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Disney+'s Live-Action Mulan Reviews Are In, See What Critics Are Saying

Mulan

Disney's live-action remakes have been as strong as any other franchise produced by Disney in the last decade. Movies like Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast have made a billion dollars at the global box office and let's not even talk about the insanity that was The Lion King remake. Mulan was an incredibly highly anticipated addition to this successful series, with that anticipation only increasing as it was regularly delayed due to theater closures.

Now, Mulan has the dubious honor of being the biggest blockbuster released directly to streaming, at least in many regions. The film arrives on Disney+ tomorrow, but reviews are now hitting online. The good news is that, by and large Mulan looks to be a solid movie worth seeing, though that's not to say the live-action movie isn't without significant flaws.

The one thing that most critics seem to largely agree on is that, if nothing else, Mulan is a visually beautiful movie. The cinematography by Mandy Walker is complemented across the board in nearly every review as nearly every shot has something beautiful to look at. CinemaBlend's own Sarah El-Mahmoud gives Mulan four stars and compliments basically everything there is to see in the movie, from sweeping landscapes to well-choreographed fight scenes...

Mulan is a visual spectacle and top-notch choreography is a stunning achievement on its own.

Another of Mulan's strong suits is Mulan herself. The movie certainly would have difficulty working if the lead actress hadn't been up to the task. However, Yifei Liu, along with the rest of the ensemble, are generally praised for strong performances. As Fresh Fiction says...

Caro and company have also captured radiance and strength in the ensemble’s performances. Liu distinctively brings out her tough character’s subtle, softer notes of grace, gumption and vulnerability. She’s a magnetic dynamo with impressive dexterity, holding her own in action scenes as well as the emotionally driven ones...

Of course, Mulan is an adaptation and so, as such, it's impossible to consider the new film in a vacuum. Mulan is ultimately a remake of the animated Disney movie, and so one would expect it to include a lot of moments pulled directly from the previous film. It certainly does this, but ScreenRant was of the opinion the movie might have been better off doing that less...

At times, Caro's film can feel as if it's checking off scenes from the animated film, including them simply in an effort not to offend those who love Disney's tale. But that means the new material isn't given its due.

Of course, the reverse is also true. The new elements that the live-action Mulan adds must by design, take away from some of the film's adaptive elements, and Nerdist felt that the focus on the new means that character relationships from the original film are not given enough time to develop this time around.

With the focus on the new and unnecessary characters, the film fails to highlight the other important characters in Mulan’s story. These include her colleagues Yao, Ling, Chien-Po, and Cricket, which is really a loss for the audience. Throughout the film, Mulan has moments interacting with her fellow soldiers, but never more than exchanging occasional vocal jabs. The camaraderie never feels earned.

Many of the recent, and most popular, Disney remakes, like the aforementioned Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, were criticized by some for being little more than carbon copies of the original versions, making only surface level changes. The new Mulan is certainly not that. The Daily Beast feels that the new film is one of the better remakes because it largely fixes real problems with the original film.

This Mulan’s path is one of course correction, lending more space and, with it, majesty to the character’s battle-worn hero’s arc. There’s a more sincere celebration of the Chinese history and virtues at the heart of the tale, and, most importantly and finally, agency for Hua Mulan.

However, some of that agency comes at a price. Polygon takes issue with one of the additions to the story, the concept of chi. While it is used to help explain Mulan as a character, it ends up potentially taking away one of the character's best qualities from the animated film...

Though everyone possesses chi — it exists everywhere — Mulan is overflowing with it, and that excess of chi is what makes her special, rather than her resolve in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

One thing that's clear is that the live-action Mulan is designed to appeal to an Eastern audience as well as a Western one, something that largely wasn't the case for the animated original. Some reviews, such as the one from NPR, remark that this attempt has resulted in a somewhat muddled film with confusing messages...

I was more disappointed by how the script treats fairly intuitive cultural ideas — about a person's chi and the importance of family honor — as if they were difficult foreign concepts that needed to be repeatedly explained to the viewer.

If there's a single review that may perfectly sum up the general feelings toward the new Mulan, it may by the Associated Press, which says...

There is more good than bad in Mulan, and we should be so lucky to get a gorgeous and inspiring war epic that is suitable for children to watch. “Mulan” might even inspire some kids to dip their toes into all that Asian cinema has to offer, which would be the best possible outcome.

While there are certainly some issues to be taken with the new Mulan, few reviews seem to feel those problems outweigh the movie's successes. Most reviews are positive, if not glowing. This is important because those people interested in seeing Mulan are no longer considering spending $10 on a theatrical ticket, but rather $30 for a PVOD on Disney+. Mulan was always going to be an important movie for Disney, but now the film could help dictate how the company balances its theatrical and its streaming platform for the foreseeable future.

For some, spending $30 on a night at the movies will be a bargain and an easy choice. For others, spending that much on "good, but maybe not great" might be asking a lot.

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.