Disney’s live-action Mulan has arrived on Disney+ for those who choose to purchase premiere access. This comes after its release being delayed more than once due to the COVID-19. The movie tells the story of a young spirited girl who goes off to fight for the Emporer to save her father’s life. She hides her true self to join the army and fight in her father’s stead. Through the course of becoming a soldier, she learns the importance of being loyal, brave, and true. The live-action Mulan is a new different take on the story Disney first told in the 1998 animated musical.
This take on Mulan is similar but different than the one Disney told in 1998. That is thankfully a very good thing. It isn’t a frame-by-frame retelling of the animated musical. Instead, it takes some key plot points from the original and builds on them in this film. At its core though, this is a film that focuses on Mulan and her growth as a person, a warrior, and a leader. It does this quite well. The original Disney take on this film is a favorite however, this one has a lot more depth and emotion. The growth found throughout really adds a lot to the story. As the film moves forward, the audience finds itself growing attached to the characters as they grow, particularly Mulan.
Another element of the 1998 film that was not present in this one was the songs. The animated movie was a musical. This one was not. This turned out to not be a problem at all. In fact, throwing songs in from the animated movie would have changed the tone of the movie and detracted from it. They did have musical nods to the original movie throughout the film, and that was just enough to recognize the past but also be a new movie.
The heart of this story though is about Mulan and the discovery of herself. It is about her devotion to loyalty, bravery, and truth. It is also a story about her devotion to family. All of this makes for a very enjoyable and heartfelt movie.
This is a beautifully filmed movie. It was filmed in both China and New Zealand and there are some moments that are absolutely beautiful. It is a movie that is just enjoyable to look at. There are pretty locations, beautiful colors, and some incredible architecture and settings. All of this to say, this fits with the standard of high quality set by Disney. There were one or two moments at the beginning of the film where my eyebrow raised with a couple of effects. However, these were small things and it is nitpicky to even bring them up.
Mulan moves along at a pace that keeps the movie moving forward, but not too fast. There aren’t really any slow moments either. When I looked at the length of the film at just under two hours, I wondered if it would feel too short. This is not true. It feels just right. There weren’t any moments that I felt like I needed to look at my watch. There also wasn’t that feeling that I was having to work too hard to keep up with the film. It seemed to move at exactly the right pace.
The cast of Mulan is in a word, incredible. Generally, when watching a film there are characters that are awesome, some that are in the middle, and some that can be discounted. This film is filled with incredible talent that comes together to create a film that really is cohesive. Many of the characters had moments to shine and then stood aside while others had their moments next. Liu Yifei in the title role is definitely the star and just gets better and better as the film progresses. However, those who surround her are also really good and enjoyable to watch. There really wasn’t a weak link and that was very nice to see.
The music for Mulan was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams. It is a solid score that fits in well with the movie. By itself, it doesn’t have the strength of the 1998 Disney version. It does have a few nods to the original music and songs throughout. It is a much more modern score that does have a feel that fits with the film quite nicely. It does what it needs to do in supporting the story and helping move things along. There is nothing wrong with it other than it is hard to not compare to the brilliance of Jerry Goldsmith’s take on the story in 1998.
Disney’s live-action Mulan is really an enjoyable movie. In fact, I would go as far as saying it is a moving movie. There are moments that really are quite powerful and emotional. It does an excellent job of telling the story of Mulan that originated in the 6th century in The Ballad of Mulan. The movie begins continues to grow and build on itself as it progresses, which is a very good thing. This is a movie that would have been awesome to see on the big screen. However, it is still worth watching in any way that is available. Mulan gets a hat tip for being really well done. It will probably go in my top three live-action Disney re-makes of animated films.