COVID-19 really did a number on the film industry in 2020. Countless movies have been delayed until 2021 or placed on streaming services to recoup at least some financial loses for production companies. Nevertheless, Disney thought of their own method to still make their standard box office numbers for the live action remake of Mulan. The method was controversial at first, however, I came around to it once I realised I’d be one of the first people to watch Mulan. Simply put, Disney+ users would be expected on top of their monthly subscription fee of $8.99 to fork out an additional $35 to watch Mulan.
So the question is…was this price worth it? With most people out of work in 2020 due to COVID-19, this one time charge of $35 seems unnecessary. However in all honesty I saw the trailers, I heard the cast was actually an all Chinese cast and to be honest I got excited. The remake looked like it had all the potential in the world. So I paid the 35 dollars without any hesitation.
Then the movie started and my excitement soon faded as my critic hat came on. The first 20 minutes were fine. The story seemed cohesive and was setting up what I thought would be a compelling tale. I knew coming into it that this live action remake of a Disney animated classic would not be like the other remakes we had been given, such as Lion King and Aladdin. This was its own entity. There would be no musical numbers and no comedy like the original. This was an action/drama film focusing on a unique story.
Regardless of all this, the film past the 20 minute mark started to make its flaws ever so clear. My main takeaways were low-quality CGI, cheesy/clunky dialogue and a lack of focus on the story of Mulan’s family. The action sequences were quite amazing and a redeeming feature of the film. However, it was undoubtedly clear that they were meant for a cinema screen.
In 2020, with technology getting better and better every day, you would expect a movie to have outstanding CGI. This was not the case with Mulan. The scenery was so obviously animated that it was all I could notice. Each time a scene took place in a mountainous region I expected CGI that would take my breath away. Let’s not forget 200 million dollars was invested to make this remake. Somehow this was not enough money and all we got were, at best, subpar CGI scenes that took away from the serious themes the film was trying to present.
One scene, in particular, was when Mulan was on horseback starting her journey. Pause the film when you get to the 27:19 time stamp. Take it in. For some reason, Mulan, the horse and the scenery are all CGI.
The film had some of the most cheesy dialogue I have ever heard. The same two or three topics would come up every scene. Mulan would speak to countless supporting characters and quite literally have a variation of the same conversation over and over again.
The overall tone of a drama film is obviously supposed to be dark and depressing. However, this was doubled down in Mulan with the dialogue. Yes, they are charging into battle and death is a probability. However, is it all they can discuss? Training for battle, eating food, sitting around a campfire, taking a bath. Each of these scenarios would see a conversation regarding death come up without effort.
Lack of focus on the story of Mulan’s family
Mulan’s family and their story of how they dealt with their eldest daughter leaving for battle would have been an interesting side story. Instead, the family is introduced by the director, who makes you feel engaged with Hua Zhou as Mulan’s father, Hua Li as Mulan’s mother and Hua Xiu as her younger sister – only to completely forget about them and the hardship they are dealing with after Mulan leaves without warning.
20 minutes out of the two-hour runtime. That is all the time given to tell the story of Mulan’s family. Her war veteran father, quiet yet caring mother, and younger sister who is being sent to the village matchmaker to find a husband, are apparently not interesting enough to cross back to once in a while to expand on their obviously interesting storyline.
So back to my main question. Was the 35 dollars I spent to watch Mulan worth it? The answer is a very confident no. The film was adequate but, like most remakes, it missed the mark and proves that Disney needs to do what they do best and create original stories, as it is abundantly clear that they cannot retell a story they have already told once before in animated form.
Featured image via Variety