Staff Writer: David McCallister
Throughout the unpredictable year, the film industry has been hit extremely hard. Countless delays, film festival cancellations and releasing movies on Video on Demand “VOD”, or streaming services rather than in theaters has caused tentpole films to take risks.
Disney’s Mulan is one of these risks. Mulan is one of the most anticipated movies to be released this year and has finally been released with a $30 purchase fee on Disney+, unless viewers wait until December when it is released for free on the streaming service.
With the price tag comes the question if it is worth waiting or if it’s a must-see.
Sadly, the film is forgettable. While the film attempts to be a refreshing take on the classic movie, Mulan fails to create a respectful and innovative remake of the 1998 animated counterpart and casts a shadowy reflection over the past and present of both films.
Going into Mulan, there are specific things that drastically change and ultimately hinder the movie. Mulan is not a musical, rather a more serious retelling of the animated story. Mushu, the dragon, is absent in the remake and is replaced with a Phoenix more kin to Chinese mythology.
There are more drastic changes which try to tell a more independent story from the original and to make Mulan herself more accessible to a modern audience and specifically to China, who are vocal against the Chinese portrayal in the animated Mulan.
The heart and compassion that audiences are expecting with this story are tossed aside with this remake.
At the beginning of the film, Mulan has already completed her physical journey and must deal with her self-identity for the rest of the movie, which makes it incredibly hard to connect with her and every character she interacts and grows with.
In the animated Mulan, Mulan’s world is surrounded by memorable characters who help flesh out the story and make Mulan the heroine she becomes. This is non-existent in the remake, as Mulan’s supporting cast feels wooden and unimaginative, making the heroine’s journey less exciting.
The ensemble cast of 2020’s Mulan is full of prolific actors and actresses from Western Cinema, but still creates moments of eye-rolling and monotony. Scenes fail because of the writing and emotion the actors are giving, which causes the whole film to lose momentum and attention.
For Mulan as a character, she has already overcome most obstacles in life as the first five minutes start, with bare changes taking place until the film ends. Mulan is an inventive character, showing growth from a village girl into a heroine in the classic film, allowing audiences to connect to her easily.
As the remake progresses, it becomes apparent that the challenges Mulan faces are not difficult for her to face, making the desire for her to succeed lessen. These story choices are rather used to flesh out a brand new antagonist in the story, but this fails to create any power and impact in the film.
While the film’s message is in good intentions, it is ham-fisted in such a way that is ultimately a turn-off and awkward to watch.
Mulan’s pacing fails due to the writing, where at times the movie takes itself so seriously, by the next scene it has changed tonally, making a 120-minute runtime feel even slower.
Flashy war scenes that take inspiration from classic and modern Martial Arts films are spread throughout, which can be exhilarating at first but boring later, especially by the third act.
The film has instances of beautiful shots of the world surrounding the characters that will be remembered the most as the film starts to fall into obscurity.
Visually, the film can look good in some parts, but once the CGI and visual effects are in vision, the film again loses the realism that was promised ever since the film’s conception.
Mulan suffers from almost every aspect of the film. Bad writing, boring pacing, forgettable characters, and any attempt to detach itself from the original shadow over the pleasing visuals and few exciting action moments.
Making remakes as an inspiration from the original is respectable and understanding, but when the heart that fills the iconic classic is dried out for a more soulless re-telling, this causes Mulan to be a mostly forgettable film that does not warrant the must-see event that the film has relied on so heavily.