“Mulan” was directed by Niki Caro and is based on the 1998 original animated film which itself is based on the Chinese folklore, “The Ballad of Mulan”. The film stars Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, Tzi Ma & Jet Li. Plans for this film began in 2010 but it fell into development hell until 2015 after Disney had success with their other live action projects. Caro was hired in 2017 and principal photography began in 2018.
In Imperial China, a military outpost is attacked by a group of rogue warriors, led by Bori Khan (Lee). With the assistant of mystical witch, Xianniang (Gong Li), they plan to attack the Emperor of China (Jet Li) which prompts him to send the word, the order that one man from every family must enlist in the Imperial Army. One family in particular, the Hua family is unfortunate as the father, Zhou (Ma) has no sons, only a young daughter, Mulan (Liu). Seeing her father is elder and frail, Mulan runs away from home, taking her father’s armor, war horse and sword to fight in his stead. She arrives at the training camp, which is run by Commander Tung (Yen) who happens to be an old comrade of Zhou. Mulan successfully completes the training under Tung leadership and never breaks her identity. However, Khan is moving towards the Imperial City, forcing Tung, Mulan and the other into action faster than they thought. Mulan has always been looked at as different but is basically having her life selected by others and ordered to conform. Now, she has the chance to break free and become something more, like a hero.
From the looks of the first trailer, this film looked to be more an action movie rather than a run of the mill Disney adventure. However, like so many other films, the trailer is very misleading. This was a huge disappointment from the very beginning. “Mulan” took a much more realistic approach to the story than the animated version, dropping the music and colorful characters in favor of a much more darker tone and direction. That didn’t work due to the terrible new storyline. They took away everything that made the original pop, even the subtleties that made the character much more interesting. This is just a by the numbers action film. 5 live action Disney films in a row, disappointing. I think its safe to say we’ve reached a stopping point.
Overall, this was showed promise by going in a new direction however somewhere along the way lost it and failed to pick back up. Some the action sequences were good, the acting was solid but just wasn’t enough to save the film. Despite what everyone’s opinion about Yifei Liu’s real life controversies, this film should be looked at as what it is, another missed opportunity for live action film from a great animation.