‘Mulan’: not quite a reflection of the original

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

A warrior in battle. Mulan fights alongside her fellow comrades to protect China and the dynasty.

Eileen Osuna, Staff Writer

“Mulan,” directed by Niki Caro, delivers action, drama, and gorgeous cinematography in the live-action remake of the beloved Disney classic.

 

Much like the 1998 animated version, this film is based on the Chinese legend “Ballad of Mulan,” which tells the story of a young woman who takes her father’s place when he is called to serve as part of the emperor’s army.

 

The movie opens up with a young Mulan causing havoc as she chases a chicken through her small village.

After this display of tomboy-like behavior and a plea from her mother to avoid bringing shame upon the family, Mulan’s father, Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma), tells her that her gift of chi is for warriors, not daughters and she must hide it away because her “job is to bring honor to the family.”

 

Meanwhile, along the Silk Road, Northwest China, Xian Lang (Gong Li), a witch with shapeshifting abilities and a strong chi who is helping Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and his Rouran army, is introduced.

This addition of this character to the storyline is perhaps the biggest difference between the animated version and that of Caro’s.

When Khan and his army attack six of the northern garrisons along the Silk Road killing innocent citizens and disrupting trade, the Emperor of China (Jet Li) issues a decree where one man per family must serve the Imperial Army and defend the dynasty.

Rather than let her elderly and disabled father risk his life, Mulan (Yifei Liu) steals his sword, armor and disguises herself as a man named Hua Jun to join the Imperial Army in war.

During her time at camp, Mulan learns to fight, impresses Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) with her skills, bonds with her fellow comrades Cricket (Jun Yu), Po (Doua Moua), Ling (Jimmy Wong), and Yao (Chen Tang) and has somewhat of a small feud with Honghui (Yoson An).

The turning point of the film comes when Mulan crosses paths with Lang, who was sadly ostracized and labeled a witch by her people because of her strong chi, and the two have a talk about their similarities and the power they hold.

Ultimately, it is this interaction and the three pillars of virtue inscribed on her father’s sword “Loyal, brave and true,” that give Mulan the strength she needs to accept her truth, help the army in the war against Khan and his warriors, and make her family proud.

 

While Caro’s version of “Mulan” lacks the components that made the animated version a favorite of so many, such as the musicals, ballads, and wisecracking dragon Mushu, she accomplished something different and satisfying with Mulan’s character development and storyline.

Overall, this is definitely one of the best live-action remakes Disney has released thus far and if you’re a Disney fan, then the film is definitely worth the current $30 premium charge for Disney+ subscribers. For those who rather avoid paying the pricey fee and can wait, the film will be available free of charge to all Disney+ subscribers on December 4, 2020.