Mulan (2020) is a live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1998 animated movie, which is based on the Chinese folklore story of ‘The Ballad of Mulan’. The film stars Yifei Liu as Mulan, along with Donnie Yen, Gong Li, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An and Jet Li. Mulan was released in September of last year after a number of lengthy delays, with it finally arriving to all Disney+ subscribers in December 2020.
Considering the scale of a live-action adaptation film so popular as Mulan, I feel as though its mainstream release on Disney+ kind of slipped under the radar. Maybe this is partially because it was overshadowed by the release of Soul which came out a few weeks later, as well as the negative reception which has really plagued the film since its production.
Whilst this is a live-action adaptation of the animated 1998 movie, it’s best to go into this film without any expectations. To enjoy this film, you need to watch it as an adaptation of the story, rather than a live-action remake of the original. Or if you haven’t seen the animated movie at all, even better, watch this first and then the original. Personally I did enjoy this film, I felt as though ‘The Ballad of Mulan’ was captured well and whilst my preference of the two films would probably sway towards the original animated movie, this adaptation is an enjoyable adventure.
Yifei Liu plays Mulan and she is fantastic throughout the film, from the very beginning where she plays the clumsy, awkward Mulan meeting the matchmaker, all the way through to the end where she is kicking Böri Khan’s ass. I was even more impressed to learn that she also reprised her role in the Mandarin-language dubbing of the movie. Another neat fact is that Ming-Na Wen, voice of the original Mulan in the animated movie, makes a cameo appearance in the live-action adaptation.
The main omission from Mulan is everybody’s favourite talking dragon, Mushu. It’s believed that Mushu was cut from the adaptation as the character was seen as trivialising Chinese culture in the original film, which I can completely understand, as popular as he was with western audiences.
I also think Mushu would have been extremely difficult to recreate in the live-action adaptation and in that sense, Disney probably saved themselves a barrage of abuse for ruining a much loved character. In his place, Mulan receives a phoenix who watches over her, but ultimately is irrelevant to the story.
There are no musical numbers present in the live-action film either, which gives it a mature feel. The epic war battles and the superb action sequences really are impressive and whilst this is still a Disney film aimed at children and parents alike, I feel as if older viewers will appreciate it more. It’s a beautiful film with stunning backdrops and a mahogany of colours which really bring Imperial China to life, but likewise, I don’t think these are enough to keep younger viewers attention.
Whilst I enjoyed the film, I wasn’t totally blown away by it and it just feels a little lacking in some areas, but I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why. The Ballad of Mulan is historically short in length and whilst I don’t think there could have been anything added to the narrative, I feel as though the original Mulan benefited from its musical numbers and comic relief, resulting in this remake of Mulan falling a little short.
Mulan offers stunning visuals and epic action sequences and delivers a mature insight into The Ballad of Mulan.