Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Mulan (2020)

Summary: A young Chinese maiden disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father.

I think I’m going to try a spoiler talk of this film because the stuff I want to talk about… are spoilers. I’ll probably watch it again before I do that too. So this review, will be… probably short.

Pros:

The Acting. Normally, I would do a “cast and characters” but I think I just need to say that I think all of the acting is good. I don’t think anyone is absolutely terrible, particularly from our main characters. Yifei Liu as Mulan is good, I think she’s charming and I like the scenes when she’s in the camp and I think she has good chemistry with all the characters she interacts with, so that’s definitely a plus since she interacts with everyone at least once lol. Donnie Yen as Commander Tung is fine, I like him. Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan is intimidating and I liked his interactions with Gong Li as Xianniang they had an interesting relationship and she was pretty great. I wish we got more of her. Yoson An as Chen Honghui is one of the recruits and I think he’s really charming, I enjoyed him. Of course, gotta mention the iconic Jet Li as The EmperorRosalind Chao as Hua Li is good as the mother as is Xana Tang as Hua Xiu, her younger sister. I think the best actor though is Tzi Ma as Hua Zhou, Mulan’s father. He has a few emotional moments that I might have teared up on and when he limps up to take the conscription notice from the Imperial guard, I got a little emotional. 

Beautiful Cinematography/Direction. Mandy Walker does the cinematography for the film and it’s absolutely amazing. She manages to capture some beautiful shots and Niki Caro works really well with her to make some beautiful images. I like to “screenshot” in my mind really good shots and this movie has a lot of that. There is an entire sequence after the avalanche scene where Mulan goes to Commander Tung and she’s wearing that red outfit, and you just have this white snowy overcast look and the entire sequence was great. There are so many of these that I loudly expressed my love for it. 

Costume Design. Bina Daigler does the costumes for this movie, I do think it would have been useful to have an Asian costume designer since I saw an article that said the costumes were “mostly” accurate. I’m not saying that having an Asian costume designer would have made them more accurate… but I’m also not saying that… anyway, I liked what we did see. That red outfit Mulan ends up wearing for the rest of the movie looks really good against the backdrop of the movie. I love the gold aesthetic for The Emperor. Mulan’s outfit for the Matchmaker was beautiful. Everything the Witch wears is amazing. So, yes, I liked the costumes a lot.

Production Design/Scale. Another movie where the technical stuff was the most impressive. But the movie is so big. Being that it was filmed in New Zealand with some moments in China, it’s legit. Mulan traveling to the army camp… beautiful. The color scheme of the white and red out in the middle of nowhere of their camp? Amazing. The shots of Mulan at night at the lake? Wow. It’s a beautiful film y’all, like for real.

Fight Choreography. Heidi Moneymaker, Nuo Son and Shane Yan are the fight coordinators and I think they do a great job at choreographing the fight scenes. I read that Yifei Liu did about 90% of her own stunts which is great because it just adds to the realism and it’s badass. When she really unleashes what she can do, it’s really cool. I liked it. I liked the directional choices of the spinning camera when someone did a flip or if they changed angles, it was an interesting choice. I didn’t hate it (but if you do, I get it lol).

Homage to the animation. There are a lot of things that pay homage, I appreciate that we do hear moments from the songs from the animated movie. I knew they would do this when I heard there wasn’t going to be songs in the movie, which I was fine with. Just as I fine with Mushu not being in the movie either. I’m pretty sure I even said in another post about the live action films that he shouldn’t be in the movie… anyway, we hear the instrumental Reflection song a few times. “Honor to us All” instrumental is played during the getting ready for the Matchmaker scene. There are lyrics from “Make a Man Out of You” said from the Commander. When the boys are talking about girls, they do say lyrics from the song. It’s cute and it’s fine. Also, there is a new character whose name is “Cricket”. Also, Ming Na Wen who was the voice of Mulan, appears in the film. I wanted her to be the mother but her schedule for Agents of Shield got in the way.

