Mulan (2020)

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Mulan
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You know you've messed up badly when the audience of your target country hates your film.
Genre: Fantasy
Action
Drama
Directed By: Niki Caro
Produced By: Chris Bender
Jake Weiner
Jason T. Reed
Written By: Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver
Lauren Hynek
Elizabeth Martin
Based On: Disney's Mulan by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook
Ballad of Mulan by Guo Maoqian
Starring: Yifei Liu
Donnie Yen
Tzi Ma
Jason Scott Lee
Yoson An
Ron Yuan
Gong Li
Jet Li
Cinematography: Mandy Walker
Distributed By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: March 9, 2020 (Hollywood)
September 4, 2020 (United States)
Runtime: 115 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $70.1 million
Franchise: Mulan
Sequel: Untitled Mulan sequel


"Have you ever seen a movie that pissed you off so badly you make a whole YouTube channel just to roast it? That's me, with Mulan 2020."
Xiran Jay Zhao

"I was very much looking forward to seeing this movie. The original animation is one of my favorite Disney movies of the 90s', but this movie is inferior to that film in virtually every way."
Chris Stuckmann

"I wasn't really expecting much, but expecting some sort of decency from this film. And I was, surely, WRONG!! I was completely mistaken! I don't get that I had just wasted 2 hours on a total bogus wannabe copycat. It was BAD!! It was really, really, BAD!!!"
Movie Lover 120

"She's good at everything, but it isn't earned."
Angry Joe

Mulan is a 2020 American fantasy action drama film and is the live-action remake of Disney's traditionally-animated 1998 film of the same name. It was directed by Niki Caro and written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek, and Elizabeth Martin.

The film held the world premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 9, 2020[1] and was scheduled to have a wide theatrical release[2][3][4], but it was delayed multiple times as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic[5][6][7]; it was ultimately released on Disney+ on September 4, 2020[8].

Plot

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, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she's 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.

