Mulan review round up: Disney+ new release is visually grand but lacks personality
Made on a huge budget of $200 million, Mulan is the most expensive movie helmed by Niki Caro
It was a surprising tactic when Disney decided to pull Mulan out of its theatrical release plan (after multiple delays) and finally went for an OTT release on Disney+. Now all those with Disney+ subscription would have to pay a hefty extra amount to witness the Niki Caro directorial on the small screen. While rules and payment vary for every country, no news about the film being launched in India via the streaming service Hotstar has been released.
Made on a huge budget of $200 million, Mulan is the most expensive movie helmed by a woman filmmaker. Inkoo Kang of The Hollywood Reporter writes that while a theatrical release would have expertly hid the “anemic characterisations, uninvolving storyline and stunted performances” with the grand visuals, there remains little to feel much in the script that has been credited to four different writers.
The story follows a young woman, Mulan (played by Liu Yifei) who dresses up like a man to become the representative of her family in a war. She does this to save her father from going into the battle when he is already wounded from an earlier war. However, aside from the martial arts training, what she needs to master is her inner ‘chi’.
The movie “owes more to Asian cinema, from Akira Kurosawa’s Ran to Zhang Yimou’s Hero than any Hollywood masterpiece, feels Peter Debruge of Variety. As if Caro wanted to make sure that the new Mulan is “the real thing, as John Woo or Chen Kaige might have made it” and separate from the cultural appropriation seen in the earlier Mulan.
Niki Caro of Whale Rider fame has retained “the essential structure” of the 1998 animated musical version with the introduction of a new shape-shifting antagonist and a new animal aide/protector, writes Joe Morgenstern for The Wall Street Journal. The original dragon Mushu, voiced famously by Eddie Murphy is non-existent here and has been replaced by a CGI phoenix “that materialises every now and then to guide [Mulan’s] way”.
But has the visual aspect of the movie successful in soaring the movie on its shoulders?
The live-action movie adaptation’s score on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes displays a handsome 81 percent score collected from the input of 146 ratings.
Without the songs and the light humour of the animated version, “Caro and the screenwriters have gone for a humourless and even sombre tone, replacing all of the witty lines with portentous speeches about honour and loyalty”. Yet the movie stands somewhere in between a children’s delight and a teen drama. Nicholas Barber of BBC opined that “when the filmmakers removed her pet dragon, they took away most of her personality with it”.
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