The live-action Disney film Mulan, originally supposed to be released April 2020, was instead pushed back to stream on Disney Plus beginning this past September due to the pandemic. The film was mainly just a rumor for many years before it was set for production with a lot of the original material from the film taken out. Director Niki Caro commented, “I mean, back to the realism question – we don’t tend to break into song when we go to war. Not that I’m saying anything against the animation. The songs are brilliant, and if I could squeeze them in there, I would have. But we do honor the music from the animation in a very significant way.”
The film received a lot of criticism due to the director’s choices because I, like many fans, enjoyed Mulan because of the music and mythical creatures. This led to the movie already having a division amongst its fans between those who wanted to see this new revamped version and those who believed that some things should just remain the same. I was somewhere in the middle when watching the film. The original movie was very much a staple in my childhood, that of which made me feel powerful and strong as a young girl growing up. I was weary to see a version of such a classic without “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” to make me feel the adrenaline of Mulan training for war, or even the comedic essence of Mushu and Cricket. However I was able to pull myself together during the film and came to the conclusion that I didn’t need music to feel Mulan’s emotions during that sequence. The action in the film is the highlight despite most of it occurring during the film’s climax.
Despite the lack of music, I still enjoyed the film, and I especially appreciated the addition of Mulan’s sister. It was interesting to see her as an older sister in this film as opposed to being an only child in the original film. It added more depth to the level of responsibility she must have felt within her family, especially when her father was called to war. That brings me to the concept that stood out the most during this remake of Mulan: honor. It’s likely the most used word throughout the film and captures the emphasis of that ideal within the traditional Chinese culture. Honor determined your family’s worth and status within society, and bringing honor to her family was the one thing that drove Mulan throughout the whole film. It is a very selfless and powerful motivation that drives the character throughout the film and makes her easy to root for.
After watching the film, my immediate instinct was to look at reviews online and see how well it rated. However, instead of seeing news about the quality of the film, the main topic was the lead actress Liu Yifei and the trend #BoycottMulan. Days after the film’s release, The Guardian reported that Liu Yifei had shown support in previous years for the Hong Kong police’s mistreatment and harm towards many of their citizens. This upset me, seeing that this was overshadowing whatever success the film could have had. It is upsetting when people show so much anger towards others’ opinions and beliefs. I in no way agree with Liu Yifei, but at the same time the idea that we must scrutinize a statement from a year ago to harm the success of countless others who worked on the film is unfair. I do believe that if people were to look past that, they would see the film for what it is worth and not who it stars.