Why It Sucks

  1. The huge problem with this film is it is trying to please all sides of the coin within the audience. (e.g The Chinese who want an accurate version of the story, liberals who want the story to be politically correct, and the fans of the animated film who want the story to be similar to the original) but in the end it ends up pleasing no one, as the film was poorly received by all those audiences (especially Chinese critics and audiences alike).
  2. Specific story elements from the original film are absent here, which can lead to people having to rely on watching the original film in order to understand what is going on.
    • Several iconic and memorable scenes are also absent, including when Mulan prepares to join the army the night before; as a result of the absence of these scenes, the film feels less impactful than it should be.
  3. Numerous characters from the original film are missing, specifically the spirits of Mulan's ancestors, Cri-Kee and, most infamously, Mushu and fan-favorite Li Shang.
    • Mushu, a dragon (a symbol of masculinity), on the other hand, is replaced with a Phoenix (a symbol of femininity), whose only purpose is to guide Mulan as to where she needs to go. As a result, the phoenix only exists just to advance the plot.
    • Mulan's grandmother is also pointlessly replaced by her younger sister, who only serves to advance the plot.
    • In what is seemingly a desperate attempt to appeal to political correctness, Li Shang was split into two separate characters, Commander Tung and Chen Honghui, as a response to the #MeToo movement.
      • The worst part that Jason T. Reed who is the producer of this film removed him by saying "having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn't think it was appropriate", which is completely nonsensical, as some army commanders in real life even today can have a love interest. However, he later said that Li Shang would become a "LGBTQ icon". One can't just remove him only to make him an LGBTQ icon.
      • This shows Jason T. Reed's lack of faith in telling an accurate story or showing a serious matter in real life.
    • Additionally, Shan Yu and his falcon Hayabusa were replaced by Bori Khan and Xian Lang.
  4. Xianniang is a ripoff of Raiquen from the Chilean-Brazilian animated film Nahuel and the Magic Book. They are both women who controls crows in order to attack anyone and got cursed and brainwashed by the antagonists.
  5. Very poor editing throughout the film, even from David Coulson, an experienced film editor, although it is slightly justified due to the botched but unfixable action sequences, with one notable example being several of the action scenes repeatedly zipping to different shots and the presence of jump cuts, most notably in the prologue of the film.
    • As a result, the film is also far less cinematic than in the original at times; and whenever there is a new opportunity for the story to try out something new and worthy, it suddenly gets skipped over and when the story actually has new opportunities to try out, there are far and few between. Ultimately, the film ends up as a watered-down rehash of the original in which we always know what is going to happen and how it would happen, and as a result, the film is less interesting and more needlessly boring.
      • A given example is that in the original film, when Mulan leaves home to join the army, the scene is set in the night and it is literally stormy, and Mulan is shown suiting up in her father's armor and cutting her hair before leaving, moments before her family discover that she has left during the middle of the storm, which heightens the tension, but here, it immediately cuts to Mulan already wearing her father's armor and later her family wakes up in the morning only to find that she has left.
      • During the commander interrogation scene, there is the looming threat that Commander Tung would find out Mulan's identity as a woman. The scene still doesn't work, even with the presence of such a threat (when there is none), because there is no conflict or dread or anything in it, as the viewer knew that Commander Tung hasn't found out Mulan's identity because it doesn't happen until after the avalanche and the only way to fix this is to give the viewers something new, of which they didn't.
    • One more example is in the scene where the soldiers are called up to bathe, in which Mulan ends up as inherently different from every other soldier, which creates a big problem. Instead of using the inherent potential of this scene in the film and forcing Mulan to overcome the challenge of not physically fitting in with others, the film skips over the whole thing, effectively wasting whatever potential the prior scene tried to set up; it also seemingly never makes Mulan's physical difference a problem that the viewers have to overcome.
  6. The story is inferior to not only the original film but also the original Chinese folklore:
    • Unlike in the original film, Mulan herself is rather overpowered from the get-go; as a result, she is harder to relate to and her character arc is ruined, and thus she comes more across as woke pandering than an actual character.
      • For example, she is able to climb the mountain without any apparent effort or talent; one could excuse this as her Chi abilities manifesting, but it still makes her less relatable.
      • Another example is when Chen Honghui finds her in the lake, she says he is not her friend and he just goes away without their relationship breaking as a result; she also never struggles with what she did and she also doesn't have to pay the price. However, the next time they see each other, they are somehow good as friends as before, which serves as a problem. For a film being about the obstacle of a woman in a man's world, the movie sure doesn't try making such a claim into an obstacle; as a result, everything that Mulan takes is free and easy, which ends up feeling like two hours of forgettable vanilla.
