No music, no Mushu, and an extra $30. There is a lot to look forward to here.
Earlier this month, Disney released its live-action adaptation of Mulan on its streaming service, Disney+. With many theaters closed, the company still aimed to make money off of the film’s release somehow, which they did by charging an extra $30 to have “premier access” to the movie. Disney+ is already $6.99/month, and this film is not worth another $30.
The story of Mulan showcases a young eponymous woman (Yifei Liu) with little fear and lots of bravery. She secretly takes her father’s place in the Chinese Imperial Army for his safety, risking her own as she pretends to be a man.
There are a few things about the 2020 adaptation that differ from the original animated film. First of all, the villains are brand new. Antagonist Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee), leading the Rouran army, takes the place of the original villain Shan Yu. This movie also introduces Xianniang (Li Gong), a warrior who is perceived as a witch, and is an unfamiliar enemy to Mulan. A few characters were missing in this film, too, including love interest Li Shang, and Mulan’s dragon sidekick, Mushu. One of the biggest differences, however, is the lack of music throughout the movie; none of the characters sing, but some songs from the original soundtrack are included instrumentally.
These differences didn’t necessarily have a negative impact on the movie, but some of them made it hard to be entertained. The original soundtrack and a love interest would definitely not fit the tone of this adaptation, but I couldn’t help but notice the Mushu-shaped hole in my heart as I watched. While he was replaced by the symbol of a phoenix for protection over Mulan, there was still a lack of fun without his character. Meanwhile, the addition of new characters unfortunately seemed unnecessary and confusing. It was difficult to acknowledge Xianniang’s significance as a villain and to be entertained by her role in the story.
Beware of some of the acting as well. From one of the first scenes where Mulan is shown as a young girl, it seems as though the actors aren’t truly selling their roles, but thank you, casting directors, for characters like Cricket (Jun Yu) who carry the scenes that they’re in with convincing acting and comedy relief. I started to have more hope for the underwhelming acting as the action picked up, but I soon found out the action was just as bland. It makes sense for action scenes in a Disney movie to be toned down for young viewers, but most of them just seemed anticlimactic. However, a few of them did get a laugh out of me when it came to some interesting editing choices, like slowing down the speed of a shot halfway through.
I understand if you’re a Disney fan and you feel obligated to watch the 2020 adaptation of Mulan, but there is no need to go in with high expectations. If you’re considering watching this movie, either be prepared for a pretty long two hours or just save your $30.