Movie Review: Mulan
Without a single ounce of love or nostalgia for the original Mulan, entering into this inevitable live-action remake was a bit similar to attending a reunion populated by people you don’t like. Controversy over the cast, the defence of China, and ultimately the political tension caused by this bland Disney re-imagining, Mulan is an ineffective and repugnant piece with or without the moral objections found outside of its fictional world. It should be no surprise to anyone that Mulan is a war on the Disney magic that audiences around the world cling to for dear life. A brittle piece of comfort in times of global conflict, it’s just a shame Mulan wants to crush your love and nostalgia into a thin, fine paste.
Turning a charming story of rising up to the challenge of fighting in a “man’s war”, Mulan throws its progressive message to the wayside to focus on a world of witches, legends and fables. One of the few engaging aspects of the original is lost immediately to generic, nonsensical fantasy, solely there to pad out the running time. Often mistaking comedic choreography and call-backs to the original as entertainment or interesting, the film suffers most when it looks to re-enact moments from the animated classic. It hits all the beats necessary, but does so in a way that feels like it underestimates the charms Eddie Murphy and co had to offer in the animated version. Completely scrubbing their effectiveness from the palette of pedestrian colour schemes available here, Mulan operates on the idea that its audience wants something different from the original story, but also completely lacking in originality.
Ditching the musical numbers, energy, and just about anything that made the original piece engaging, Mulan takes the traditional story of our titular character going off to fight in a war but twists it with a muted cast of characters. Whilst the original message was one of proving your worth as an individual and never backing down, director Niki Caro throws this to one side, and in this piece featuring Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and Tzi Ma, it’s surprising how little quality there is in the performances. But that lack of quality is present everywhere. It’s a technically competent film, but the competence at hand tries nothing outlandish or entertaining, and what little effort it can muster in the face of originality is completely overshadowed by a disastrous central storyline.
Stretching a mediocre, if clunky, eighty-minute animation into a two-hour festival of dated CGI, poor performances and bizarre sequences that have no correlation or connection to the painfully overrated original, Mulan provides a dire experience for the whole family. The simplicity of the original is lost entirely to grandiose set designs that try too hard to impress. They’re littered with careless detail, a real eye-sore at the best of times. Poor interpretations of the heroes and villains that Disney fans have come to love, and absolutely nothing for the few of us out there that have nothing but ambivalent disgust for the ineffectual nonsense Disney release from time to time. With a hefty price tag attached to it, Mulan is an absurdly awful piece, one that tries too hard to capture the magic of its source material, instead squandering what little it has to offer with that glazed, expressionless feeling all Disney live-action films have featured as of late