The 1998 Animation MULAN is one of my favorite Disney movies. I still fondly recall the solid characters, catchy and award-winning songs, and entertaining story. The film has been in my heart ever since I first saw the movie as a young adult. I also appreciated getting a glimpse into traditional Chinese rituals and the role that girls play in their families and community.
Over the past several years, Disney has reimagined and released some of their more popular animated films into Live-Action form. These Live-Action versions have added a different dimension to the overall feel of storytelling. I approached each individual rendition with high anticipation and skepticism. Their trailers convey a picturesque invitation to a new look at the animated film as a Live-Action film. Those retellings often removed peripheral characters and musical numbers, but still retained basic story elements.
Based closely on the “Ballad of Mulan”, a fearless young woman named “Mulan” risks everything out of love for her family. At this time in their history, China was getting raided by Northern invaders. The Emperor of China issued a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country. Mulan’s father, having been injured in a previous war, attempts to fulfill his duty to the Emperor. Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, rebels against her traditional female responsibilities and steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Mulan masquerades as a man, “Hua Jun”, and becomes one of the greatest warriors China has ever known.
According to Stella Review: I had high expectations for the live-action Disney MULAN. The ornate scenes looked amazing and authentic in the trailers, it gave off a more traditional Chinese feel!
Unfortunately, as soon as the movie started, I was immediately distracted by scenes that felt contrived with paper-thin supporting characters. While MULAN gave the main characters depth, this desperate attempt to create a rich experience caused the character development to suffer. The supporting characters, many of which I loved in the animated version, appeared to exist in-name-only. I struggled to distinguish the characters from one another, they might as well have referred to everyone else as Soldiers 1-20.
I also found it difficult to follow the story at times. Some plot points were clipped and fragmented, which added to my overall confusion and frustration. The movie seemed to struggle trying to tell its own story, not mimicking the animated version at times. This gorgeous Asian movie consisting of a full-Chinese cast missed the opportunity to introduce us to more of the actors through story development. I’m still not sure how a movie with roughly 30 more minutes could have less character development.
According to Stella Rating: Family Viewing Disclaimer (1/low – 5/high scale)
MULAN is rated PG-13 by the MPAA due to the sequences of violence. There are several discussions of arranged marriage and gender roles, some partial nudity, many fight scenes with people using swords, arrows, reeds, and flaming boulders leaving many people dead with very little blood and gore, as well as some name-calling. I give MULAN the following rating:
- 1 – SEX/NUDITY
- 3 – VIOLENCE/GORE
- 1 – PROFANITY
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