Mulan tries to do something new, but ends up stunningly mediocre

I will give credit where it’s due: the remake of Disney’s Mulan could have settled for being a creatively bereft shot-for-shot remake of the animated movie, but instead opted to do something different and unique with the story. No Mushu, no songs, a new antagonist… No copy and paste movie here.

The problem is, the new and unique thing that they did isn’t that great either.

Yes, friends, it’s Mulan… the movie that was going to theaters once upon a pandemic, but has now been dumped on Disney Plus if you feel like paying for a thirty dollar upcharge. Given that I am desperate for the movies again, I paid this upcharge and immediately wished I’d invested elsewhere. While the movie isn’t what I would call a travesty like The Lion King, it’s not a wonderful reimagining like The Jungle Book. More of a, “Oh, hey… this movie exists!” like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. I think that is the most fitting description I can make of this movie: Mulan is a thing that exists but, at least unlike many other soulless Disney remakes, it does make a case for its existence.

While the movie is full of color and beautiful cinematography, it is populated by some of the blandest characters I have ever had the misfortune of trying to keep up with. Mulan, for example, is stunningly one-note. Liu Yifei brings little to no life to the character, making her cold and passionless. This actress doesn’t bother giving her emotions, she merely makes her louder at times.

What’s worse, it doesn’t feel like Mulan earns anything in this movie. It’s established early on that she has natural abilities granted to her by “chi” and she can unleash them anytime the script finds it convenient to become, essentially, a superhero. All that nonsense in the animated movie where Mulan and her fellow soldiers actually trained to become skilled warriors? I guess that was the sucker’s path.

The supporting characters feel generic, badly developed, with no personalities. I was expecting the movie to kill some of them off, but when it didn’t, I realized that it wouldn’t have mattered because not a single one of them were worth the emotional connection.

The only character that I found interesting was the Witch. She had cool powers, she stalked and sneaked her way around like a sly panther…. I mean, at one point she hits Mulan with the cliched, “We’re not so different, you and I” speech and Mulan protests but then the witch explains point by point why they weren’t different and she was absolutely correct in her assessment. I suppose she was set up to be a reflection of Mulan, an antagonist facing the same struggles in a male-dominated society, and it would have been great to see the movie have fun with and develop this concept, only…

It doesn’t.

Overall, I think the word “mediocre” covers it. The remake doesn’t improve on any of the concepts or executions of the animated movie, the emotional beats of the remake pale in comparison, and the lackluster characterization and writing make Mulan anything but memorable.

Again, I’ll give the movie credit for at least trying to do something different with the story and not being a carbon copy, but perhaps next time we can try to be enthralling or at least entertaining. If the 30 dollar upcharge to watch it sounds expensive to you, just wait until December when it becomes free for everyone.

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