Riley Wilcosh ’22
I was raised on movies like Mulan. Who was my babysitter? Cars. Who taught me sadness? The Fox and the Hound. And what was the most grandiose, awe-inspiring movie for me at that time? Mulan.
I loved the original Mulan. It had Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, and more Eddie Murphy (there aren’t a lot of well-known actors in the original Mulan).
But the score was great, the writing was witty and intelligent, and the animation had a unique, idiosyncratic feel to it. But then the remakes of these movies started flooding in. Movies that, with a few exceptions, were met with ridicule by critics and audiences alike.
The live action Mulan could’ve been so much more. Considering its budget of $200 million, the film should’ve pulled in far more than a modest $69 million (even with COVID-19’s negative effect on ticket sales). So what went wrong?
I would definitely hate this movie if it hadn’t been for the 1998 version. My slight tolerance of the 2020 version is purely due to nostalgia. If I separate the movie from the legacy of the original, it completely falls apart.
First of all, the writers edited the plot way past what needed changing. They got rid of one of the most intimidating villains in all of Disney, and downgraded to a basic, Mongol-template wannabe warlord. The side villain, an enchantress, is horribly plain, with some basic sob-story character development. They tried to make her sympathetic and evil at the same time, but this half-hearted attempt leaves behind a basic and dull character.
Your movie can’t turn out well when the antagonists are low quality doppelgangers of Khal Drogo and Maleficent. Mulan stays mostly the same, with a little more cutthroat instinct and some innate acrobatic skills, the origins of which are never explained. Mulan has none of her previous musical talent, but a newfound abundance of sullen and bored expressions.
Donnie Yen (of Rogue One and Ip Man) plays the commander who leads Mulan’s battalion, and along with Mulan herself, the movie is full of clichéd and stilted dialogue. This is a common occurrence throughout the movie; you don’t feel empathy for or attachment to any of these characters. They could win or lose, and no one would care either way.
The thing that saves the movie from being a dumpster fire is its budget, and all the things that come with having a Disney-sized wallet. The costume design is outstanding, and the makeup is equally up to the task. The visual effects are adequate, though there isn’t a lot of need for it in a movie with a lot of practical stunts.
However, this is all salad dressing to a chicken salad that’s missing the chicken. The movie lacks substance, art, and vision. It’s a thinly veiled attempt to try to recapture audiences’ nostalgia for the original. Neither the big studio nor that nostalgia is enough to push Mulan out of the red.
Photo Credit: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mulan_2020