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Mulan was meant to be one of Disney's major theatrical releases in 2020. Of course, as with all theatrical releases, that plan hit some snags. Disney delayed for most of the year, hoping that theaters would be open and audiences would return. Unfortunately, those thigs did not happen. This led Disney to take Mulan in a unique direction as far as distribution. The movie was put on the Disney+ streaming service, as had happened with other films as well. In the case of though Mulan, it was priced at $29.99, on top of one already needing a Disney+ subscription. It's unclear how many people actually sprung for that additional cost, but if you're one of the people who did not, there's good news. Mulan is now available for no additional fee, as long as you're a current subscriber to Disney+, of course.
If you waited this long, then perhaps the live-action Mulan just didn't appeal to you for some reason. While Disney's live-action remakes of its animated films have frequently brought in box office billions, there are those that don't care for them, to be sure. But now that Mulan is all but $7 away, there are some reasons worth giving the new Mulan a chance.
It's Not A Carbon Copy Of The Original
While seeing an animated Disney classic brought to life on the screen is one reason that many people love the live-action remakes, I've always been partial to those movies that took the property in a different direction. Maleficent gave us the villain's point of view. Dumbo was really more sequel than remake. While Mulan is, at its core, the same story as the animated one, there are a lot of significant differences. If what you want is a live-action version of the same story you already love, then Mulan might not work, but if you want something a little different, this is it.
The live-action Mulan isn't a musical, first and foremost. There are some references to the original Disney songs in the score, but that's about it. Entirely new characters have been added, such as Mulan having a sister now. They've also been taken away; for instance, Mulan doesn't have a grandmother here. Other characters have been radically changed. Li Shang of the animated Mulan is now effectively two characters, which drastically changes the interactions and motivations of everybody involved. New villains are here with new motivations. The plot isn't fresh, but it's been refreshed more than most Disney remakes.
Awesome Martial Arts Action
The new Mulan was a movie that was clearly designed to appeal to an audience outside the United States. The animated movie was never embraced in China and Disney wanted this one to work better in the second largest box office nation on earth. Many of the design and style choices were made with this in mind. The lack of a sidekick comedy dragon is specifically due to this. Bit if there's one major benefit to this strategy, it's that the new Mulan has some really fun martial arts sequences that were clearly inspired by the films of Asia.
The animated Mulan wasn't without quality action, but the cartoon version never looked quite like this. Mulan is a goddess of wire-fu throughout the film and that makes the action sequences here worth watching all by themselves. If you're a serious devotee of Asian cinema, there won't be anything you haven't already seen, but we certainly haven't seen anything like it in a Disney movie before. And there's simply a lot more of it. The new Mulan is a significantly longer film than the animated one, and much of that extra run time is given over to action scenes.
While it is nice that we got to see Mulan this year rather than having it pushed off to 2021 and beyond, there are certainly downsides to that as well. The movie was clearly filmed to be seen on the big screen. No place is that more evident then the fact that the movie is simply beautiful to look at. Even if you ignore the characters and the story, the locations where Mulan was filmed, primarily New Zealand, are just lovely, and the movie makes a point to show it all to you.
Yes, it would have better on a big screen, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. And so, it's better to see it on your TV then not see it at all. That being said, Mulan is available in glorious 4K UHD on Disney+, so if you do have a compatible television, it still looks pretty damn amazing.
Donnie Yen... Enough Said
As mentioned earlier, the character of Li Shang from the original film was transformed in the new one into two separate characters. Yosan An played Chen, the love interest character for the story, and Donnie Yen was Commander Tung, Mulan's commanding officer. Honestly, the love interest side of the story didn't really do it for me, though your mileage may vary. However, Donnie Yen is pretty much always great in everything he does, and Mulan is no exception.
I'm not sure there's anybody better alive today who could have played the role of Tung in the new Mulan. He's a surrogate father to Mulan while still being able to lead his troops and show that he has all the skills necessary to do that. Does Donnie Yen get a superfluous scene that's there just to let the accomplished actor show off his martial arts skill? Of course he does. Do we care? No, we do not.
Ming-Na Wen's Cameo
If there's a true downside to live-action remakes, even the good ones, it's that attention shifts to the live-action actors, and often the voice talent that brought the animated characters to life can be overlooked. Ming-Na Wen voiced Mulan in the original animated film, but nobody was going to let the audience forget about her completely. Keep your eyes open, because she makes an appearance in the live-action movie as well.
If you've somehow made this far without seeing or learning about her appearance, I'm not going to spoil it for you here. Just rest assured that if you get near the end of the movie and you haven't seen her yet, you haven't missed anything. Ming-Na Wen takes center stage when she appears, so she's hard to miss. And that's a great thing, because the live-action remake wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her.
Is the live-action Mulan remake a perfect movie. No, not really, but it's not a complete mess either. It has high points and low points, just like most movies. And honestly, if you already have Disney+ (if you don't, use the following link to sign up), why wouldn't you just give it a look. I guess that's the bonus sixth reason to watch it. You're basically paying for it now anyway, so why not?
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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