Disney's live-action re-make, "Mulan," was supposed to hit theaters back in March...but, you know.
After several delays, it became increasingly apparent that "Mulan" was never make it to the big-screen at all. Instead, putting it on the Disney+ streaming service seemed like a gamble that Disney was ultimately willing to take.
For the hefty cost of $29.99, you can finally watch this new version of "Mulan," if you also happen to be a Disney+ subscriber...or you can wait until December when it will supposedly be available on the service for free.
Side-stepping whether or not this version of "Mulan" is worth $30, I do think that this film would have looked dazzling on the big-screen, even though it still holds its own at home.
"Mulan" was supposed to kick off the 2020 blockbuster season. It was the latest big-budget remake of the classic Disney animated library (following "Cinderella," "The Jungle Book," "Aladdin," "Dumbo" and "The Lion King." The story seems even more timely than when the animated film landed back in 1998. Mulan, a girl, must pretend she's a man in order to maintain the honor of her family and fight for the Chinese Emperor's army.
Removed from the live-action version are the comedic side-kicks (there is no Eddie Murphy-voiced dragon) and some of the goofiness...this movie is clearly aimed at a slightly older audience, hence its PG-13 rating. The violence is of course neutered (it's still Disney after all), but the tone seems much more somber and dreary than I ever remembered the original being.
The female-empowerment inherent in the story of "Mulan" could not have come at a better time, and this theme is driven home a bit more powerfully with a real actress (Yifei Liu, who is quite good) as opposed to a cast of animated characters. We don't deserve actor Tzi Ma ("The Farewell") who brings more to his role as Mulan's father than is probably required. And a nearly unrecognizable Jet Li appears as the powerful Emperor.
"Mulan" is a beautiful piece of cinema...a bit of a surprise quite honestly. The cinematography, costumes, set design and color made it a beautiful film to take in. The action-sequences were charged-up as well...you can tell that they were trying to honor martial-arts movies of the past with how much of it was depicted.
The film doesn't carry with it much weight however. The stakes are not as high as they should be, and even as it attempts a more serious tone, you're always aware you're watching a smoothed-out Disney movie. And let's face it, "Mulan" is far from one of the "great" Disney animated classics and has always been thought of more of a "second-tier" Disney animated film.
That being said, "Mulan" is a worthy effort, and maybe one of the few Disney re-makes that is overall a better film than the one it was based on. Is it worth $30 to watch it now as opposed to watching it for free in December? That's for you to decide.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama.
Run Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes.
Starring: Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Tzi Ma, Yoson An.
Directed by Niki Caro ("The Zookeeper's Wife," "McFarland, USA," "North Country," "Whale Rider").
Looking for a specific movie or review?