Mulan 2020 Spoiler Review


Emily Teismann

Find the Mulan 2020 live action remake on Disney+ for $30 Premier Access.

Emily Teismann, Editor in Chief

Disclaimer: I will not be comparing the 2020 film to the original 1998 film. I will be reviewing this film as a separate entity. I will draw my points from that of a literary perspective as well as cinematic. At the end, I will express my opinion of the movie as well as whether it is worth the $30 to watch it on Disney+. Oh and Spoilers Ahead.

As many of you know, Mulan is the story of a young Chinese woman that disguises herself on behalf of her father after the infiltration of northern invaders that plan to kill the emperor.

This northern group is led by our main antagonist, Bori Khan, who is partnered with a shapeshifting witch named Xian Lang. Characters who fit an antagonistic role often carry weight behind them and have a reason for their motives.

Unfortunately, Bori Khan did not. When villains come on to the screen, they dominate it and instill unease and dread in both the characters and audience. Examples include Thanos, Darth Vader, the Joker, Voldemort, Bruce from Jaws (not from Finding Nemo), Grimmel from How To Train Your Dragon 3, etc. Not only that, but his reason for being a villain was stereotypical; revenge for his killed father, which wasn’t ever touched on in depth.

Usually, a villain will give said reason, be it by stating it themselves or by others, and then the film will touch on their backstory to explain why. The witch had a better reason for being a villian, having been shunned by her family and village for who she is as well as being exiled.

However, she isn’t the main villain, which is the problem. Later in the movie, she switches sides and joins Mulan. But this is short lived as she dies not a minute later, which left me disappointed and confused as I had been expecting an epic battle to unfold between the newly formed allies and Bori Khan.

This leads me to my next point; character relationships. None of the relationships between the characters in this movie could be considered to be “fleshed out” or “deep”. Mulan’s relationship with her family, other than her father, is surface level.

They tried to establish a bond between her and her younger sister, but it wasn’t given enough time to really develop. Even the supposed romantic interest for Mulan is short lived. They had potential to be great, but Disney didn’t ever take the opportunity.

Up next for consideration is Mulan. Hua Mulan is obviously the protagonist of this film. Characters who fall on the role of protagonist, particularly those in legends, often have extraordinary qualities that set them apart from common folk.

In Mulan’s case, she has a strong chi and is very courageous. Protagonists often undergo some sort of major change throughout their story and learn some kind of lesson. This is where Mulan as a character begins to fall short. She never truly changes or really learns a lesson, making her a static character. She also doesn’t have much depth, also making her a flat character. These are things a main character shouldn’t be.

Main characters also tend to have flaws, which make them relatable to their audience. Mulan doesn’t have any notable flaws. She is already extremely skilled even as a small child and even more so later as an adult. As far as personality faults, she doesn’t have really any flaws; she’s smart, brave, driven, willful, etc; but nothing that makes her engaging or particularly unique.

Taking a step back and looking at the story as a whole, the film takes another hit. The pacing is off and awkward. Due to this, there are many plot holes. There isn’t much of a story arc either, which everyone learns about in an English class. Yes, there is an exposition and resolution, but there isn’t much of a climax/turning point in the story.

One could consider when she takes off her armor and rides to find the camp again after facing off with the witch the climax but it lacks the lesson learned, which is critical to a climax. The story also doesn’t delve into any of the major themes that it sets up; sexism, family, self worth, female empowerment, societal acceptance, prejudice, etc. Furthermore, some of the decisions the characters don’t make much sense when thought about and can be chalked up to doing it for plot convenience.

Looking at it from a cinematic perspective, the film’s scenery is beautiful, having been filmed in China and New Zealand. It featured the golden Taklamakan Desert and the gorgeous rainbow mountains of Zhangye Danxia Landform National Park of China to New Zealand’s refreshing South Island’s Ahuriri Valley. Costuming is also very well done, from the clothing to the makeup is impeccable as always. The casting was also truly well done.

Mulan’s live action and animated counterparts look similar. Probs to Disney for this. Fun fact: At the end of the film, Ming-Na Wen, the original VA of Mulan, makes a cameo. The score of the film was great too, some of the pieces paying homage to the original. The acting isn’t anything to slight either. I didn’t feel at any point that the actors/actresses weren’t playing their role to the best of their abilities.

End of Spoilers

As a fan of the original but having to come to peace with the changes to the film, I was apprehensive about the 2020 remake, but went into it with an open mind. I was disappointed. The film wasn’t powerful and lacked substance. I didn’t gain any emotional connection to any of the characters or feel particularly moved. Most the time, I was confused. I don’t think it will be one that I watch over and over again. Now for the all important question: Do I think it was worth the $30 to watch on Disney+? My answer to that is no. It is lower than the price of a four to five member family to go to the theatre, which is reasonable. And it’s a gamble whether the movie will be good or not. My advice to you is to wait until it is released for free to watch it.

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