Movie Review: Mulan is an Expensive But Ordinary Movie with Good Moral Lessons


History has always been painted with stories of people that performed glorious feats and sacrifice for family. This stories like that of Chinese Legend Mulan still resonate into the actions of the present.

Disney in its latest movie, Mulan tells the story of Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) who disguises herself as a man to join the army in the stead of her sickly father – Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma), during a general conscription.

The movie is a live-action remake of Disney’s 1998 animated film of the same name, based on the Chinese folklore “The Ballad of Mulan”. The animated film was directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook

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The movie was directed by Niki Caro, the director of award-winning movie Whale Rider. The movie had a budget of US$200 million, making it one of Disney’s most expensive live-action remakes and the most expensive film ever directed by a woman.

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Mulan, unlike a lot of Disney’s live-action remakes, is not a shot-for-shot remake of the 1998 original. The movie makes relatively changes like the addition of the mysterious power CHI that made Mulan special.

The 2020 movie saw that ancestor of Mulan’s family which was a “great stone dragon”(Mushu) become a phoenix bird.

Generally, though the plot of the 2020 film is nearly identical to that of the animation. The film’s plot takes place in China during the Han dynasty, where Fa Mulan, daughter of aged warrior Fa Zhou, who is disinterested following the tradition of being a proper lady whose only ambition is marrying well.

When the emperor calls for general conscription to counter a Hun invasion, Mulan impersonates a man to take her father’s place. The movie follows Mulan as she trains in the army and fights for her country.

The movie was rated 75% on rotten Tomatoes

The Disney film features top actors like Donnie Yen, star of popular Ip Man franchise and Jet Li, as the Emperor of China.

While the movie was a visual marvel with colourful scenes with unique graphics and fighting choreography the storyline looked ordinary with little depth.

The revelation of Mulan as a woman, which should have been a major turning point in the movie didn’t feel like a true threat, because the movie was vague and broad in so many ways.

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Another major highlight which is the addition of Magic was under-explored. Although the sorceress Xian Lang (Gong Li), a shapeshifter in the service of the Rouran invader Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) added even more visual ecstasy to the movie the plot around her was very vague.

Despite its hollowness, the cinematic pleasure of the movie brought in a lot of views. The movie was premiered on Disney Plus on September 4, 2020, instead of theatres due to the Pandemic.

The premiered on the app for a one-time fee of a $30 “Premiere Access” stream in addition to a $7 Disney Plus subscription. Following the launch, Disney+ mobile installs rose by 68%, compared with one week prior. Similarly, Consumer spending in the app also grew by 193% during the same time period.

Mulan already has more than 50,000 reviews on the site. In terms of revenue generated, Mulan has already made over $1.5 million in the first few days of viewing.

In comparison, the 1998 animated version grossed over $304 million. It also earned a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination and won several Annie Awards including Best Animated Feature.

In summary, Mulan with its great visuals would be lovely for the cinemas but it lacks a spark that makes it rather forgettable. However, it is a good family movie you can watch with your kids as it teaches morals like truth, sacrifices and justice.

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