The new live-action Mulan by filmmaker Niki Caro will debut tomorrow, September 4th as a new Premier Access offering on Disney+ for $29.99 (it will be available as part of the service as of December 4th). I was able to preview the film, which is another live-action remake of an animated classic. I hesitate to use the word remake though, in that there are major changes from the original film. For example, Mushu isn’t a character in the current version and the movie isn’t a musical. And really, one major strength of the movie is that it is different. Mulan is a breathtakingly gorgeous film and my biggest disappointment is that we won’t get to see it right now on a big screen.
We are introduced to a young Mulan (Crystal Rao) who has the makings of the warrior she will become. It brings both visible pride to her father Zhou (Tzi Ma), who does not have a son and worry from her mother, Li (Rosalind Chao). Honor comes with marriage and Li is concerned Mulan won’t find a husband. A few years later, Hua Mulan (Yifei Liu) has a meeting with a matchmaker, which goes as expected – not well.
The story of Mulan is from the 6th century, and that includes recognizable elements from the animated film. The Imperial Army requires one man per family to serve and defend the country from the Northern invaders. And Mulan secretly takes his place, wielding his sword that says “Loyal, Brave, True”. Mulan presents herself as a man, Hua Jun to fight.
While Mulan is an epic action drama, there are a lot of comedic moments as well as she adapts to being around men. Mulan volunteers for night duty to get out of taking showers with the other soldiers during some funny moments. She is also asked at a table with her group what her ideal woman would be. “Courageous”, which was met with a lot of incredulity. The soldier she is falling for, Honghui (Yoson An) is the exception but she also keeps him distant.
The most intriguing character for me is Xianniang (Gong Li), who is thought of as a witch. She does have abilities that Mulan does not have, but at the same time considers herself to be a warrior in the same vein as Mulan. Yet she was never taken seriously as such.
There are some intense battle scenes but they are not graphic. I don’t like violent movies and I found Mulan pretty family friendly for as much action as there is.
Mulan is a movie showcasing female strength and empowerment, bringing honor to the ancient legend. The ending is emotional, and anyone who loves the original film will find some familiarity. And the costuming is gorgeous and adds so much color to the film.
I have been asked if Mulan is worth $30 to spend now or to wait a few months. If you would have wanted to see it quickly in the theaters and especially with 2+ family members, it is a fantastic film with gorgeous scenery and I’d personally spend the money to see it. It is a thoroughly enjoyable film – more serious than the animated version, but it is a movie that stands on it’s own – just like Mulan herself. And if Mulan does arrive in theaters, I’d really love to see it on a bigger screen.
Mousesteps grade – A