ForceChi is strong with Disney’s Mulan.
While Mulan isn’t a scene-for-scene remake like Aladdin, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast, it’s a live-action remake done right! True to the animated version, Mulan introduces its eponymous character (Yifei Liu) as an unruly young girl, with a penchant for martial arts. There is a delightful little scene when she finds herself decked up for a tutorial in domesticity conducted by the local matchmaker, which goes as badly as you’d imagine. Even as the matchmaker proclaims her ill-suited for marriage, it is dwarfed by a major announcement from the emperor (Jet Li). To deal with the growing threat of barbaric invaders, the emperor demands a male from every family for the imminent battle. With Mulan’s father, a famed warrior, wounded from the earlier war and having no male children, Mulan takes it upon herself by stealing her father’s sword and setting off in her father’s stead.
Mulan is enlisted in the elite training camp, where she has to dress up as a boy and avoid detection. The training scenes are terrific and visually stunning, making you wish you were able to savor it at a cinema hall. To ensure that her secret stays safe, Mulan mostly keeps to herself, which deprives her of meaningful human relationships and robs us of her bonding with her battalion, with none of the supporting characters really making a mark. The movie also does a disservice to the legendary Jet Li, who is reduced to the role of a ceremonial emperor.
However, the relentless focus on Mulan gives us an organic character growth and keeps us firmly vested in Mulan’s journey. While Naomi’s stirring rendition of Speechless in Aladdin did drive home a strong message about inequality, it also seemed a little too forced. However, the female empowerment scenes in Mulan are truly uplifting, particularly an awe-inspiring ‘Phoenix Rising’ moment that is reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen and Daenerys Targaryen. It also came as a relief that no one breaks into song, which suits the darker tone of the movie that is prevalent throughout the movie, despite the glaring lack of blood to get PG-13 approval.
With stunning combat sequences and epic storytelling, Disney has served up the perfect Summer blockbuster, albeit one you can only enjoy within the confines of your living room.