By ANGELA XU
Loyal. Brave. And true.
Disney released their new live-action movie, Mulan, on Disney+ with a fee of $30 to see the film online on Sep. 4. The cast includes Liu Yifei as Hua Mulan, Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, Jet Li as the Emperor of China and many more.
The movie, directed by Niki Caro, is the most recent Disney adaptation of the older Disney films. In order to attract a target audience, many of the main actors and actresses are very well-known in the Chinese entertainment circle.
Despite all the hype, however, many awaiting fans of the original animated movie were disappointed to find out that the live-action did not include the popular musicals of the original. In addition, key characters such as General Shang and, most important of all, Mushu, are nonexistent. Disney states that the reason why the music and characters were omitted was so they could focus on basing the movie off of the realistic story, set in the historical timeline of China. However, this justification contradicts the fact that the plot of the movie included a witch but not a little flaming dragon.
Within the movie, the story takes a very different approach from the original. Specifically, the audience is introduced to Mulan as a talent-born individual that has the capability to jump off a twenty-foot roof and land perfectly when she was just a child. Immediately, her adventurous and impulsive nature shines through as an opposing figure to the harsh expectations of women at that time.
Along with the differences in the main heroine, the live-action movie separates itself within the sets and cinematography. Locations, such as Mulan’s village, were vibrant but also pertaining to the historical traits of Han China, which was realistically smaller than depicted in the animation.
As the movie unfolds, the conflict of the story begins with a battle scene at a small village that was raided by the movie’s main villains, Bori Khan and the witch, Xian Liang. The fighting scenes coordinated perfectly with the dramatic background music to capture the audience’s attention. In spite of some unrealistic aspects, such as the slow-motion jumping and body twists, the fighting styles were still very impressive, additionally showing the audience characteristics of Chinese martial arts movies.
Furthermore, in terms of acting, the actors and actresses really captured the audience by manifesting the fun and lovable qualities of the original characters. At the same time, the new characters have their spotlight with wild-card attributes to add a mysterious element to the plot.
For example, one of the most prominent features within the film is the opposing themes between Mulan and the witch. The witch and Mulan are painted as the same kind of people with “special powers,” but decisively chose a different path. The contrasting stories are what help build up the plot because the interactions between Mulan and Xian Liang leads Mulan to grow as a character and make an important decision that would save China in the end.
Of course, it is expected that the live-action and animated Mulan films will have contrasting points. Consequently, some would argue that Mulan’s role as an ordinary woman working hard to become a soldier was a better role model for girls rather than someone whose talents were given. In addition, critics criticized the movie for not accurately depicting Chinese culture, specifically referring to the production team not being of Chinese descent.
However, without cultural aspects in mind, they have successfully depicted the style of a lot of well-known Chinese historical dramas. But that does not mean that the movie does not need any improvements. Due to Hollywood not having a lot of movies that center around Asian characters, with the story set in China, many were expecting a full-Asian cast. The movie should have been a turning point in Hollywood where not just actors, but Asian directors, writers, and artists could have an opportunity to change the industry standards. Unfortunately, Disney failed expectations within the production team.
Although there are many who have criticized the movie, the overall plot points and gorgeous settings are aspects where the live-action does better than the original. Overall, the movie is still worth the watch, especially during this time in quarantine.