Movie Review | Mulan (2020)

“I will bring honor to us all.”

– Hua Mulan, Mulan Live Action

Genre:  Action, Adventure, Drama
Directors: Niki Caro
Writers: Rick Jaffa , Amanda Silver, Elizabeth Martin, Lauren Hynek
Stars: Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father. — Walt Disney Pictures [1]


REVIEW

Can’t believe I finally got to see this movie after most of the world was put on lock down in March.

Live action of animated movies have always earned a lot of flack. People criticize the actors, the treatment, even the slight changes in story line. I’ve read a lot of reviews ever since the days of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and even The Lion King (which I have yet to watch). I had high hopes for Mulan, and it did not disappoint.

The story of Mulan is actually more impressive than any Disney version. Mulan is based on an ancient Chinese folk story called the Ballad of Mulan (木兰辞 Mùlán Cí). The Chinese mùlán means ‘magnolia flower’. It is a short folk story comprised of 392 Chinese characters that was created in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534). The Ballad of Mulan has been a popular tale since the Tang Dynasty (618–907). In China, Mulan is a byword for heroines and Mulan’s story is a household tale to encourage girls to be brave or to “make a man out of you” as the popular saying goes nowadays. [2] There is no evidence to prove that Mulan actually existed but the culture of the Northern Wei Dynasty did exist which provided much context to he story.

For those, like me, who grew up (well kinda… I was 16…so sue me) with the animated version, I hope you’re not disappointed that there was no Mushu, Captain Li Shang, and characters randomly breaking out into song. The live action has a more serious note and might not be well accepted by the actual kids who watch the movie with their parents. I have to give it to live action when they gave a nod to the Cricket and made him human.

The live action showed us a much more realistic (minus the woman using “Dark Magic”) of what life was like in ancient China – family dynamics, the community, their culture of girls needing to know “their place” in the world and how a girl can bring honor to her family. The world hasn’t gone that far as those tropes still resonates in today’s world and cultures.

Quiet, composed, graceful, disciplined… these–are the qualities we see in a good wife.

The Matchmaker, Mulan Live Action

There are still cultures, where girls are overlooked in favor of sons, who are taught that they can only do certain things, who have no voices. That is still a reality in if we think our world has become modern and people are now free to be able to do what they want. Mulan had to hide her gift – a large part of who made her herself, just to be accepted.

The character development of Mulan here was expected and surprising at the same time. Expected, because we know she went off to war in her father’s place. I was kinda disappointed the live action version didn’t cut her hair with her father’s sword. I guess she looked androgynous enough to pass as a small guy with her hair tied up and her face all dirty. And then surprising, because unlike the animated version, she actually had the aura of a warrior even if there was a tiny hint of romance with her fellow soldier Honghui, and I knew she’d definitely take up the Emperor’s offer to serve in the army at the end.

I bawled my eyes out at that ending scene with her family. Yes, I usually always cry during the sad parts in movies. But this one hit closer to home.

“You were always here,
yet I see you for the first time.”

– Hua Zhou, Mulan Live Action

Not every parent will admit to making mistakes in their children’s lives and apologize for it. Mulan’s dad did see her, especially when she was young. But he too needed to conform to the dictates of society. Only on the brink of losing is daughter did he realize what he did which made him stop caring about what others thought. As long as his daughter was safe and back with them, then he was going to shout it to the world that she meant everything to him. It was a shocking bonus when it was revealed to the village that Mulan saved China and the Emperor. So much for those judgmental minds who thought Mulan didn’t have the right upbringing.

***

I’m glad it wasn’t like the animated version. I like watching Chinese Historical Fantasy Dramas, so this was right up my alley. I didn’t need Disney to make it exactly like the animated one to enjoy it. I loved the subtle hints all throughout the movie and how they chose to tell the story closer to the original one.


My review would not be complete if I didn’t end it with the new recording of Reflection sang by Christina Aguilera.

Have you seed Mulan yet? What did you think of it? What other animated movies should have alive action version? I’m thinking Anastasia should have one. Is anyone still anticipating the live action version of The Little Mermaid?

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