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“Mulan” review: Who is that girl I see?

By Aditi Dahagam, Co-Web Content Editor

Caution: spoilers ahead!

“Mulan” was my favorite Disney “princess” movie growing up. The original animated version had it all: a strong female lead, funny characters, back-to-back action, and an amazing soundtrack. The same cannot be said of Disney’s new live action remake of the movie. The plot and choices made by the production team left me in a state of confusion throughout the  movie, but some scenes reminiscent of “Mulan” 1998 brought back fond memories.

Even though I believe that the 2020 film fell short in certain places, there were some positives to the movie. One of the goals of the new version is to depict the true story of Hua Mulan, and it succeeded to a certain degree– it was more accurate than the 1998 version but not completely faithful to the “Ballad of Mulan.” Nice try, Disney. Additionally, the new movie was pleasing to the eye, from the beautiful landscapes to the ornate costumes and decorations. Adding to the aesthetic appeal was the intriguing and elaborate choreography of the fight scenes. However, I was constantly debating whether the movie was about Mulan or some war epic. The last and most notable pro of the movie was the all Asian and Asian American cast. It was refreshing to see the representation of Asian actors and actresses in American cinema.

On the flip side, one of the major downfalls of the new movie was the lack of songs from the original film. While the strong instrumental adaptation of the song “Reflection” that was played when Mulan rode into action made me crack a smile, I missed singing along to the iconic songs from the 1998 version that provided deeper knowledge into Mulan’s mind. Those subtly sexist songs have a special place in my heart. Additionally, my favorite character, Mushu, was completely cut from the 2020 movie, commander Li Shang was replaced with derpy draftee “Chen Honghui” as Mulan’s love interest and new characters like a witch and phoenix were added into the movie. The exclusion of Mushu from the movie was detrimental to the film in several ways. The lack of his comic relief further accentuated the war epic theme of the movie and the absence of the friendship between him and Mulan seriously hindered her character development. The new love interest Honghui made the movie even more of a mess: I died of second-hand embarrassment because of the awkwardness between him and Mulan (*cough cough* that bizarre hand-holding scene). Lastly, my main issue with this movie was the hurried story line. I feel that the aim of the movie was to fit in as many scenes and characters as possible, which largely degraded the quality of the movie. Nothing was fully developed, leading to a lack of emotional depth.

I think it is worth mentioning that there are some controversies behind this movie that have caused people to boycott watching the film. These include lead actress Liu Yifei’s support of Hong Kong police’s violent suppression of pro-democracy protests and the filming of the movie in the same area where Uighur Muslims were forced into internment camps. Disney has faced backlash and suffered the repercussions of these decisions, but it is ultimately up to the viewer to decide whether to watch the movie.

Overall, I definitely did not expect a “Mulan” live action remake to look like this. While the remade version of the classic animated movie did not live up to my expectations, I think those who have happy childhood memories of “Mulan” 1998 would enjoy this movie and might have fun discovering the new reimagined parts of the story. 


Aditi Dahagam can be reached at [email protected]

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