    • Idiot move: During the snowfall battle, Commander Tung has his troops hold still during the battle, which would get them killed easily.
    • Bori Khan, compared to Shan Yu, is intentionally sexist, ending up as more woke pandering, as he horridly treated his right-hand Xian Lang and once dismissed Mulan as a "child." He also feels like a generic warlord who wants to take over a kingdom as revenge for wronging him.
    • Xian Lang suddenly redeems herself out of nowhere without any real build-up whatsoever.
      • Her redemption, followed by her expulsion, means less when her companions do not know the value of her deeds; no one saw her actions to bring down an avalanche, saving all of them (but physically only saving one).
      • Her sacrifice to protect Mulan is also rather pointless, as she could turn into a thousand bats or ravens to catch the arrow heading towards Mulan.
    • In the beginning of the film, Mulan is forbidden from using her powers during the battle, but ultimately decides to use said powers later on; this plot element about her being forbidden from using her powers is never brought up again afterward.
    • The romance and chemistry between Mulan and Chen Honghui feels rather forced.
    • At one point during the battle in the mountains, Mulan baits the villains into shooting the mountains themselves to cause the avalanche, which makes them seem incompetent and thus less threatening.
    • The film ultimately ends up being yet another generic fantasy action film; as a result, it also becomes unnecessarily intense, compared to the comedic tone of the original film.
      • It even feels more like a European fantasy film more than a Chinese one.
  7. Poor choreography and stunt-work during the action scenes which makes it feel like the characters are having a dance-off than fighting.
  8. Out-of-sync sound mixing; an example is when Xian Lang throws her shuriken to kill a soldier, you can hear the sound of it hitting before it could actually hit the soldier.
  9. The movie blatantly copy-pastes the final line of The Ballad of Mulan involving two rabbits running side by side, while missing the whole point of the metaphor.
  10. The pacing of the film is often too fast, with certain sequences and scenes being suddenly skipped, which can throw viewers off and force them to think quickly about what happened in order to catch up with what is going on.
    • One notable example of this is that was hinted that Mulan would be executed if her identity was revealed, but nothing happens to actualize such a threat; as a result, nobody is ever executed, even when Mulan reveals her identity as a woman.
  11. The action sequences were filmed using a higher-than-usual frame-rate to help in making visually impressive slow-motion scenes; while this sounds like a good idea on paper, this results in unrealistically erratic character movement, such as soldiers or horses moving too fast.
  12. Overuse of computer-generated imagery, which results in specific shots and many of the action scenes feeling less realistic than they should be.
  13. Many of the morals in this film feel rather forced, as they are mostly shown through scenes in which a character realizes their mistakes or wrongdoings and tries to change their ways for the better.
    • The film's main theme of female empowerment ends up as being powerless because it was handled in a flat and two-dimensional way.
      • One notable example is when we happen to hear a young Mulan as a rowdy little girl and then her parents begin to overhear the problems her rowdiness is causing, so they want her to grow up and become a real woman before it is too late. However, it turns out that said message is actually the anti-theme, whereas the true message is that a woman should grow up to be who they truly are. In the movie, the viewer actually learns the answer to the core question for five minutes in, but it gets prolonged waiting for the viewers to get it and when they finally do, it does not carry much impact.
    • It was also explicitly stated in the film that if anyone tries to bring a female to the camp, it results in death. There was also the constant threat of Mulan's identity being discovered, but unfortunately, they fail to work, as none of the viewers would buy the commander to hurt Mulan just because she is a woman as there is no logic behind that, even if it was real at the time.
  14. Despite trying to be much more realistic than the original film, there are still plenty of unrealistic bits, such as the questionable grasp regarding Chinese culture, beliefs, and folklore, battle sequences lacking blood, the unrealistically small set pieces, or the fact that everyone in the cast speaks perfect English despite the film taking place in Imperial China, which, at worst, comes across as self-contradictory.
    • The setting is unfaithful to the source material. The original folklore was set in Northern Wei, where Mulan is a servant of a Khan, not in modern Northwest China.
    • The phoenix here is portrayed as a Western one instead of an Eastern one (the Fenghuang), as Western phoenixes can return from the dead. Also, the Phoenix is also portrayed as the emperor's guardian instead of the dragon.
    • Xian Lang feels out-of-place for a film set in ancient China, as witches canonically do not exist in Chinese folklore.
      • As Xiran Jay Zhao pointed out, while there are women in China who can do magic, such as shamans and soothsayers, those women are respected and generally hold high positions in court. The only way someone would be criminalized for magic-related crimes would be for trying to use their power to harm someone (e.g. using a voodoo doll on someone). Therefore, Xian Lang being ostracized by society simply for practicing magic would make no sense.
    • The appearances of Tulou, which are supposed to exist only in Southern China, not only do not fit the movie's setting, but it causes more plot holes regarding the distances. The Rourans, who come from the north, would have to go six hundred miles to attack the South. Not helping matters is that Mulan somehow got this far just to catch up to them without resting.
