Mulan – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Niki Caro
Starring: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, Jet Li
Available to rent on Disney+ from September 4th
This live-action remake of the 1998 animated feature has been one of the biggest cinematic casualties of CoVid. Originally slated for release just before the outbreak it has seen its opening date shunted numerous times and instead of its intended big-screen outing it is debuting instead on the streaming platform Disney+ (although it will have a cinema release in some countries).
It does have the advantage of having a ready-made fan base thanks to the love of the original. However, there are some changes to the story – not least that this version doesn’t contain any songs. They have also bisected her original love interest commander Li Shang into two characters. The object of her affections here is Chen Honghui (An) a fellow recruit in Mulan’s unit. Meanwhile, her unit commander and mentor is now Commander Tung. This is in response to the Me Too movement as it as felt it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to be involved with her commanding officer.
Yifei plays the titular character who masquerades as a man in order to serve in the Imperial Army. She proves a formidable heroine and is completely mesmerising in the role. She handles comedic moments – such as scenes where her mother brings her to a matchmaker – just as well as hard-hitting action sequences. She is ably supported by the rest of the cast. A welcome addition is a new character Hua Xiu (Tang) Mulan’s younger sister. Tang works wonderfully with Yifei and is the Yin to her Yang.
The action sequences are elaborate and jaw-dropping. Yifei makes them look effortless and they are visually spectacular. The cinematography is impressive and it is unfortunate that some people won’t get to see this on the big screen and appreciate the full scale of it. The same is true of the sound which really benefits from a proper cinema sound system.
This is a great example of how to update a classic while maintaining the original ethos of the story. It feels extremely fresh but its underlying message of being true to yourself is timeless. It is well-paced and exciting to watch from the opening frames to the close. Despite being an ancient story Mulan is a very modern heroine and is sure to inspire numerous Halloween costumes. This is definitely a modern classic and if you do have the opportunity to see it on a big screen I would completely recommend it!