Despite all the hype, Mulan was disappointing

The movie was finally released after a sixth-month delay but it wasn’t worth the wait, according to our writer.

Gabriel Choo

Published: 16 September 2020, 2:56 PM

Disney’s Mulan finally dropped in cinemas last week after a six-month delay due to COVID-19. But was it worth the wait at all?

Mulan tells the story of Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei), a girl from Imperial China who disguises herself as a man to enlist in the army in place of her father (Tzi Ma). Mulan eventually helps Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) and his army fight the enemy Ruoran warriors led by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee).

Don’t expect Mulan to be exactly the same as the original animated movie released back in 1998.

Beloved characters like Mushu the red dragon and Cri-Kee the cricket do not appear in the live-action adaptation, while there are also slight storyline changes with Mulan’s love interest changing from the army commander to another soldier instead.


Some beloved characters do not appear in the live-adaptation of Mulan.


After watching the nearly two-hour film, the biggest boo-boo for me was that the movie would have been much better if it was a Chinese one. Given that the film is set in imperial China, it was honestly culturally weird to see the characters converse in English.

For example, I don’t think Chinese emperors ever spoke English during this period. There was also a scene where Mulan had to pour tea in front of a matchmaker and it was so unnatural to hear them converse in English, since such rituals are part of Chinese culture and tradition.


Sipping tea in imperial China and conversing in… English? Something’s not quite right. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT OF MULAN OFFICIAL TRAILER


Due to the actors’ strong Chinese accents, some of the dialogue was also a little hard to understand, especially that of the lead heroine herself (Liu Yifei). In fact, every time she spoke, I couldn’t help but think to myself how fake her voice sounds.

Cinematically, Mulan showcased some pretty stunning costume designs and backdrops from China and New Zealand. However, the choreography in its fighting scenes never actually captured my attention like how a Marvel movie would. And that can be considered another major flaw, considering how the show prides itself in the whole idea of a battle.


The fighting scenes in Mulan were a disappointment. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT OF MULAN OFFICIAL TRAILER


One thing the movie did well in is that it managed to portray real human emotions. I really felt for Mulan whenever she struggled with having to make decisions because society deemed her behaviour as abnormal. Mulan accurately highlights the stereotypical gender roles, which is a true reflection of culture at that time.

Although some might argue that there was a false sense of empowerment, I especially loved the film’s values of being loyal, brave and true. As an Asian, I was surprised that a Westernised show called attention to filial piety, which was the fourth value added after Mulan won the battle.

However with the abundance of such values immersed in the film, I was disappointed at the lack of a romance plot. I was really rooting for Mulan and her love interest, Chen Honghui (Yosan An), a soldier in the army.

In their final scene, I was at the edge of my seat, expecting them to end up in a long smooch, with fireworks bursting into the skyline after. But alas it was just a rather lame “see you soon” handshake, with Mulan galloping away with her horse. The build-up was to nothing and I definitely felt slightly cheated leaving the cinema.


Not quite the ending I was expecting, to say the least. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT OF CHRISTINA AGUILERA’S REFLECTION (MULAN 2020)


So back to the question: Was the movie worth the wait?

To each his own, but it definitely wasn’t for me.

Mulan is now showing in cinemas. The film is directed by Niki Caro and stars Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Tzi Ma, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Ron Yuan, Gong Li and Jet Li as the main cast.


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