‘Mulan’ is among best of Disney’s live action remakes

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Disney decided to try some new things with their live action “Mulan” film, and most of them worked quite well. They wanted a more serious adaptation instead of an identical remake. And they decided to put it straight to Disney+ in light of the pandemic.

It’s a shame we won’t be able to see this cool, sprawling film on the big screen, but having blockbusters go straight to streaming for a premium price might just be the future of cinema.

According to Disney, sending “Mulan” to streaming increased their download numbers. Good for them. I was happy to pay the extra price because I had been really looking forward to this film. It was quite enjoyable, though not without some odd stumbles.

Exactly like Disney’s original animated “Mulan” in 1998, the new live action version follows the story of a young Chinese girl, Hua Mulan, who poses as a man to take her ailing father’s place when China goes to war. Unlike the animated film, the live action “Mulan” does away with the musical numbers and drops Eddie Murphy’s iconic talking dragon character.

Ditching those musical and comedic elements gives the new “Mulan” a tighter air of legitimacy. This film is a tougher, rougher adaptation of the legend, putting a lot of focus on battles and high-wire martial arts moves. It makes for a more exciting, action-packed movie than the original.

“Mulan” is still a Disney movie, though, so this is not a gritty war film. “Mulan” has energy, a cast of good characters and a strong ending. It’s probably not as good as the animated original, but it’s still fun to watch.

Where it stumbles is in a couple of odd story and editing choices. The film is just short of two hours long and could have used some more time to flesh out important scenes and characters. If you know the story or remember the animated movie, you know there are a few key scenes in this film: when Mulan makes the choice to steal her father’s armor, when she’s exposed as a woman, etc. For some odd reason, this new live action film rushes past these hugely important, very dramatic scenes.

These are the scenes that define the movie. Why rush through them?

The new movie also changes Mulan’s personal journey in a rather weird way. Instead of a story about an ordinary young woman who becomes a hero through hard work, perseverance and her own blood, sweat and tears, the live action “Mulan” is about a young woman born with magical Chi energy, who must learn to be true to herself to unlock her super-powers.

Honestly, considering how well Disney does with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is not surprising that they would want to turn Mulan into a superhero — it just ruins the original story of Mulan having to pull herself up by her own bootstraps.

Changes aside, I still consider “Mulan” among the best of Disney’s live action remakes. It’s still a good story, and the harder focus on real people and real warfare makes for a strong, entertaining film.

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