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Review: 'Mulan'

Walt Disney Animation’s version of Mulan was released in 1998.

It was well-received, earning over $304 million at the box office.

In recent years, the folks at Disney have turned their attention to the profitable business of making live action adaptations of their beloved animated classics.

Entertainment Weekly listed 23, some of which are in still in production. The ones we’ve seen include: Alice in Wonderland (2010), Maleficent (2014), Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016) Pete’s Dragon (2016), Beauty and the Beast (2017), Dumbo (2019), Aladdin (2019), just to name a few.

From a business standpoint, the strategy is sound. Each of these movies was a hit with audiences, young and old.

It takes some of the guesswork out of the equation when greenlighting a project that has already proven to be successful.

Everyone loves a sure thing.

Creatively, Disney Studios recognized that what was the exclusive domain of their animation studios has now expanded into the world of live action film thanks to the modern miracle of ever-improving digital effects.

What could only be rendered through hand-painted animation cells in the past can now be brought to life with real actors existing in a realistic, believable world of imagination and fantasy.

And audiences will pay to see it.

The latest example is the live action remake of Mulan.

I will admit that the hook was in when I saw the first trailer.

Part of me said, “Oh, here we go again with another live action remake.” But another part of me said, “Wow, this actually looks pretty good.”

That was many months ago, before the pandemic wreaked havoc in Hollywood.

Many movie releases were repeatedly delayed. Some were released through pay-per-view offerings.

Mulan fell into that category. Starting September 4, Disney+ will offer Premier Access to “Mulan” for $29.99.

It was worth the wait.

Mulan is one of those instant classic films that is going to rake in the money and be around for quite some time.

It delivers the kind of exceptional quality that you would expect from Disney. It justifies its estimated $200 million budget.

What impressed me about the trailers were the standout visuals.

Everything about it looked epic and eye-popping.

The color-saturated cinematography, the Oscar-worthy art direction and costumes, the sound editing and music. Technically, it’s first rate.

The casting is spot on.

While the original, animated Mulan had a broad mix of talent, (Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein, Eddie Murphy and Donny Osmond) the new remake features an all-Asian cast, all delivering fine performances.

Disney, more than anyone out there knows the importance of a great story, and once again, they have delivered the goods.

While there are some liberties taken in this re-telling, the story is engaging and inspiriting. It’s powerful and emotional, and heartfelt.

Cinematically, it has much in common with other movie epics about battles and bravery.

It may stick to the formula in an overall sense, but within that it manages to carve out its own creative direction.

Mercifully, there is not an over-reliance on the cliche wire stunts that are all too frequent in Asian action flicks.

For the record, while they are amusing, I personally find them to be a bit ridiculous, even in movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

I know, it’s a cultural thing. But to me, the weightless characters kung-fu fighting while floating in space never looks anything but silly. Sorry, Asian and martial arts movie fans.

While there is some of this in Mulan, it used sparingly and has been toned down enough to not cross the line of laughability. It works.

James Bond fans will love the dangerous fight-on-tall-scaffolding scene that has been repeated in several of the Daniel Craig 007 films. It’s an unmistakable homage.

While the movie is action packed and violent it manages to be all that without being bloody or gory.

It’s a creative choice that makes Mulan a film that is appropriate to younger audiences.

True to many of Disney’s more recent releases, Mulan is another “girl power” movie.

She is a woman born of humble beginnings who defies tradition and cultural restrictions to achieve her dream in fhe face of obstacles and push-back.

That part of the story really works.

The premise of the story with a young woman somehow passing herself off in an all-male military training school without being outed is a delicate matter.

It does involve some of the old “suspension of disbelief” that many movies of many genres often require.

We have to believe that she can somehow get away with the deception, as improbable as it is. The movie does a pretty good job of making that work as well.

For me, Mulan lived up to all the expectations.

It’s a movie with a strong contemporary message that was beautifully shot and a joy to behold. Every shot works.

Perhaps the only disappointment is that it won’t be seen on a big screen in a theater environment, where it was intended to be enjoyed.

Mulan is another casualty of the pandemic, in that regard.

That’s not to say that it won’t still be entertaining at home. It’s just a shame that it won’t deliver its full potential.


Starting September 4, Disney+ will offer Premier Access to Mulan for $29.99 on Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available.


Photos by: Jasin Boland, copyright 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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