Mulan (2020) Review

By Alexandra Margelu, Riley Hilbert, and John Kinney
OCT 25, 2020

On September 4th the Disney live-action film of Mulan was released onto the streaming service Disney Plus. Between its release date and October 13, it grossed 66.8 million dollars. The movie took five years to complete. Chris Bender, Jake Weiner, and Jason T. Reed readapted the 1998 musical animation Mulan into the 2020 exhilarating Action/Adventure Mulan. The writers and producers have retained the main storyline of the 1998 Mulan.  Like its predecessor, the original animated Disney movie, Mulan continues to be a feminist film, as a young woman defies gender expectations to save her father.

The movie begins with Mulan (Crystal Rao), a little girl with an unusually large amount of “Qi”. The movie explains “Qi” as mystical energy that males are pre-dispositioned to possess; improving the physical abilities of warriors. Mulan (Yifei Liu) grows up in her small village, where her only job and form of gaining honor for her family is through marriage. She meets the village matchmaker and everything goes comically wrong, showing that the traditional female path is not the road Mulan will travel. Meanwhile, invaders led by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) threaten imperial China leading to the enlistment of Chinese men. One man from each family is to join the army, but the Hua family only has daughters, forcing Mulan’s wounded and elderly father to join for their family’s honor. Not wanting him to die in battle, Mulan steals her father’s armor and sword, disguises herself as a man and rides her horse to the training camp. There she must hide the fact that she is a female or risk death and dishonor. Over time she gains friends, including Honghui (Yoson An), and trains with them to eventually fight in battle. The rest of the movie revolves around Mulan battling her enemies as well as her dishonesty. To save her fellow soldiers, the emperor, and all of China, Mulan must not only accept herself but allow others to know the truth. She must embody the three values: loyal, brave, and true.

Mulan overcomes not only gender stereotypes but her dishonesty. The rising action would be the internal battle between herself and the close-minded society as well as the journey to gain honor for herself and her family. When the climax of defeating Bori Khan occurs and she attains her honor, rather than continuing a warrior lifestyle Mulan returns to her loving family, as the savior of China.  

There were constant debates about the 2020 Mulan adaptation which included the removal of characters and music, the addition of characters, the cultural inaccuracy of “Qi”, the change of Mulan’s love interest as well as the lack of love, and the predominantly white crew. The deficits in Asian representation among the crew were compensated by an all Asian cast. Cultural accuracy was prevalent in the little details, from the round village huts that Mulan’s family lived in to the costumes and hairstyles worn. The 2020 rendition of Mulan attempted to differentiate itself from the original by shifting the focus from comedy to action, but, unfortunately, its infatuation with preserving cultural accuracy leads to a disconnect with characters and scenes for the audience. The decision to adopt a more serious and mature tone caused the movie to have a boring atmosphere.

Mulan left much to be desired for its viewers and was not what many people expected from Disney. This motion picture has many changes from the original animation leaving numerous individuals uninterested and bored. Overall, this film was disappointing, and failed to maintain the sense of enjoyment that most Disney movies create. This movie will be more entertaining to individuals that prefer more mature content rather than original musical animation.

Feature Image: iNews