    • The inscription of "Loyal, Brave, True" on Mulan's sword doesn't make sense, because truth, in general, is not considered as one of the core morals of Chinese beliefs. A Chinese person also wouldn't have random characters inscribed onto their sword, which would normally have some sort of saying like "Devotion to my country" or simply the name of the owner. The calligraphy also looks like a font created by Microsoft.
  15. There is a lack of music from the original film; as a result, several scenes are much less impactful, leading to a lack of depth.
  16. The inclusion of Chi, which is barely anything more than a carbon-copy of the Force from the Star Wars franchise. It goes off with little-to-no explanation near the end, as Mulan is not physically manifesting her Chi.
    • Also, Chi is not a magical power, as depicted in the movie; it is actually a traditional idea in martial arts and Chinese medicine concerning the life force of a person. It is the basis of a form of treatment known as acupuncture.
  17. Laughable and monotonous dialogue, notably "I'm truly blessed to be in the presence of such enchanting women," as well as "Join me, we will take our place together," the latter having an uncanny resemblance towards a quote from The Empire Strikes Back: "Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son!", adding up to the blatant copy-pasting of elements from Star Wars.
  18. The actors sound extremely emotionless whenever speaking; Liu Yifei's performance as the titular character was also stale for the most part.
  19. Given that the film demonizes Tibetans and the Uyghurs, it makes itself a pro-China propaganda film, regardless of whether or not this was actually what the writers intended.
    • An example is that the villain, Bori Khan, makes a passing reference to his conquered homeland. The implication, perhaps, is that his father was a leader of the now colonized Northwest China before the reigning emperor killed him. He "unites the tribes", where in reality he plans to displace the soldiers of the reigning empire and is served by black-clad elite guards who are heavily coded as Middle Eastern assassins, giving out a dash of Islamophobia.
    • The film's imagery is such that when Mulan takes up the sword to fight, she does so to suppress a revolt in recently conquered border possessions and defend her empire’s economic dominance of the Silk Road.
    • During the end credits, the film infamously thanks two organizations that endorse the imprisonment of Muslims in concentration camps, with one of them serving as a propaganda machine for the Xinjiang state.
  20. Anachronism: The name 'The Silk Road' dates from the end of the 19th century and was of European origin. This is far later than when this film takes place.
  21. Overall, it feels more like not only a rip-off but also steals elements from Memoirs of a Geisha, although they were set in different countries.
  22. This is the first of several Disney films under the Premier Access label, where for the first 3 months of it's release, users are charged $30 on top of the Disney+ subscription to RENT it (for up to 3 months), and once the 3 month Premier Access window has passed, users can watch it on the streaming service for no extra cost. Unlike all the movies released under this label, this is currently the only film to have not released in theaters at all (except in several other countries). The main issue here is that the absurd rental price has driven many to pirate this film, and every other Premier Access film in high quality, causing Disney to lose a lot of money. However, this only applies to countries who have Disney+ and Mulan not being in theaters by the time of release.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Unlike several of the previous Disney live-action remakes whose plots are simply carbon-copies of their original counterparts, this film's plot at least tries to be different from the original and bring something new and fresh, whilst giving itself a more realistic and darker tone.
  2. The action scenes are passable, despite its computer-generated imagery issues and the many cuts from its editing getting in the way.
    • The scenery and environments are visually spectacular whenever the computer-generated imagery doesn't heavily get in the way.
  3. Bori Khan's motives of his intentions to take over China was fleshed out, and his motivation for all of this was that his father was executed by the Emperor, whereas Shan Yu only wanted to take over China in the original film due to a lust for power.
  4. Despite the phoenix being a rather unnecessary character, the idea of a phoenix being Mulan's guardian is amazing symbolism for her character and matches her personality perfectly.
  5. Despite her acting coming across rather mediocre, Liu Yifei was a decent casting choice to play the titular character.
    • Aside from Liu Yifei and some specific actors, several of the other actors, specifically Gong Li, Yoson An, and Jet Li, give great performances.
      • In addition, Ming-Na Wen, Mulan's original voice actress, does make a brief cameo in the movie. Which is one its very few decent things about it.
  6. Great musical score by Harry Gregson-Williams, who composed for the Shrek films.
    • In addition, the new Christina Aguilera songs "Loyal, Brave, True" and the brand new arrangement of "Reflection" are great.
  7. Some of the new characters are quite interesting, such as Chen Honghui and Sergeant Qiang.
    • Despite the phoenix being a rather unnecessary character, the idea of a phoenix being Mulan's guardian is amazing symbolism for her character and matches her personality perfectly.
    • Bori Khan's motives of his intentions to take over China was fleshed out, and his motivation for all of this was that his father was executed by the Emperor, whereas Shan Yu only wanted to take over China in the original film due to a lust for power.

