Disney almost made a remake out of you

Box-office disaster Mulan mixes beautiful cinematography with disappointing execution.


photo by Disney

Mulan (2020) was released on September 4, 2020 on Disney’s streaming platform Disney+.

After years of creating successful live-action remake after live-action remake, Disney may have finally met their match in the box office. Despite being one of the best Disney live-action remakes so far, “Mulan” could be the first to fail due to its inability to play in most theaters.

With campaigns to boycott this movie on social media and a poor performance in ticket sales, many have written this movie off. However, “Mulan” deserves credit for being bold enough to make changes to the original movie, which is more than many other remakes can say. “Mulan” is a decent movie with exciting new character dynamics and exceptional cinematography. 

Easily one of the best parts of this movie was its beautiful cinematography. Many shots were gorgeous and filled with beautiful scenery and historically-accurate props and costumes. The real highlight, however, is the interesting spinning-camera shots they used during fight scenes to show different angles and perspectives. It really made the movie stand out from the first action scene to the last, even if the final battle itself was a little disappointing because they put more emphasis on the set design than the actual conflict. 

There are quite a few new characters in this movie that were not in its 1998 animated predecessor, such as Xianniang (Gong Li), Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and Chen Houghui (Yoson An). Though Bori Khan was a pretty bland and unoriginal bad guy, and Houghui was a knock-off version of Shang, both Xianniang and Mulan’s father Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma) brought different dynamics to Mulan’s (Liu Yifei) story that were not in the original. 

Xianniang and Mulan share many similarities in their characters and ambitions that they work as direct foils to each other. Xianniang is a witch who has suffered from social exclusion due to her refusal to fit into the social norm for women, much like Mulan, and shows her who she could become. Hua Zhou, while being in the original movie, benefits from the remake as his character’s interactions with Mulan are more complex and demonstrate more of the struggles Mulan had to deal with in a period where many women had little free will. 

Though most of the main characters were handled well, some suffered from the expanding cast. The supporting characters were very one-note and not engaging. Houghui, for example, does not have the same complexities or charm that General Shang had in the original movie. 

While “Mulan” is clearly a decent remake with plenty of highlights, there are still a few flaws that keep the movie from being exceptional. Several scenes were not nearly as interesting as before, such as the training scenes. Mulan’s own self-contemplation didn’t feel quite as profound as it did in the original, especially with the lack of “Reflection.” 

Though it makes sense for them to have taken the songs out, they really underestimated how the music helps to move the story and tone along. Many people watch these remakes for the music, and its disappointing to not see iconic songs such as “Make a Man Out of You” and “Reflection.” That said, it was still really fun whenever you’d hear instrumental versions of each song in the backgrounds of scenes. 

Comparing this movie to its superior predecessor is no competition, though it certainly stands on its own. It is easy to understand, however, why few were willing to pay the $30 for it. If this were a $10 movie ticket, it would be a fun watch, but unfortunately unless you have a family of 6 “Mulan” is simply not worth that much money.