Mulan Brings Great Honour to Disney: One Massive Movie, Three Mini(-ish) Reviews

Editor’s Note:
So originally our featured writer Alice was going to handle the Mulan review solo. But then our senior writer Sommer enjoyed it so much she wrote a full review on her Facebook page. So then I was like “why don’t we do a collab review? Haven’t done one of those in awhile.” So here we are. And here are our three spoiler-free reviews of Disney’s Mulan:

Loyal Julien Neaves – Editor

Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight!

Full disclosure: I am not the biggest fan of the original 1998 animated film. You can stop your booing. It was just kind of okay to me, and not on the level of classics like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin or The Lion King. Therefore I had zero emotional investment in this property, so no matter how this movie turned out my childhood was never in danger of being “destroyed.” With that mind I shall now demonstrate my Mulan reactions via this handy Vince McMahon meme:

For my non-Trini readers do pardon my Trinidadian dialect but allyuh sure this is a Disney movie! Because this is the most un-Disney movie I have ever seen. There is no silly mascot, little to no comedy and no singing until the end credits. Instead we get a grand, beautiful, martial arts fantasy film that kept me engaged from start to finish. Allyuh sure Disney didn’t sub-contract this one out?

The film stars Chinese-American actress Yifei Liu as the titular Mulan. an adventurous young woman in rural China whose ailing father is called to war against rampaging Rouran invaders. Fearing for his life she secretly goes in his stead, but because women are not allowed to fight she has to pretend to be a man. Think She’s The Man but with a lot more swordplay.

Dude looks like a lady (guitar riff), dude looks like a lady…

A lot of the film was on Liu’s shoulders and like two buckets of water she carried them well. She did a fantastic job both in the quiet emoting and the extravagant fight scenes. And this movie has some sweet looking fight scenes paired with some sublime visuals and cinematography.

The rest of the cast also do a very solid job. I spent the movie doing “spot the actor/actress.” Look Rosalind Chao from Deep Space Nine. There’s Jason Scott Lee from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. And look Donnie Yen! And is the Emperor Jet Li? It is Jet Li!

Something is rotten in the state of China…

This film is about a strong woman finding her place, so I will give way to the strong women of RMR. But I will say this is easily the best live action Disney film, even better than The Jungle Book which I thoroughly enjoyed. And this is definitely one for the non-Disney fans.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Brave Sommerleigh Pollonais – Senior Writer

She’s not a girl, not yet a warrior, but all she needs is time…

Okay. Now that my overly excited self has calmed down a bit, here’s my review of Mulan :).

Have you ever heard a song and thought, “Whoa! That was fantastic!” only to be blown away by the fact the song was actually a remix or a whole new take on something that already existed? Well that’s what Disney has done, with their latest remake of the animated classics, Mulan.

This was always going to be an ambitious endeavour. Taking what is deemed a classic and remaking it in a manner that will please both the original fans as well as newcomers is never an easy thing, as Disney has shown time and time again. While all of their live action adaptations have been commercially successful, to call the reviews mixed would be an understatement.

Hold up. What do you mean I’m not going to be in the live action movie? What? Joaquin Phoenix? He’s replacing me? He’s not even funny. Did you see Joker? What? Just A Phoenix? Well that’s even worse. Say no more. I’m calling my lawyer! *dialing* The dragons on Game of Thrones never had to deal with this crap…

Some of the live action adaptations are considered very good, like Cinderella or Lady and The Tramp. Some entertaining but flawed like Aladdin or Alice in Wonderland. But most have left a sour taste in the mouths of fans who grew up with these movies and had to watch all the magic left on the cutting room floor (cough) The Lion King (cough cough). I for one sat watching Beauty and The Beast with the same look I get on my face when I smell blue cheese. So I went into Mulan with little to no expectations.

I don’t know what the discussions were like in the writing room, but whatever happened, I hope Disney creators took notes because THIS IS HOW YOU DO A REMAKE!

A behind the scenes image of the screenwriter getting ready to let loose the script

Mulan tells the story of a young woman who, although her father taught her marital arts and she’s a talented fighter, is told she has to hide her warrior ways and be a more traditional daughter to bring honor to her family. When a warlord named Bori Khan (Jason Lee who himself starred in the live action adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book) threatens the kingdom and one man from every family is drafted to fight, Mulan sneaks off to fight in her injured father’s stead.

Epic is the best word I can use to describe the visuals of this remake, as director Niki Caro and her team brings ancient China to life with vibrant colours, sprawling vistas and wonderfully detailed costume designs and set pieces. Every scene feels vivid and draws you in to the details around you.

The smart choice to use the musical scores, instead of having the cast actually sing the songs, helped the story to flow beautifully. It added emotional weight to the acting and the story, and where people suddenly breaking out into song tends to remind you you’re watching a fantasy world, the use of the famous tunes to enhance instead of overwhelm was in a word, genius.

