Disney's MULAN Mulan (Yifei Liu) Photo: Jasin Boland © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Film Review – Mulan (2020)

In some strange shape and form, we have our cinemas back. After months of uncertainty, rumour and conjecture, cinemas are reopening their doors to the public (well, those that want to go back, of course) and allowing them to be

Photo: Film Frame
© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

reunited with some old favourites and to experience some of the new offerings that have dared to swim against the tide, namely of course Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which has just had a stellar box-office return all things considered.

What was supposed to follow swiftly behind it was the long-awaited – and long-delayed – Mulan, Disney’s latest live-action remake of one of their animated classic but despite lots of fanfare and anticipation, it too is skipping cinemas to debut on Disney+, for better or worse. In many people’s eyes – and I too have to wholeheartedly agree – this was a film that should have been seen in cinemas but for many reasons (mainly business, we’d argue), Mulan has become another guinea pig in the “new normal” as the first premium streaming release for the House of Mouse, setting you back £19.99 for the privilege.

Yes, that may be close to that of standard cinema trips these days but no price can replace the experience, majesty, and indeed the excitement of a big-screen epic such as this one, and it’s such a shame it has happened this way as the

film is arguably the best remake they have produced.

For those who don’t know the original or need arefresher, Mulan tells of a brewing war coming to China from vicious Northern invaders led by Jason Scott Lee’s revenge-thirsty warrior. As such, the Emperor (Jet Li) sets forth motions that summons one man from every family to fight in the impending battle, including ailing war veteran Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma) who only has two daughters, including eldest Mulan (Liu Yifei). With her father barely able to walk, Mulan disguises herself as a man and sets off to secretly take his place on the battlefront and begins her journey to become her country’s greatest warrior.

What sets Mulan apart from its remake predecessors is its ingenuity, its appetite to eat from the same pie but to

take a few bites out of some of the others at the buffet. A strange analogy, for sure, but this isn’t an almost blow-by-blow rehash like some of its forerunners – yes, it follows the basic structure of the original but it expands, develops, and improves upon it tenfold. The Disney magic is there in moments but the film feels set free from the shackles of following the blueprint to the letter and allowed to breathe new life into its classic tale.

Helmed with exhilaration and warmth by Niki Caro, there’s a real freshness to the film, eager to please fans whilst illuminating their senses with some new detours that add depth, humanity, and wonderful, dazzling colour. With its minimal use of CGI, the world feels richer and more expansive than ever before, with some wonderful set designs and beautiful real locations with Mandy Walker’s magical cinematography pushing it all even further.

It’s such a shame, then, that we can’t (yet) experience Mulan on the biggest screen we can find and experience it in all its beauty and glory because it really is a treat. Yes, there are some moments that don’t work and it borders on melodrama at times, which stops it from soaring consistently but this is a brilliant achievement, one that helps breathe new life into what was becoming something of an exhaustive exercise.

★★★★


Action, Adventure | USA/China, 2020 | 12A | 4th September 2020 (UK) | Disney Plus | Dir.Niki Caro | Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jet Li, Tzi Ma, Jason Scott Lee,