Film Review: Mulan

Note: This is film #119 of my 365 Film Challenge.

Disney’s run of remaking their animated movies in live action has been hit and miss for me. Which some have been great films that have referenced the originals while changing or developing certain aspects to good effect (The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast), others have passable but added very little in the transfer (Cinderella and, to an extent, Aladdin) and one in particular just drove me nuts because the switch to the new format and how it was executed made no sense (The Lion King).

This, the latest toon-to-life flick falls into the trailing pack. The story is largely unchanged, China is under attack the Emperor (here played by Jet Li), and every family must provide one man for the army. Unfortunately for the Hua family, they have no sons and it looks like the father, an injured hero of the last war, will have to fight once more. Fearing for his safety, Mulan (Yifei Liu), the eldest daughter (there’s a younger sister this time around, which adds very little to the movie) disguises herself as a boy and joins up in his stead. If she is discovered it will be disastrous, both for her and the family’s honour. Can she keep the ruse up? Can she become a soldier? Will China be saved?

WoM, who was more impressed with this movie than I was, said that my problem is that I always compare these films to the animated originals, and should regard them as a separate entity. This is fair enough, but if that’s the intention then the filmmakers should kinda go in completely new directions, and in a way, this is the movie that could have done that. There’s no singing, the love interest has been changed (apparently in a response to #MeToo) and the sidekick characters have been dropped. But the film keeps the music cues from the original, with the familiar tunes appearing in the background. And that’s where the movie falls down for me. Every time the film plays “Reflections” it just reminded me of the original movie that I love.

In comparison to the original I found this a rather dull affair. The fight scenes are alright, I guess, but the character interactions are weaker, the humour falls flat when it isn’t taking itself extremely seriously and it lacks the magic and energy of the animation. Without being compared to the original, it’s still just a bit of a mediocre action flick.

The performances are forgettable, and the supporting cast don’t get a lot to do. And the villains, initially promising, are both watered down by the ending.

The film fails because they wanted it both ways, they wanted to step away and drop aspects from the cartoon, but they still wanted to trade on the nostalgia for the original, and because of that I just found it dull and uninspired. 3/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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