Disney’s live-action remakes have proved themselves to be divisive among general audiences. While some love the nostalgia and the satisfaction that comes with seeing their favorite characters in live-action for the first time, others feel as though Disney continues to make lifeless remakes of its iconic films for a cash-grab at the box office. The question now becomes what if Disney tries to mend this divide by significantly restructuring the original story? For better or worse, the answer to this question is Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan.”
“Mulan” changed its identity, much like the title character is led to do herself, one of the consistent plot elements in both films. The original 1998 animated movie was a family-friendly musical, but this remake focuses more on the classic folktale’s wartime elements. The result is an action-packed but mostly lifeless remake that leaves the audience missing the original’s iconic aspects.
The film is not bad per se; it’s just far from the quality of the original. The action sequences are inventive with its hyper-exaggerated martial arts choreography and the addition of “Qi” as a magical weapon to use in battle. The action sequences shined brightest during the few moments that the film was allowed to show the real brutality of war and what it means for people who fight in them.
The story itself has many of the same elements and basic plot points of both the original folktale and the original animated classic. The changes that were made did not significantly alter the story. The significant changes from the original are what drags this film down from the greatness of the animated original.
The character lineup in this film is almost entirely different. Classic characters from the original like Mushu or Li Shang are removed and replaced with lifeless, original characters that leave little to no impression. The addition of Li Gong’s Xianniang, a villainous who serves at the right hand of the main antagonist, is the only decent original character in the film. Her distorted reflection of Mulan is an exciting element that adds desperately needed depth to the story.
Finally, the one thing everyone’s been waiting to talk about: the music. Yes, the music is sorely missed; however, the film is made to justify its absence. Several times throughout, the film tries to incorporate callbacks to the original music. Still, most instances feel out of place and forced into a story that does not call for musical numbers.
The best way to describe the live-action remake of “Mulan” is just that it is very, very decent. It is worth watching at least once purely for its unique action and spectacle. It will probably never warrant a rewatch, but it is definitely quality quarantine entertainment.
Filmnetic Grade: B-