Disclaimers: I’ll be writing this review from my perspective. For a Chinese person’s viewpoint, check out this video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3QKq24e0HM by Xiran Jay Zhao, a Chinese historian.
I’ll only mention criticisms I found within the film itself. I won’t mention the various controversies this film’s production has.
On with the review!
In all honesty, I was cautiously optimistic when I heard this film was being made. The animated film is one of my favorite Disney films up there with the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and various others. The thought of film adaptation closer to the original folk tale was intriguing to me. The final product turned out to be lackluster.
Before diving into the film’s flaws, Credit should be given for the good parts of the film.
This film isn’t a musical like the animated one. Instead, instrumentals for Reflection, Bring honor to us all can be heard. I also enjoyed the inclusion of a lyric from “A Man like you” during a training scene. Here’s the lyric, “Tranquil as a forest but of fire within”.
In addition, Christina Aguilera was brought back to re-record a new cover of Reflection. Comparing the original version from 1998 to the new version, you can hear how much her voice has matured and evolved. Her vocal range remains to be a “powerhouse”.
The Mandarin version of Reflection by Liu Yufei sounds beautiful. It’s just as good as the original by Christina. The actress there shows more emotion in that video than the entire movie.
The martial arts sequences with Mulan were great. While watching the movie, I stood there in awe. The action sequences are definitely a highlight.
My favorite side character would have to be the shape-shifter witch. Her desire was to be accepted instead of vilified because of her powers. Seen as a “warrior” not a “witch”.
I had sympathy for her character.
It was good seeing the actress Rosalind Chao in another movie. I liked her performance as the Chinese restaurant owner (Pei Pei) in Freaky Friday (2003).
In the start of the film, there was a reference to the original poem, where a male and female rabbit were running side by side as Mulan rode her horse.
This is the last positive comment.
The commander’s message to Mulan in disguise was memorable to me.
“Don’t allow your father’s legacy to hold you back. Cultivate your gift.”
He’s told Mulan that she shouldn’t hold herself back to appease her family. Instead, she should work hard to cultivate her gift. Regardless of the message’s circumstance, it’s applicable to anyone and everyone. People should work on whatever gifts or talents they have. They shouldn’t be forced or obligated to follow their parents’ footsteps if it’s not what they’re interested in.
This movie has a bunch of flaws.
From the very beginning, Mulan is already set up to be perfect. She’s been a martial arts prodigy since childhood . Her skills are unmatched. Also, she barely emotes in the film. Her facial expressions are blank. It’s impractical for Mulan to fight with long hair. It needs to be tied up and out of the way so it won’t be a distraction. Having her long hair visible makes her an easy target for the enemy. With one yank of her hair.
The father-daughter relationship is weaker compared to the animated version. The father was alright just not memorable.
The concept of chi sounds confusing and sexist. According to this film, only men can possess strong “chi” and become “warriors” whereas women are forced to hide their “chi”. If they embrace it, they’re labeled as “witches”. This thinking makes no sense. Also, a clear explanation of “chi” as a concept followed by a demonstration would’ve been helpful.
The reveal scene was rushed and lacked the emotional impact of the original. The action of having Mulan willingly disclose her identity in front of the army takes away the stakes and the tension of the situation.
In the end credits of this film, The credits read that it was filmed at CPC Xinijiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. This location is a concentration camp in China for the detainment of Muslims. I bet Disney is kicking themselves for leaving this evidence in the film’s end credits. I would be ignorant of this fact had it not been prominently mentioned by other people.
I don’t support this!
As it’s own film, Mulan (2020) is good for its action sequences and instrumental music.
However as a remake, The film is sub-par. You’re better off reading the original poem and watching the animated film (1998).
If you’re looking for a good live-action retelling, I’ve heard that Mulan: Legend of A Warrior (2009) is a better film despite its flaws.