3/10 Before I even get to this review, as you can tell from the score I gave it, I urge everyone NOT to pay $30 to watch this. Wait until December 2020 when it becomes free on Disney+, torrent it, I don’t care, but this movie isn’t worth the normal theatrical $8-$10, let alone $30. Rich people and middle income people with poor financial management skills may still drop the $30, but you don’t have to. Before I get to the reason why you shouldn’t, I will commend this movie for the few things it got right. Some of the visuals and cinematography are well done and the production design, costume design, set decoration and props are all top notch. Yifei Liu, who plays Mulan, did a terrific job and although most of the cast is fairly strong, it is Liu who really steals the show and asserts herself as a leading woman. The score used some of the music from the original 1998 animated film and even though it is playing off of our nostalgia, it worked well in the movie and was fitting. A female villain, who is a witch that gave me flashbacks to Rita Repulsa from the original Power Rangers TV show, was a new addition here and her character was the most fascinating one and a welcome change from the original. Other than that, get ready for a laundry list of why “Mulan” is a bad movie and why it falls near the bottom of all these live action Disney remakes. The biggest problem with this movie is its tone. The original animated film was fun but because it was animated, it could be silly, over the top and unrealistic. In an attempt to make this live action and taken more seriously, the songs as well as Mushu, the comic relief dragon, were all removed so this version could have a more serious, somber, grounded in reality feel to it. This plan is then totally abandoned as we see characters defying gravity with fight scenes that look like they are straight out of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or “The Matrix”, but not nearly as cool or well done. Throw in witchcraft, transforming/Animorphs, magic and other completely unrealistic elements and you’ve got a movie that on one hand tries to be more serious and on the other hand adds these magical/fantasy elements so the movie is at war with itself and fails on both counts. These contradictory tones, mixed with director Niki Caro’s grab bag of direction adds up to some uneven, incoherent results. Some of Caro’s style looks slick but instead of being consistent with her direction, she randomly throws in visual cues here and there that all feel out of place and then are never used again. The action scenes also felt underwhelming and we see these young, male characters who can barely fire a bow, yet one training montage and battle later and one of them is shooting with his arm behind his back, making impossible shots. I didn’t buy it for one second. The main, male villain has absolutely no character development and even though I enjoyed the witch character, she deserved more development as well. Even though the score brilliantly utilized the animated film’s music, the entire rest of the score was completely forgettable. For a movie that cost $200 million, half of the special effects are very obvious CGI or green screen. For every spectacular shot of the witch changing from a human into a bird, we get some cheesy visuals of a clearly CGI spider or some very fake looking lava near the end. You’d think with the budget and the extra time Disney had to put this movie out there due to delays that they could have made the special effects much stronger. This movie lacked all of the fun and charm of the original 1998 film and most of the characters here are less developed, despite having a longer running time than the animated film. The character of Mulan essentially gets turned into a mild superhero of sorts with a half assed explanation involving “ch’i” which always gave her an advantage and I never felt she was in any real danger at any point in this movie. Add the behind the scenes controversy in regards to China to the mix and you have a disaster any way you slice this. Stick to 1998’s animated “Mulan” (skip “Mulan II”, the straight to DVD sequel, which was awful) if you want to enjoy a solid Disney classic that was made back when Disney cared more about putting out solid content and less about the Yuans.
#MemoirsOfAGuysha / #MulanRuse / #WitchSideIsSheOn? / #HadToPekingBeefUpForTheRole / #DieNastyWarriors / #CommanderTungLikeAHorse