Jacob Richardson | 8/09/2020
A visually spectacular remake that captures the heart of the original, without slavish recreationalism.
When northern forces attack, the Imperial Army is rallied and every Chinese family must provide one male to fight for the Emperor (Jet Li). Rather than let her aged father fight, Mulan (Yifei Liu) steals his armour, sword and conscription notice and joins in his place. To survive, and make her way in the army, she disguised herself as a man - but to truly win the war and save the dynasty, she’ll have to reckon with who she truly is.
Mulan is a truly incredible visual spectacular - so much so that the fact you can only watch it on Disney+ on your tv makes a much greater shame than other diversions to streaming services of late. Sweeping vistas, incredible acrobatics, and gorgeous cinematography make this one of the most beautiful Disney films ever committed to celluloid.
The film removes some of the more fantastical and unbelievable elements of the animation. Gone is the dragon Mushu; so too the musical numbers. Even some of the more unbelievable moments of the original are removed, like the group bathing occurrence (although it is presented in a more realistic fashion). But that doesn’t mean there isn’t magic afoot here. Chi is infused through this movie, and means that there are still a number of fantastical elements that make this pure escapism and keep it fun, lighthearted and enjoyable. And those elements that have been removed are often nodded too, with many of the classic lyrics from the songs embedded as dialogue.
From a performance perspective, this is an incredible cast doing a fantastic job. Jet Li is a fun addition, Li Gong is powerful and for young children probably terrifying, and Donnie Yen is a joy to watch. Yifei Liu, controversy around her personal views aside, does a tremendous job as the mythical warrior Mulan, and fully embodies the character.
In the end, Mulan isn’t a surprising film, as the broad strokes of the story are there. And indeed, there is some disappointment at the loss of the music, and the animated dragon Eddie Murphy made so popular in the original. But Mulan is still an enthralling watch, a compelling example of diversity on screen, an astoundingly beautiful film, and one of Disney’s most successful live action adaptations to date, if not it’s crowning achievement in this genre.
This is a beautiful remake that justifies its existence in every frame.