The remake tries a more serious tone. It offers less comedy than the original, and completely ditches the musical aspect. Although, music from the original movie is referenced throughout the film. For example, one character remarks that they will make men out of the soldiers in training.
Great changes to the remake include Mulan’s sister, and the lack of time spent on the love interest. Audiences learn more about Mulan’s character through her sister, as they see a more playful side of her brought out. One may find it refreshing to see Mulan bounce off of someone other than a love interest.
The love interest of the film is Honghui. He replaces Li Shang from the animated version. While the two obviously like each other, they don’t end up together as Mulan returns to her family after the war. Mulan doesn’t rely on Honghui and he is not the most important person in her life.
Even though the film’s changes to Mulan’s family and love interest were great additions, other changes feel weird and out of place. The film starts with Mulan as an already gifted fighter. In the original, Mulan learns to fight when her commanders teach her during training. The film explains Mulan was gifted with the power of chi. This takes away the inspiration of learning a skill and perfecting it, which was present in the original.
An obvious change is the absence of Mushu the dragon. Mushu added most of the comedic relief in the animated version. Without him, comedic scenes don’t feel as funny or iconic. The dragon was part of the reason the 1998 film became an iconic Disney feature.
The strangest addition to the film is Xianniang, the new villain. Xianniang is a witch who also uses the power of chi. She doesn’t add much to the film and feels like a desperate attempt for the film to have more inclusion of women.
“Mulan” fails to develop Xianniang as a character. All the audience knows about her is that she wants to lead armies as a woman. When she fails, she becomes determined to take over the empire and destroy it.
Xianniang ends up sacrificing her life to save Mulan. However, the movie doesn’t provide enough build up for this moment. Audiences don’t see her have a significant change of heart. Xianniang easily proves herself as the worst part of the film.
While live action remakes such as “Beauty and the Beast” fail to add color and original shots in their cinematography, “Mulan” is surprisingly colorful. The film clearly takes inspiration from its original animation, yet still adds new ideas. The strong presence of red in the film adds to its beauty. Audiences will find it hard to look away from each shot.
One scene that particularly stands out for the plot is when the men and Mulan are reciting the oath to officially become soldiers. As the group recites “Loyal. Brave. True,” Mulan omits “True.” She later says this part of the oath to herself when she finally stops hiding behind her male persona. The scene marks a turning point for Mulan.
At the end of the day, “Mulan” is a remake of a film audiences have seen before. The film struggles with originality but makes it work. “Mulan” is not the worst live action remake, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a great movie.
Price: $29.99 in addition to $6.99 Disney+ subscription
Available On: Disney+
Director: Niki Caro
Release Date: Sep. 4
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars