Film Review – Mulan (2020)

Title – Mulan (2020)

Director – Niki Caro (Whale Rider)

Cast – Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Tzi Ma

Plot – Teenage girl Mulan (Liu) disguises herself as a male and joins the Chinese army when a vicious force of bloodthirsty warriors threaten to overtake her lands.

“My father cannot fight, so I will take his place”

Review by Eddie on 08/09/2020

Originally planned to be one of 2020’s biggest cinematic releases, the old foe we know as Covid-19 put a stop to Mulan’s plans of taking over cinemas around the world, with the high-profile update of the classic Disney animation released now in a premium VOD format to allow fans a chance to finally see their beloved female heroine take flight in a live action world.

Many wondered whether this release would detour from the spectacle and magic of the tale but all this worry was for naught as Niki Caro’s charisma free and lifeless updating of the tale of young warrior Mulan and her undercover journey in the ranks of the army is so devoid of spark that you feel like little, if anything has been lost in its release from the big screen to the lounge-rooms of millions around the world.

Quite clearly the result of significant financial investment and talented craftsmanship, Mulan looks the part of a family friendly fantasy epic but Caro and her behind the scenes creative team have lost any of the heart and soul of the original Disney offering along the way as the film ticks off a series of narrative progressions that are nothing more than markers that can be taken down at various points, as the films delivery and ideas are nothing better than generic at best.

It’s in many ways amazing that the film is so barren when it comes to any moments of memorability, Mulan herself who is played by the unfortunatly hamstrung Yifei Liu is in most scenes but can’t make us care, the film lacks any significantly grandiose or well-staged spectacle despite its budget and the story itself is so by the numbers in its delivery that you will find yourself unwilling to conjure up any type of enthusiasm as you plod your way through the film as a viewer.

Doing away with key elements of the animated film such as the song numbers, everyone’s favorite talking dragon Mushu and the frequent humor that was a key component of the films initial success, this po-faced re-imaging wants badly to tap into the female hero oriented market that has made itself prevalent in recent years but you can’t imagine any child, teenager or adult walking away from Mulan’s journey here feeling inspired in any way shape or form.

It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong with the film as an outside observer, even the appointment of Caro as the director seemed like a great pick after her form with similar female-oriented features like Whale Rider and North Country proving solid pieces of work, but there’s little to recommend about this bland Disney offering that continues on Disney’s so-so live action catalogue of films that have mostly failed to inspire much long lasting greatness.

Final Say – 

An extremely by the numbers offering from Disney with fans of Mulan likely to be left cold by this films lifeless and charmless delivery, this epic film may look that part but it lacks severely in almost every angle imaginable.

2 phoenixes out of 5 

5 responses to “Film Review – Mulan (2020)

  1. I wanted to watch this movie just for the spectacle, but then HK protests started last year and then I didn’t want to watch it, but more trailers came out revealing Gong Li as one of the villains (and I love Gong Li). And then the pandemic happened. My mom wants to see it but I’m not about to sign up for Disney+. Part of me wishes it were in Mandarin, but there already is a live-action Mulan in Mandarin starring Zhao Wei as the title character. Here’s the Australian/NZ trailer for it.

    As a non-mainland Chinese person, methinks Liu YiFei failed to hold your interest because she had too-huge shoes to fill not only because of the mostly well-liked Disney animated film, but also for what the original story of Mulan represents. It’s not the ancient Chinese, battle-cry version of Yentl — enlisting in the army using your elderly father’s name, so he doesn’t have to fight in a war he won’t survive, is all about honor and self-sacrifice, not romantic love or “oh no, what if they find out I’m not a dude.”

    After seeing a few clips of her on YT from her other roles, it might be that she’s too doll-like to be Mulan. After rewatching a fight scene from The Forbidden Kingdom, I’m wondering why Li BingBing couldn’t have been in Mulan. She’s also the same kind of pretty as Liu YiFei but with much more kick-ass energy (Resident Evil, anyone?)

    Do ya think the script was weak? The dialogue could’ve been better? Or for some reason while the other live-action version of Disney films from the last half dozen years could be regarded as stand-alone pictures, Mulan is too enmeshed with the animated feature even without the songs and other changes?

    • Hey Pugs, honestly with this film I felt not only was the script weak but it was the whole delivery as one also that just felt lifeless and dull.

      There was no flow to the film or the characters, all of whom were rather thinly drawn and established.

      It was also odd they tried to suggest it was a more realistic take on the tale yet were happy to have magic powers etc in it around all the supposed more real moments.

      I don’t know even what went wrong if I am being honest but there is something distinctively off about this film that is instantly forgettable and bereft of any type of spark or magic.

      • I just watched a ten minute plot synopsis “review” of the movie in Mandarin and was able to see a lot of scenes (expository, training montage, fighting), and even that didn’t look good. Who knows why the magic just ain’t there.

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