Newest Disney live action adaptation is a letdown

Mulan Movie Review


Sydney Stahlschmidt

Mulan streaming and information page on Disney+ website.

Sydney Stahlschmidt, Copy Editor

Amidst quarantine during the past six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have watched my fair share of movies. From almost every new Netflix release such as “Outerbanks” and “All American,” to rewatching the old Disney+ classics, I have spent plenty of time watching all different kinds of entertainment. However, recently there has been a lack of movie and television show releases. Therefore, when I saw that the live action of “Mulan” was available on Disney+, I knew that I needed to watch it immediately. 

The “Mulan” live action movie was released on Sept. 4, 2020 on the Disney+ streaming website and app. This is a remake of the traditional and empowering princess/Disney classic movie that was originally released in 1998. I was really interested to see how they would be able to turn this movie into a live action film due to the many concepts that are almost “magical” in sense and would be difficult to transform to a realistic perspective. 

The movie stars Liu Yifei as the role of Hua Mulan. Liu Yifei is a Chinese actress who has starred in many Chinese films and television series such as “The Forbidden Kingdom.” While I have never heard of this actress or seen any of her previous productions, I was very pleased with her ability to portray a strong and empowering female character that was presented in the original movie as well by Ming-Na Wen. 

The beginning of the movie starts off with Mulan as a child and being told to hide her strength and fighting ability to fit the traditional Chinese culture that was viewed as acceptable during that time. The movie eventually transitions into Mulan as a young adult who is supposed to “matched” and become the mother/wife role that is what every young woman is expected to portray. 

Similar to original 1998 production of “Mulan,” her father is the only male in the family is supposed to go off to war. However, Mulan sneaks off with her father’s gear and pretends to be a male to fight in place of her injured and weak father.

That is the basis of the movie which is very similar to the original movie but I won’t discuss anymore spoilers and will give you the opportunity to discover the rest of the plot. 

Overall, I believe that this movie had a significant representation of female empowerment in society, along with representation of Chinese culture during a time where females didn’t have much power to be their true selves and had to fit the ideal image. 

As a child, Mulan is told to hide her love of fighting and who she really is to be a typical girl of their society. However, through her rebellion, while she may have “brought disgrace upon her family,” she represented that when she followed what she truly loved and who she really was, good things came out of it. 

Furthermore, when Mulan aimed to portray a man in the army, she was able to show the fighting side of herself, whereas in the village she was only able to show the female side of herself. Neither of these necessarily end up working in her favor and it isn’t until the end of the movie where she learns to show both sides of herself where she finds true success.

This movie represents, especially to women, for people to embrace who they really are and good things are bound to happen as a result. The movie pushes the message that  women have the ability to be strong and powerful and don’t need to follow common stereotypes to be their true selves. 

However, there are also some downsides to this movie. Primarily, the movie is only accessible on the Disney+ app which requires a $6.99 a month fee or $69.99 annual fee. Along with the membership cost of Disney+, the movie is not officially released until Dec. 4, 2020 because it is a featured movie, yet it is available for $30 before the release date.

In my opinion, while the movie had an inspirational theme and concept they were aiming to represent, I would say it is not worth the cost to watch. I would recommend waiting until the movie is available to watch for free. “Mulan”can be somewhat boring at times and also difficult to understand at some points because it seems like the director, Niki Cairo, assumes you have seen the original adaptation and that the watcher should already have an understanding of the plot. 

Also, Cairo decided for the movie not to have a musical aspect. Most Disney adaptations from originals to live action have included the musical aspect and includes the characters singing many songs throughout the movie. There was no dancing or singing involved in this movie. However, this is a positive thing in the minds of some people if they don’t like that aspect of movies.

I believe that sometimes the musical aspect is unnecessary and can be a little excessive if it is only singing and dancing the entire time. However, this topic seemed a little more serious and less light hearted than the normal Disney adaptations and I think it possibly could’ve used some music to keep the audience interested.

Compared to other Disney adaptations that I have recently seen, such as “Aladdin” directed by Chris Sonnenburg, I do not prefer the direction that Cairo took to direct this movie. Overall, I think that the theme she aimed to display was represented, but the overall directing of the movie was not up to the level of work that Disney movies have recently had. In the begging, some of the action shots were not the best quality and it seemed worse quality than the majority of action movies that have released in the past few years. However, the quality improved as the movie proceeded.  

Disney has recently received some backlash after the release of this movie on Disney+. Disney credited and thanked Xinjiang authorities on the credits page of the film. This authority has previously been involved with human rights abuses. People do not fully know the extent of how much of the movie was filmed in this location and are conflicted on whether or not that source should be credited.

In the end, I would say that the movie was decent and pretty good. I definitely do not think that this is the best Disney live action movie that has been made based off of a Disney classic, but I think that it represented the concepts that it was aiming to represent. I would give this movie a rating of two point five out of five stars and would definitely recommend that you wait to watch the movie until it is available for free.