By Pujanee Galappaththi
Disney’s newest live-action flick Mulan premiered on 4 September at PVR Cinemas. While we were extremely impressed by the new safety protocols and physical distancing mechanisms put in place by PVR Cinemas to ensure a safe viewing experience, we were extremely disheartened by the movie itself.
If you are living under a rock and have no idea what Mulan is, it is a 1998 Disney animation directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook about the warrior Fa Mulan, based on the famous Chinese legend of a warrior of the name Hua Mulan. This story appears in Chinese folklore in the Sixth-Century poem The Ballad of Mulan and the 17th-Century novel Romance of Sui and Tang Dynasties.
It is high time we stop getting excited about Disney live-action adaptations; Mulan is a true testament to this. Niki Caro’s Mulan takes the tasteful, feminist masterpiece of the hard work and determination of a young woman to overcome society’s gender roles while saving her family’s honour and replaces it with “chee”.
Whatever is this chee, you might ask. Mulan would not shut up about it. Chee is this spiritual energy that is within all of us, connecting us to our inner selves – long story short, the stronger the chee, the better the warrior. And guess who has the best chee, that’s right, Mulan. While we do realise that this could be an attempt at better portraying how our protagonist overcame obstacles, as some might argue that the happenings in the animation may have seemed a little unrealistic, this decision turned the movie into a misguided superhero origin story alienating all the young girls who fell in love with and related to the character of Mulan.
Before tearing this movie to shreds, we must applaud the director and the team for their fantastic casting. Liu Yifei was everything you’d imagine your bad*ss warrior to look like on the live screen. She had the same poise and charm, and was born to play this part. And Donnie Yen, Jet Li, and Tzi Ma were extremely fantastic in their roles.
We also have to add that the colours were great and some of the scenes were straight up magical, although the CGI in this $ 200 million production could have been so much better. If you saw the phoenix in the trailer and hoped that they would have fixed its spottiness by the time the movie came out, you were wrong. It looked like Mulan was constantly followed around by someone’s bright-coloured kite, and it will raise your blood pressure each time you see it.
One more main factor this movie struggled with was pacing the scenes. Some moments felt too long and some parts of the plot were completely unnecessary. It seemed like the filmmakers were attempting to evoke a reaction in the audience against half-baked villains; ideally, they should have utilised this time to establish a relationship between the characters the audience did care about. In a movie that is half an hour longer than the original animation, we wished more time was dedicated to developing the relationships within the battalion or even to focus on Mulan’s internal conflicts.
Certain scenes that were meant to be powerful failed to deliver and bring the desired effect. Instead, these scenes just disappointed further. It made you wonder why Disney made you wait so long for this subpar movie.
If you were inspired by the Mulan animation, loved its artistic scenes and the vibrant plotlines, and got goosebumps every time you heard “be a man” in a fighting sequence, you are going to be grandly dissatisfied by this movie. Nevertheless, it will most definitely get you emotional because Christina Aguilera’s Reflection is the background score for most scenes and that music is bizarrely manipulative. That and Caro’s close-to-perfect casting are going to have you in tears. So enjoy that moment and go home and watch the animation.
Photos: Saman Abesiriwardana