The latest in the Disney live action (or not so much, with some of them) remakes continues with no little controversy. I can’t really comment much on the cultural issues, or the lead actress’s political comments. But yeah, asking £20 over and above the subscription fee for the platform it’s showing on – meh.
But, all that aside, and let’s look at the actual movie. When the Emperor of China calls for each family to provide one man to join the army, headstrong Mulan – always in trouble for being less than the delicate, marriageable flower society wants – steals her aged father’s armour and sword and disguises herself as a boy.
As she struggles to maintain her secret, Mulan also reveals herself to be a gifted fighter. Is that enough to overcome both prejudice, and the threat of the Rouran invaders?
Okay, where to start? I actually rewatched the animated version of this not so long ago, so it’s pretty fresh in my mind. This takes the basic story, but tells it in quite a different style. It seemed to me more Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon than a Disney feature. Which generally would be no bad thing, and yet somehow it felt like a slightly uneasy mashup of Mulan (1998) and several other movies I know I’ve seen already – the new character of the sorceress, for example, feels lifted wholesale from… something I can’t put my finger on, argh!
We’re missing the comic relief from the miniature dragon, Mushu (as voiced by Eddie Murphy), which is a loss as well as yes, the very understandable choice. They have instead, for some unfathomable reason, inserted a (speechless) CGI phoenix that swoops about distractingly and irritated me greatly.
Acting-wise, and Yifei Liu is well cast, handling the physicality of the role impressively. I was pretty gobsmacked to see the likes of Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and Jason Scott Lee in the cast – all for reasons, it is rumoured, other than being overly impressed with the script.
There’s a lot of praise to be handed out to the visuals – the colours, the scenery – but major marks off from me for the overuse of ‘fancy’ camera work and effects. I hated the blurred-edge screen during several fight scenes. The opening in particular is showing off to the point of too busy.
So overall… well, it’s not awful. As a retelling of a ‘classic’ story, turned into a martial arts romance kind of thing, it’s fairly serviceable. However, it’s not great. The plot worked for an animation, not so much here, where the gaping holes are less forgivable. The lack of originality shouldn’t be an issue in a remake, but the ‘new’ expanded bits feel stolen from other movies. And there’s a distinct lack of fun to be had, quite frankly. And that’s from a pasty white Scot, as apparently there is a LOT to loath from a cultural standpoint, too.
My recommendation would wholeheartedly be to not part with the extra cash – it is certainly not worth that, for anyone, and I suspect the younger audience will actually find it all quite dull. When it hits regular streaming, by all means give it a look if it takes your fancy.
Released: 4th September 2020
Viewed: 4th September 2020
Running time: 115 minutes
My rating: 5/10