What’s more aggravating for my stress during this pandemic is the existence of this half-baked movie that Disney Studios have brought us. And I’m not saying this to invigorate the #BoycottMulan movement, far from it. I’m writing this article from a film perspective. They had a lot of potential with the story of Mulan, yet they absolutely wasted it. Disney had every ingredient to make this a great epic—the systemic and social discrimination against women, an empire being invaded by the Hun, deceit, and treachery within the imperial government, the strong sexual tension between Mulan and Honghu, a fatherlike relationship between Commander Tung and Mulan, the badass emperor played by the action star Jet L, and, of course, the honor and sacrifice of a daughter for her father’s well-being. With roots so strong, Disney only had to water them properly to grow healthy green leaves and vibrant flowers. We could’ve gotten a healthy plant but instead, we have to look at dry leaves, weak stems, and flowers with crown gall disease.
What this film really lacks, is a heart. The plot of the movie is very strong. But what they didn’t do, is spend enough time and effort to deeply explore the strong themes that were interlaced with the plot. Imagine if they showed you the painful details of being a woman during the 4th century AD. She could be shown applying to get a job, men catcalling her in the streets, or how her neighbors degrade her talents. We might see glimpses of this social issue, but we don’t see the effects on her as a person or even her try to internalize and cope with her situation.
This movie could have been so much better. Hua Mulan, the legendary heroine who disguised herself as a man to take her father’s place in the conscription of the army. The woman who fought hordes of enemies in the northern frontier. The woman who defied the odds and exceeded expectations. The main character is the heart of the entire story, yet we don’t get any deep connection with her, because her entire story and character arc is rushed. Hell, the entire cast is one-dimensional as f***.
I haven’t seen the animation version, but I have a pretty good idea of Mulan’s story. And even with my lack of experience with the character, the story ended up becoming very predictable from the git-go. Her commander saw something special in her? Typical. Oh, she actually saves the day? Wow so unbelievable. It’s so tropey!
Two things I was pleased to see: war sequences and the visuals. The film has these wide shots of the desert and the Imperial Palace and they looked so good. I got hyped when the armies were on the battlefield. Donnie Yen was so good! I got so excited to see the armies clash, but I just wasn’t satisfied enough. I wished they did more with these scenes and it doesn’t have to be with blood, gore, and violence. Throughout the film, we are reminded of Mulan’s chi. The commander sensed it, and Mulan knows how to channel it. If they could’ve done something better with the chi concept, and had more intense action scenes with more wire-fu like in Crouching Tiger or those kung fu films in Hong Kong, then we could’ve gotten something better than teasers of a greater action film.
With the success of the previous live-action Disney princess films, the big mouse only followed the current of their sales. The demand was there, so they capitalized and supplied. Without a doubt, this has to be one of the biggest disappointments of 2020. Plain and simple. This was just a regular workday for Disney and one that feels so passionless.
Mulan 2020 gets a 5/10