Reception

Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, who praised the action sequences, visuals, and performances, much criticism went towards the screenplay and received negative reviews from general audiences as well as Chinese audiences, who criticized it about the character development, acting, editing, pacing, choreography, morals and the handling of cultural elements as well as the absence of Mushu, Li Shang, and songs. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 74% with an average rating of 6.81/10, and a 50% audience score. The site's critical consensus reads, "It could have told its classic story with greater depth, but the live-action Mulan is a visual marvel that serves as a stirring update to its animated predecessor." On Metacritic, the film has a Metascore of 66/100, indicating "generally favorable reviews", and a user score of 2.7/10, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". On IMDb and Letterboxd, the film has an average score of 5.6/10 and 2.8/5 respectively.

Chris Stuckmann gave the film a rating of C-, stating that the film is inferior to the original in every aspect. Angry Joe and his friend, Alex, gave the film a rating of 3/10, while Other Joe gave the film a rating of 4/10, with all of them agreeing that the film is inferior to the original. New Youtube film critic Movie Lover 120 (who formed his channel on May 29, 2020) originally gave the movie a 5/10 in his review and thought it was a bad remake of one of his favourite Disney animated films, but then his opinion slowly changed a few months later, and by the end of the year, changed his score to a 0/10 and called it the worst movie of 2020.

Sci-fi/fantasy author Xiran Jay Zhao, a Chinese woman, criticized the movie, describing how inaccurate it is to Chinese culture and how it "spits in the face of the culture."

Because of negative reception and controversies, it is recently considered one of the worst films Disney has ever made, perhaps even worse than Chicken Little and Home on the Range.

Despite all of the reception, the film was nominated for "Best Visual Effects" at the 93rd Academy Awards, but lost to the Christopher Nolan directed film Tenet.

Trivia

  • Actor Jason Scott Lee, who portrayed Bori Khan in the film, reportedly stated how he was "tortured to death every day" during the production phase of Mulan; he allegedly had done half an hour of bear crawls and took a rigorous dinner of ten egg whites with a banana as dessert.[9]
  • Ming-Na Wen, the original voice actress of Mulan in the animated film, cameos as an esteemed guest who introduces Mulan to the Emperor.
  • Campaigns to boycott the movie had started from pre-release when actress Liu Yifei proclaimed that she supported the Chinese-backed Hong Kong police force; even though such a feud failed to last long, controversy has recently struck Mulan in the form of criticism that the film has stated their support of the Publicity Department of CPC Xinjiang Uygher Autonomous Region Committee and the Turpan Municipality Public Security Bureau, among many of the Chinese organizations blacklisted for humans rights abuses, due to their involvement in the Xinjiang re-education camps, with the former being a state-ran propaganda machine covering the concentration camps.[10]
  • This is the fourth Disney+ original film not to use the "Disney+ Original" opening logo after Artemis Fowl, Hamilton and The One and Only Ivan, possibly due to it being released in theaters in countries with open theaters and lacking Disney+ at the time of its initial release.
  • This is the first Disney live-action remake to be rated PG-13.

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