Subject: My review of 2020's Mulan, aka the movie that gave me a migraine (major spoilers, wall of text)
Posted on: 2020-09-12 02:39:16 UTC

I know I haven't been active in the past month or so, but I had to get this off my chest.

After spending a good chunk of money to go watch this at a cinema with the family, I can safely say one thing.

It sucks.

Characters were flat, scenes didn't make sense, and Disney's effort to incorporate more adult themes into the movie ended up making it sexist, historically inaccurate, and flat-out annoying.

Because I have too much time on my hands, here we go, part by part. Since I don't have much knowledge of cinematography or camera stuff, I'm going to stick to the content itself. And that alone is quite a lot.

(Spoilers below this line. You sure you want to continue?)

(Right, fine. Here we go.)

Opening scene

Quick recap: Young Mulan helps herd chickens in her household. Chicken does as chickens do, resulting in Mulan needing to employ her "chi" superpowers to catch it.

  1. I can forgive the action scene, but what I cannot forgive is how extraordinary they made her. Mulan's story was supposed to be about a regular girl whose courage drives her to do amazing things. This here, getting powers without even having to train, and just making her better than everyone from the beginning, should have been the first sign that this was going to suck. I ignored it. How naive of me.

  2. That word again. That shpxing word. Being Chinese, I am getting very tired of each and every western movie studio adding this in as an explanation for otherworldly Asian powers. Besides, I'm pretty sure that "chi" isn't just something you're born with, but I've been out of touch for too long, so I'll have to let this pass.

  3. Mention of the word 'witch'. 'Demon' would be more fitting in an ancient Chinese setting.

Matchmaker, and stuff

Recap: Mulan, now a young woman, has to get married off to bring honour to her family and also hide her "chi" powers away.

  1. More showing off of powers as she successfully catches falling teapots and teacups.

  2. Instead of the cricket, this scene's interruption is caused by Mulan trying to catch a spider before it could land and scare her sister. Oh, she has a sister. I don't remember her much. She's just kind of there.

Going off to war

Recap: Mulan's father gets drafted, she goes in his place under cover of night and travels far, far away to get to the army camp.

  1. Nothing much, except that the guardian dragon has been replaced with a phoenix. That would be fine, except:

  2. During her travels, Mulan sees some random phoenix flying around. It was supposed to symbolize her ancestors' protection, but it just looks dumb.

Army camp stuff

Recap: Mulan arrives at army camp. Shenanigans ensue.

  1. Beats up another guy for calling her 'little man', which is not even an insult. I think this was supposed to showcase how threatened she felt, but it's just too jarring to be taken seriously.

  2. She does not struggle with practice. Just looks like she's enjoying herself. And where are those three friends? The ones we know and lo-

  3. Oh, they've been replaced by some guy called Hong Hui. Don't remember much about him except he doesn't know how to talk to girls and asks Mulan for advice.

  4. Mulan shows off "chi" powers during practice. Instead of getting reprimanded, she gains the favour of her battalion commander. Soldiers fight as a unit, not as individuals. You're not going to get special treatment for being slightly better than everyone else. Showing off during practice will get you into trouble.

  5. Attempted building of chemistry between her and Hong Hui. Result is a miserable failure.

Battle and stuff

Recap: Mulan's battalion finds out that a battalion close to theirs got annihilated by the Rourans. Oh, the Huns are replaced by Rourans. And it turns out that Shan Yu, now called Bori Khan, has a bird that is also a shapeshifter woman. I like her, and it's totally not because she's pretty. Oh, and she gets a redemption arc that fails terribly, but more on that later.

  1. In the cartoon, the scene of the battlefield and dead soldiers is cut to after the musical number 'Girl Worth Fighting For'. It's brilliant, and it really shows how those untrained soldiers went from boys just messing around to men that are willing to put down their lives for their country. In the live-action movie, that scene is just cut to with no explanation. It's just there.

  2. Battle commences. A few Rourans flee. Commander tells Mulan's wing to go after them for reasons. Just an excuse for her to show off more powers as her comrades get killed off one by one. Oh, and it's to set up this next scene:

  3. Solo encounter with the shapeshifter (called a 'witch'. Hmph.). The parallels between the heroine and the villain is thrown into the audiences' faces because heaven forbid you do some extra thinking to make that conclusion yourself. No, really. It just goes like 'You are woman and I am woman. We are both forced to hide magic powers so we are same.' Witch kills her with a knife to the heart. But since the phoenix is protecting her, she resurrects and saves her remaining comrades with the old avalanche trick.

  4. Because 'a lie can only live so long', she exposes herself and her commander tells her to leave. Doesn't even consider execution. The stakes cannot be lower.

More stupid stuff

Recap: After riding off into the sunset, Mulan encounters the witch. Repeat 'You are woman and I am woman. We are both forced to hide magic powers so we are same.' Mulan refuses to turn to the dark side. Witch accidentally exposes Top Secret Rouran Plans™. Mulan goes to find commander.

  1. Commander doesn't just ignore her. And he gives her a chance to redeem herself. I hate this for many reasons.

  2. One elite squad, including Mulan, is sent to the Imperial City to foil Top Secret Rouran Plans™. Because of course.

  3. They encounter more Rourans but none of them die. The rest of the squad let Mulan go alone to save the emperor because Disney needed to show off those special effects, which, by the way, weren't remarkable.

  4. Mulan encounters witch (again). Repeat of Stupid Stuff, except witch is considering leaving Rourans because, hey, if this girl exposed her true self and still survived, maybe she didn't need to work for Rourans who hate her for being woman. 'There is a place for people like us.' Please.

  5. Mulan goes after emperor who is tied to stick and about to be burned. Bori Khan (discount Shan Yu) fires an arrow at Mulan, but the witch, having served her purpose to the plot, takes the arrow for Mulan and dies.

  6. Emperor is rescued and everyone is happy. Yay.

Reward time

Recap: Mulan achieves honour for family. Everyone is happy.

  1. This was the point where my brain stopped processing what I was seeing.

Major Issues

  1. Giving Mulan powers sends the wrong message. Instead of 'Girls, you can do anything you put your mind to', it's 'Girls, you can only fight if you have special powers'.

  2. The witch character just sounds hasty.

  3. Dialogue is awful. Everything is horribly scripted.

  4. Nobody has much personality. They all speak the same and have the same facial expressions. Doesn't help that Mulan's actress does not have very good acting skills.

  5. No Li Shang.

Thank you for reading all that, and I really hope that Disney stops with the live-action remakes. It peaked with Onward. Now please stop.

Very late edit: Chi is life energy. It's been used as an explanation for supernatural abilities in martial arts movies, but that was after careful cultivation and using your own energy to manipulate other energy (or something like that). Saying "chi" only exists in certain people is giving me zombie movie flashbacks.

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