Significance of Red. I’ve been looking up what red means in China but there is a lot of it. It’s the most popular color in China, it’s the natural color representing happiness, beauty, vitality, good luck, success and good fortune. It also represents fire. There’s a lot of yellow/gold which is considered the most beautiful color (yes, yes, it is, which is why yellow is my favorite color) lol. But I love how much it’s incorporated because it’s very blatant and clear. They don’t go into it or anything, but I think it also has to do with the fact that Mulan’s family’s guardian is a Phoenix. So, there’s that lol. 

The Story. We know this story, especially if you are familiar with the animated film or with the legend of Mulan. They do different things to make it different from the animated film by including “chi” or “qi” in the story. The addition of the witch, and changing certain things to be more “historically accurate” to the time period. I thought overall, it was handled pretty well.

Cons:

Character Development. So, I was trying to figure out how I wanted to tackle this because it’s probably my biggest problem with the movie. Soooooo, I guess I can start from the beginning, Mulan’s parents are straight forward, I guess. Her father indulged her in her being playful and her mother wants her to be a daughter and bring honor. Fine. She has a sister and I liked that they gave her a sister buuuut the only character she has is that she’s afraid of spiders. When we get to the army camp, we meet Yao, Ling, Po, Cricket and Honghui, who we meet quickly. I feel like this entire chunk of the movie should have allowed us to know these guys since they’re basically the animated characters, so we can have development for them and their relationship with Mulan as Hua Jun so when what happens at the end, makes waaaay more sense. I’m pretty sure I said “Why?” in their repeated line. I’ll talk about this in my spoiler talk. I often would confuse Yao and Po for a while because they looked alike but Yao was a little more boisterous so it was easy to remember him. I literally always forgot Ling was there. Cricket was cute but easy to remember because his name is Cricket lol and as for Honghui… I swear we never learned his name until the avalanche scene lol but there are a few interactions between him and Mulan aaaaand I’m definitely going into this in my spoiler talk because I have too. 

Witch and Mulan. I’m going to be really careful here because I really don’t want to spoil anything but I do believe in the trailer, we do see the Witch and Mulan talk at least once before other shots of fighting. I think it’s important to note that I think they would have interacted before the canyon scene.

Feels So Rushed. This is the kind of movie requires a good pace, could be even a little bit of a slow burn. It’s 1 hr. and 55 minutes long and I feel like it should have been longer. The first half all the way up till they actually have to go to war, is paced pretty well. I actually thought we had a lot longer to go but we didn’t. I was shocked lol. It just takes off and I don’t like that. Yes, there was development between characters that was rushed during the better paced half but y’all when I tell you this movie feels fast and the furious… I don’t know if they were just trying to check off the boxes of their outline or what but it’s detrimental to the film.

Story Elements. This goes hand in hand with the “rushed” con but I wish certain things were handed or explored more. The chi/qi element was interesting and I liked the addition, I don’t know the history of this in Asian culture so I don’t know how accurate the movie is about it, but the idea that everyone has it but it’s mostly a thing in warriors and that when women have strong qi it’s wrong because of what their places are in society. My problem with this is that they didn’t go into it for anyone else. I know it’s about Mulan, but they made it seem like it’s normal but the never really went into it and they definitely should have. Missed opportunity.

Overall, I liked the movie. I enjoyed myself watching it though that might have a lot do with the fact that I watched it with my friend and we had a good time lol because we made jokes and stuff lol. But I think the acting is good from everyone, I didn’t hate anyone. Everything technical about the movie works, the cinematography, the fight choreography, the costume design, the use of music… it was great. The movie does not handle its character development well at all. Mulan obviously gets the best development but I even thought it could have been better with her too, but the side characters who should be recognizable and important to her… just weren’t. It’s super rushed and some story elements were products of missed opportunity. I think there was a ton of untapped potential with this movie. I don’t think it’s the worst of the live action Disney Remakes, I actually think it had the potential to the best one (Jungle Book is still the best one lol) but unfortunately, it’s not. I didn’t hate it like other people and I didn’t love it. I liked it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Have you seen Mulan on Disney+? If so, what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

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