Pros: the remake’s script differs in many ways from the cartoon; there are no talking animals or musical episodes in the film; a lot of screen time was allocated for the action scenes Cons: quick smoothing out of conflicts and the naivety of some moments of Mulan / Mulan
Directed by Niki Caro
Cast: Liu Yifei (Hua Mulan), Yoson An (Chen Honghui), Gong Li (Xian Lang), Donnie Yen (Commander Tong), Jason Scott Lee (Bori Han), Qi Ma (Hua Mulan’s father), Jimmy Wong (Ling ), Jet Li (Emperor), Ron Yuan (Sergeant Qian), Dou Mua (Po), etc.
Студии Walt Disney Pictures, Jason T. Reed Productions, Good Fear Productions
Year of release 2020
In 1998, Walt Disney Pictures released an animated film about a girl named Hua Mulan. The plot of the cartoon was taken from a Chinese poem – the heroine of the ballad pretended to be a man in order to join the army and go to war in place of her father. Interestingly, the second part of the cartoon was released in 2004, but the sequel was not successful and did not make it to the big screens.
The modern remake is based solely on the first cartoon, centered around military action. The new film features bloodthirsty conquerors who encourage the Emperor of China to strengthen his army. According to the ruler’s decree, one man from each family must become a soldier. Mulan’s elderly father, who has no sons, intends to join the army, but his daughter steals his armor and goes to the training camp herself. The heroine can do this – she has been quite agile and strong since childhood. Mulan likes the prospect of being in the army much more than the forced marriage that awaits the girl in her native province. There is only one problem – Hua Mulan needs to put a lot of effort into posing as a guy.
It is worth noting that this time the Disney writers tried to move away from the fairy-tale format and bring the film closer to a more serious fantasy. The talkative dragon Mushu, who helped the main character without leaving her a single step, was removed from the central characters. Now Mulan undergoes the tests on her own, and she is encouraged only by the flying phoenix, which she sees in the skies (he, like the dragon, symbolizes the protection of her ancestors). But in the new film a powerful witch appeared, helping the evil conquerors, who can transform into a bird.
Also, in the Mulan remake there are no musical episodes in which the characters perform songs, which is to the benefit of the film (in the cartoon, the characters sang already in the sixth minute). Thanks to this, the timing includes more battle scenes, in the filming of which an entire army of extras took part. The way the actors handle the martial arts won’t really impress fans of Chinese action films, but for a Disney film it’s pretty good. It is noteworthy that because of these scenes, the film “Mulan” was given a PG-13 rating, which has never happened with any Disney remake.
Surely some viewers will have complaints against the filmmakers, who, using the example of Hua Mulan, criticize Chinese patriarchy and create the image of a strong heroine. The film’s script was indeed influenced by changing trends in the film industry (for example, the character of Captain Li Shang, who was the heroine’s love interest, was correctly divided into two heroes – Commander Tong, who became only a mentor, and a young colleague named Chen). As for Mulan herself, in the remake she demonstrates physical agility and agility from childhood, which ultimately leads her to success on the battlefield. There were also women commanders in Chinese history, so there is no crazy exaggeration here.
But what the new film “Mulan” has in abundance is a certain naivety and lightning-fast resolution of situations. In a word, something that no Disney film can do without. In principle, such turns are quite expected, but against the backdrop of the overall seriousness of the film, which abandoned talking animals, it still catches the eye. Heroes who instantly change a conservative worldview or solemnly bring good news exist only in fairy tales.
However, this is not the only reason for the poor rating of Mulan. If you look at popular aggregator sites, you can see the difference in ratings from critics and audiences. Viewers usually rate such films higher than reviewers, but this time the Disney remake was declared a popular boycott. There are several reasons for this.
At first, the leading actress Liu Yifei supported the Hong Kong police, who brutally dispersed the protesters that began in the summer of 2019. Further, in the end credits, Disney thanked the Xinjiang authorities for their assistance in filming. The gratitude was addressed to the public security bureau in the city of Turpan, where educational camps for Uyghur Muslims are located. This sparked outrage among Chinese and American activists, who started the hashtag #BoycottMulan on Twitter calling for attention to Hollywood’s dual values.
In short, the situation is difficult. The film provokes meaningful discussions and outrages the actions of the film company. But all this, as a rule, has little effect on European audiences, for whom “Mulan” is a long-awaited and colorful family film that you can take middle school-age children to see.
a Disney film that made a choice towards a more serious fantasy, which did not work out in all scenes