So you’re trying to tell me this movie has no singing? Not one song? Barbarians!

The pacing is perfect and I never once felt like I just wanted a scene to be over so I could get to the next one. Every moment was engaging and the actors, big parts and small alike, all delivered with their performances.

Disney’s movies always have a moral at its core, and Mulan was no different. Yes, you have your classic mainstay of the main character embracing their differences instead of hiding or conforming to everyone and everything around them, but they also did a wonderful job of throwing in empowering messages to little girls everywhere, without it feeling forced or cringe worthy. Watch Mulan discovering and revealing her “truth”, then compare it to moment when Jasmine breaks out into song with “Speechless” in the live action version of Aladdin and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

HUA LI: Smile, my daughter MULAN: I am smiling

Now I’m sure, due to certain comments made by Mulan star, Yifei Lui, there are those who may criticise or even put a negative spin, on this movie, as a large part of Mulan talks about fighting for your country and your emperor etc, etc, etc. The thing is, the original does that too. It just happened to come out at a time when people weren’t so quick to pick apart every little thing about a movie, and just enjoy it for what it is. To each his own I guess. Personally, I didn’t have an issue with it.

There is no doubt in my mind this live action adaptation was created with surgical precision. Every frame was carefully constructed and executed to deliver a film that can be adored by both hard core fans of the original and young/new viewers who have never even seen that version.

Disney, you’ve got yourself a winner here.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

True Alice Oscura – Featured Writer

For ROHAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mulan is Disney’s latest foray into live action adaptation. The story is adapted, like many other versions, from a Chinese folk poem called “The Ballad of Mulan” about a woman who pretends to be a man in order to take her ailing father’s place in a military draft. The poem dates back to over a thousand years.

In my opinion, Disney unfortunately has not been too successful in their live-action remakes with the exception of Cinderella. However, the real question here is…Did they get it right this time? Oh, heck yeah! It’s everything that we wished for and more in a live action. Let’s get into it.

Most intense tea party ever!

The first thing that we notice is the use of bright, vivacious colors in the costumes, set designs, special effects, and landscapes. Colours that are extremely important and significant to the Chinese culture are used. The movie itself is so gorgeous that you cannot take your eyes off the screen. The movement of the characters in the battle scenes and transformations are captivating and the use of the familiar songs adapted as background musical scores at the right moments is a wise move on the path of Disney. Now, don’t get me wrong, I grew up listening and singing along to these beautiful songs, but we find that they are terribly out of place in most of these adaptations. However, Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” does return as the title song as well as it should because I always taught it is one of Disney’s most powerful songs to date.

I call this style “Witch-Fu”

We have excellent character development even from the supporting cast. I found myself wanting to know more about Gong Li’s villain character Xian Lang. Personally would not mind if they actually did a spin-off prequel to show us her past. Plus, I thought her powerful Chi skills and costume design very mesmerising, which brings me to another point on the use of Chi and it is representation as the basis of a person’s spirit in Chinese culture. The balance between light and dark, good, and evil and that some people’s Chi can be more powerful than others which would explain why certain people are able to advance and excel at certain tasks better than others. I thought it was brilliant and is a big notch in the belt for Chinese culture especially now.

There is more depth in this Mulan because the comedy has been scaled back a bit which I personally don’t mind because it takes away from the power of the story. I also noticed that significant attention was paid to Mulan’s look during the battle sequences from not only body positioning but the movement of her hair. Now why do you ask? It is because hair in Chinese culture is also quite significant in showing strength and political or social status.

What I loved about this film is director Niki Caro’s use of what can be passed over as just something to make the movie seem pleasing to the eye, but in essence has a much deeper meaning and adds strength to a character that has existed in Chinese lore for such a long time. You can see that there was great respect given to the original material and to culture that Mulan is a part of. Mulan has always been an excellent role model for our young girls and with this version I feel like it can be more relatable for girls who are told that they are not capable of doing something because of their gender.

War, huh, yeah, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Sing it again!

Even in today’s society young girls are still being discouraged to go for careers that may be considered as male-dominated. Sometimes, they are told to suppress their talent and skills because they would not want negative attention to be drawn to themselves especially in the age of social media. We should not be afraid to stand up for ourselves especially when we do it to protect and support our family.

Now that Disney finally got it right, what can we expect from future lice action adaptations? Can they continue the recipe?

Rating: 9 out of 10

So what did you think of Mulan? And for more from Sommer you can check her out as Moviejunkies Cont’d on Facebook and watch her movie review videos on YouTube. For more from Alice you can find her as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, her Instagram is alice_oscura and her Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. And for more epic posts you can follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here.

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