review by Bobby Blakey
Over the last couple of years Disney has been bringing their animated films to life with stories including Dumbo, Pete’s Dragon, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and most recently Aladdin. Their latest Mulan has me most excited as it as potential to be epic and features martial arts icons Donnie Yen and Jet Li as well as Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li and Yifei Liu as Mulan. Sadly due to COVID-19 this film didn’t get its original theatrical release, but it has finally been unleashed as an early access screening on Disney+. Could this film capture the essence of the iconic Chinese story or will it fail to defend the empire?
Mulan follows Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior who steps in to take the place of her ailing father when the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.
I am not big on the Disney princess era, but one that stood out to me that I loved is Mulan. I have no doubt that my own love of martial arts played into that, but I also loved the new look to the character design. I have been eagerly anticipating this live action version and was glad to hear they were ditching the music and comedy to offer up more of a classic epic wuxia film. The cast alone had me sold, but did the film work? Damn right it did! I loved this film. There are a few mild issues here and there, but as a whole I love that it fully captures the essence of the story of Mulan, the culture and epic wuxia while still being its own thing.
The cast are all great with Yifei Liu doing a great job as Mulan. She reportedly did the majority of her stunts and fighting as well which just adds to the greatness of her performance. Jason Scott Lee is the dominating force here as
Bori Khan. He is menacing, crazed and just all around awesome. His physical transformation fully embodies this character to make for a formidable foe. Both Jet Li and Donnie Yen are supporting cast with Yen the only one really getting in on the action, but loved them both in their roles. Usually I would be upset to not see these guys in action more, but here they fit and their legacy speaks for themselves.
The film is visually stunning fully capturing the looks fans of these types of films love. The action is great, but not quite as strong as I had hoped. Make no mistake there is plenty of it here and it works great, but my mind was just wanting more fast paced insanity. There are plenty of changes here but all of it works great in my opinion. This is an excellent take on the beloved animated classic while cementing as focusing more on the Chinese legend instead of just the cartoon remake. For hardcore fans of the original be on the look out for a cameo from original Mulan voice star Ming-Na Wen
I couldn’t wrap this up without addressing the choice of putting it on Disney+ for an additional fee. I for one would have loved to see the film on the big screen of course, but given the current time I am fine with this decision. The budget on the film all the people that worked their ass off to bring this film to life makes it worth the price for me. At the same time with theater tickets, snacks, gas, time etc. you are more than saving money and now that early access has been paid it is mine to watch it anytime I want and I will for sure be doing just that.
Check out Mulan streaming exclusively now on Disney+ with an early access fee.