At long last, Mulan is ready to be seen. Having gone from theaters, to a delayed release, to exclusively being available on Disney+ for $30, the movie has had a bumpy road. So was it all worth it?
The story is one that we already know. Mulan is a young girl, expected to marry and bring honor to her family. Instead, she disguises herself as a man in order to take the place of her injured father, a veteran of a previous war, when war breaks out once again. Mulan’s deceit comes from a good place, but the risk of being exposed would comes at great cost to her. As she continues on, and becomes a hero in her own right, others will be forced to contend with her and her identity.
Unlike the 1998 Mulan, there is no singing and there is no small dragon named Mushu in this adaptation. These omissions, of course, are not necessarily bad things, but it certainly changes the tone of the film to be a more serious (and faithful) telling of the Chinese legend.
The cinematography, score, and visuals, by and large, are very well done. This is a beautiful film to watch and it is an incredibly pleasing live-action rendition that offers some faith to where it is supposed to be set in. This accomplishment cannot be taken away, but this is also where the praise, which is hardly enthusiastic or passionate, ends.
Mulan, on all other counts, fails to impress. It is an incredibly shallow story that feels rushed, ill-timed, and poorly planned. It lays a lot of responsibility on the viewer to already have an understanding of the story, as there are many gaps and cuts within the film that are meant to be filled in by those watching. On more than one occasion, Mulan shows up to one location or another without any real development or explanation. It simply just happens. The same happens for some of the other characters.
It also lacks emotion. There is little joy or excitement within the movie, even when there is cause for celebration. The characters seem to just be going along with the motions, as we really never have an opportunity to dive deep into who they are. For being the main character, the fact that Mulan also falls into this trap is especially worrisome and it makes her, and the movie, entirely forgettable.
For what promised to potentially be one of Disney’s best live-action adaptations, Mulan instead ended up being one of the worst, even if it is pretty to look at.