Hot Take: Live Action Mulan


Photo Courtesy Collider

The release of the live action Mulan was unsurprisingly met with impassioned anticipation. Audiences around the world suspensefully waited for September 4th, the date our beloved childhood animation would be revamped. However, upon watching the film and completing background research, I, along with many others, was ultimately left unsatisfied, identifying evident flaws in the production and execution of the motion picture. 

The plot of the film follows the basic storyline of the original animation. Hua Mulan possesses a rowdy personality, disinterested in what girls are expected to act and look like in her society at the time. Her father was once a noble warrior but is now withering away due to old age and physical restraints. Thus, when the emperor calls for a male from each household to serve in the imperial army to protect the Chinese people from northern invaders, Mulan disguises herself as a man and disobediently serves in place of her ailing father. 

Although filled with several shortcomings, Mulan was not a complete disillusionment. The film itself serves as a significant step for increased Asian representation in the media and entertainment industry, comprised of an all-Asian cast. It also depicts the story of a fierce female warrior, challenging gender norms and bolstering more modern concepts of female empowerment. The complex fight scenes and combat sequences were strategically choreographed and the intensity portrayed on screen was the kind that makes you miss the experience of sitting in a real movie theater. 

However, the absence of certain elements left an emotional void that the live action version of Mulan simply did not fulfill. Mushu, the loyal, vivacious dragon that sticks with Mulan throughout her journey was left out, as was the comedic relief that his character brought to the screen. Not to mention the film was devoid of its original songs, no doubt leaving the audience longing for the iconic melodies that were so cherished in the animation. 

It is commonly known that the performances of the actors are one of the most salient aspects of film that make movies great. The performances in Mulan were quite mediocre and amateur to say the least and left audiences realizing that their beloved childhood story deserved better. Off the screen, lead actress Liu Yifei (who played Mulan) stirred up more controversy and even calls to boycott the movie after she expressed support for the violent suppression by police officers of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. 

In a film that was supposed to underline female empowerment, the main character seemed oddly passive, speaking softly and acting with subdued mannerisms. In addition, the depiction of Chinese culture was frankly over-exaggerated, from the makeup to the costumes. Not to mention the mere saturation of entire sets gave off an artificial and inauthentic feeling. 

Watching this modern, live-action version of Mulan did little to restore my childhood dignity. The overall editing made the fluidity of the movie non-existent, often cutting from one scene to another incoherently and making the plot seem forced. Although sprinkled with some enjoyable features, the 2020 release of Mulan ultimately felt anticlimactic and overhyped.