Disney remakes have often gotten a bad rap for their consistent reliance on the originals and overuse of CGI. However, Mulan is a remake that is able to transcend beyond Disney's other remakes with a confident and bold earnestness. Originally, it was meant to be released into theaters in March 2020 but was instead sent to Disney+ in September because of COVID-19.
The film received somewhat positive reviews from Western critics but was mired by fans of the original film and Eastern critics. Its screenplay, lack of songs, and omission of both Mushu the dragon and Li Shang did not sit too well with commentators and fans.
Despite the hype, the film was a flop at the box office, grossing only $70 million on a hefty $200 million budget, primarily due to COVID-19 and its fan backlash. However, its reception and performance at the box office should not be enough to deter fans from giving this remake another look.
Here is what makes this Disney remake great.
When people stop comparing it to the 1998 animated film, one can realize that its greatness can be seen in the majesty of the frames. This is a beautifully shot film and has some of the best action sequences in a live-action Disney remake.
Its dazzle radiates with overzealous confidence over a patriarchal landscape. Its narrative and scope are just a couple of the things that drive its potential as true cinema. Every shot seems like a moving painting and the filmmakers have put a lot of time and effort into the artistry. Looking at this film by itself, it has a lot to offer, and dismissing it as a less-than-stellar film seems unverifiable and disingenuous.
Millennials and Gen Z will know Mulan for its songs and its hilarious dragon Mushu, but the live-action remake opted to omit these factors. Many fans have expressed their dismay at the final results. However, a Disney movie without songs or familiar comic relief is not inherently bad.
It’s obvious that the filmmakers decided to make the tone darker and take more liberties with this remake. They also decided to add another witch villain which garners more sympathy and works as an enemy-turned-ally aiding Mulan in her quest to defeat Bori Khan.
The style and direction of the film are nothing to squawk about. It can certainly stand on its own two feet. The problem comes from the fans of the original that consistently compare the two films. Understanding that the film is a remake and is made to derive a new iteration, fans must not be so critical of the execution and direction.
To be fair, if this film came before the animated feature critical reaction might be very différent. Fans would probably say that the live-action would be better than the animated. However, fans put the original on a pedestal for nostalgic purposes and find problems where there really are none.
Whether people like this movie or not, it still honors Asian culture and utilizes it with the vivacity that it can muster. The costumes, architecture, and heritage of the East look to be accurate for the time and setting of the film.
While it was rumored that Disney would hire Jennifer Lawrence as the titular character, the Mouse House decided to stick with actors of Asian descent. It’s a small but bold move that speaks volumes for diversity and representation.
In this particular situation, this remake stands out for its representation and goes beyond the Disney veil of princesses and castles. It leaves behind the superficial stereotypes of women waiting for men to come and save them and bolsters a more historical tone in the Disney canon.
Hopefully, with some time, this Disney remake will be better respected for its ambition and its splendor like the culture that it honors. It could possibly be seen as a classic in the years to come.