence of Mushu, the lovable dragon who provided comic relief.
The most serious source of controversy comes from Liu Yifei – the actress playing Mulan – and her support for the Hong Kong police. During the Hong Kong protests last year, the actress shared a post expressing solidarity with the police. As a result, many have chosen to boycott the film, a choice made easier due to Disney’s decision to release “Mulan” on Disney Plus for the steep price of $30. Disney has yet to disclose when “Mulan” will be available on other streaming services.
It should go without saying that I strongly disagree with Liu’s stance on the Hong Kong police. However, this is not a review of her political beliefs. It is a review of the film she stars in. When I watched “Mulan” I did what I could to put all of the context out of my mind and try to simply enjoy what I was watching.
But it’s pretty hard to enjoy something as bad as the remake of “Mulan.”
“Mulan” is the story of Hua Mulan, played by Liu, a woman who disguises herself as a man so she can serve in the army and prevent her father from going away to fight. It’s a remake of the animated Disney classic that was a part of many a childhood, including my own. It’s also a complete mess which fails to justify its own existence.
Coming up with positive feedback for “Mulan” is surprisingly challenging. I can at least say the movie had a pretty solid pace. I didn’t feel the two hours. It doesn’t change the fact that I spent two hours watching it instead of doing literally anything else with my life.
The acting is pretty bad across the board. Liu is fine, but all of her fellow soldiers are really awful. The part which bothered me the most was the complete misuse of Donnie Yen and Jet Li, two of the most iconic heroes of martial arts films. Not only are they completely miscast in their roles, but they’re given absolutely nothing to do. Both of them are highly-skilled individuals, but neither of them are given a chance to show off just how talented they are.
One scene that really got to me was the training montage. Remember how awesome “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” was in the original? The scene showed how quickly they grew in a short amount of time, and all the while there was an absolute banger playing in the background. In the remake, it’s just a montage. It’s remarkably similar to the original one, but without the song that made it such a classic scene.
The montage is just one example of a really pervasive issue where the remake references the original without fully committing. There are several moments where music from the original plays, but it always feels out of place considering the ways the remake distances itself from the original.
There’s also a complete failure to balance the tone. A lot of the movie is really cartoonish, which is by no means a bad thing on its own. But it’s contrasted by significantly less cartoonish battle sequences.
Which brings me to my final point: who is “Mulan” supposed to be for? It doesn’t work as either a remake or as an update. There’s no way kids would enjoy it more than the original, but it doesn’t have any elements designed to appeal to an older audience. What’s left is an inconsistent mess unlikely to satisfy anyone.
I see no reason to watch this version of “Mulan.” If you’re still curious, watch it when it’s free on Disney Plus on Dec. 4. Otherwise, go back to watching the original. It’s infinitely more deserving of your time.
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