Mulan Review: 2.5 Cougar Paws


Liz Curtin

(The Mulan (2020) Live Action is an adaptation of the original Disney animated film Mulan (1998), which in itself is a reinterpretation of the folktale Hua Mulan, a folk ballad dating back to the Northern Dynasties in China around 386-581 AD. This story, which has now gone through its fourth creative transformation, was released on Disney plus for no additional fee on December 4th after being available for purchase for $30 since September 4th.)


The film differs from its animated predecessor in the fact that it does not include characters such as Mushu (the deuteragonist and guardian spirit of the Fa family), Li Shang (the main love interest and the son of the general), Shan Yu (the main antagonist and leader of the Huns), Yao (a soldier and one of Mulan’s friends), Chi-Fu (the secondary antagonist and the Emperor’s Advisor), Grandmother Fa (Mulan’s grandmother), General Li (the father of Li Shang), and Mulan’s ancestors. The movie instead adds characters such as Bori Khan ( the main villain and leader of the Huns), Xian Lang (a Magical witch working with the villain), Chen Honghui (another soldier and Mulan’s love interest) Commander Tung (the general/leader of Mulan’s army), Hua Xiu (Mulan’s sister), and the Phoenix (the guardian spirit of the Fa family). However, many of the added characters took on roles that were left empty by the removal of the animated film’s characters. The only truly new additions are Xian Lang and Hua Xiu. 


Xian Lang who is my favorite character for fashion reasons is a witch working with Bori Khan. Her character may have been added to show who Mulan could’ve become if she had gone down a darker path and although her dialogue is forgettable, she adds a lot of interesting action and tension through the use of her powers of possession and transformation.


The second character to be added was Hua Xiu who is Mulan’s little sister. The addition of Mulan’s sister has mostly no effect on the overall story. It does negatively affect the matchmaker scene however all while producing the same outcome as the original film. In the original film, Mulan is sent to a matchmaker to determine who her future husband will be. While she is serving the matchmaker some tea she notices that there is a cricket in the tea. The matchmaker is about to drink the tea when Mulan tries to take it away from her since she is worried that a cricket being in the tea will get her in trouble. She accidentally splashes the tea on the matchmaker causing a chain of chaotic events that eventually get Mulan kicked out of the matchmaker’s home and told that she will never bring her family honor. The same happens in the remake except instead of a cricket in the tea Mulan’s sister screams when she sees a spider which freaks out the matchmaker who flips the table causing the tea set to go flying across the room. Mulan tries to catch the tea set but loses her balance and drops it. That is what causes Mulan to get thrown out.


Not a lot of time is spent on the relationship between Mulan and her younger sister or Mulan and her mother. Instead, this new adaptation adds more scenes centered around Mulan and her father, Hua Zhou, to emphasize the relationship between them. This helps give the audience a better understanding of why she eventually makes the choice to go to war in his stead.  The film is able to do this because of its much longer runtime in comparison to its predecessor. This allows the movie to include more scenes, such as the scenes with Mulan’s father, a scene showing Mulan journeying to camp, additional scenes with the emperor, and an extra scene at the end where Mulan’s comrades go to her home, give her gifts, and ask her to rejoin the army. Not all of the added scenes are positive additions to the story though. For example, the added scene showing Mulan journeying to camp just feels like filler.


Besides adding scenes, many changes were made to already existing scenes. In the scene where Mulan would have shot a cannon into the side of the mountain to cause an avalanche, she is instead able to get the Bad guys to shoot the mountain themselves by convincing them that there are soldiers in that direction by using helmets she propped up on top of rocks. It helps characterize Mulan as a smart and clever woman, in addition to being strong.


The actress playing Mulan is Yifei Liu. Her acting echoes the usual performances given in the Disney Live-Action remakes which means she is fairly expressionless and mundane. Of course, I usually watch the Disney remakes for the new details that they add and not the acting. Overall not a lot of emotion is shown in this film but I’m not sure if that is the fault of the acting. It could also be because of the directing or just the way that the script was written. Either way, this causes the characters to show a lack of passion in the film.


The costume designer was Bina Daigeler who has won three awards for costume design. The costumes are a redesign of the original Mulan costumes. For example, instead of Mulan’s soldier outfit being green it is now red. In addition, the outfit she goes to see the matchmaker in is a lot more detailed with patterns than it was originally. These additions make the outfits a lot more colorful and unique. A stand out of the designs is the witch’s costume with its many details points and ornate crown. Plus they gave the outfit the super long sleeves that, thanks to the magic of CGI, Xiannang can magically extend and use to fight!


When my dad first rented this DVD from Redbox I expected it to be terrible based on the Youtube reviews I had seen highlighting its flaws. I found it pretty good but I don’t think it’s amazing. It’s not anything you need to see or anything you need to avoid. You can watch it if you want to. I give it 2.5 cougar paws out of four.