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Movie Review: Mulan

Y’all, MULAN is so, so good… like so good that I happy-sobbed at least 5 times during the movie because it had such emotion (and because I am a huge softie). And this is coming from a huge (initial) skeptic. Let me explain. I am a diehard fan of the animated musical version of the film and the second a NON-MUSICAL live action remake was announced, I was ready to boycott. But when the trailer hit, with that amazing score, beautiful cinematography, and Mulan fighting like the badass she is, I thought to myself… okay, let me give this a chance. And I am happy I did! 

MULAN cracks the code of being an awesome remake, while still honoring the fan favorite moments of the original film. I am not going to lie; I am a purist. I hate when remakes try to get cute and change too much of the story, but that isn’t the case with MULAN. Director Niki Carro and the screenwriters strike the perfect balance between updating the storyline–including a deeper backstory for Mulan and the addition of new characters (especially new villains)–while staying true to the best moments of the original. And the visuals are absolutely STUNNING! I especially love the brilliant colors decorating each shot and beautifully choreographed fight scenes that pay homage to kung fu films.

MULAN has always been ahead of its time by focusing on themes of gender-defying heroism. So instead of rehashing the story we already know, I want to focus on what a brilliant message this film continues to convey. At the beginning of the movie, a young Mulan (Crystal Rao) faces the same criticism to which many young girls can relate. Despite her incredible talent, Mulan is told she has to silence her voice and hide her gift of athleticism to bring honor to the family because no one wants to marry such a spirited girl (insert eye roll here). But by the end of the film, it is that very gift and powerful voice that brings the ultimate honor to not only Mulan’s (Liu Yifei) family, but to all of China.

Mulan is in full makeup with the matchmaker

As I said above, the score is one of the best parts of the movie for me and was a catalyst for many of my tears. And although the movie is not itself a musical, you will notice familiar orchestrations from the animated film playing during memorable scenes. During one scene in particular, about halfway through the film (specifically, around the 1 hour 5 min mark), Mulan has an especially empowering moment with the orchestra of “Reflection” playing behind her…and it absolutely broke me. I won’t be surprised if I get a phone call from Disney wondering why I have watched that scene on my screener 920309234 times. Similarly, the matchmaker scene is set to “You’ll Bring Honor To Us All.” Did I mention most of my most played songs on Spotify are from Disney movies?

If I have one complaint with the film it is that I didn’t love the “ch’i” part of Mulan’s character, similar to the issue with STAR WARS’ midichlorians. I have no problem with Mulan being an amazing fighter from childhood (in fact, I love it!), but it is a confusing message to imply Mulan is so amazing because she has a stronger ch’i than others; it takes away from the film’s message of female empowerment. I would like all little girls to think they can be just as amazing as Mulan, regardless of their ch’i. 

Mulan rides into battle against the Huns

If you have the means, I implore you to pay the $30 this weekend to watch MULAN on Disney+. I know the movie is being released on the platform for free in December, but I think it is extremely important that we support this movie with our hard-earned dollars, especially at a time like this when so many studios are paying attention to the few new releases. It is a beautiful film, led by a female director, starring a talented, diverse cast. Show Hollywood we want more of this! I know I will!

My Review: A

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