After a nearly six-month COVID delay, audiences can finally watch Mulan.
And they really, really should watch it.
SPOILER ALERT FOR FURTHER IN THE ARTICLE BEWARE:
Mulan: An Action Flick
Let’s start with where Mulan shines the most: the action.
In short? It’s incredible. The movie flawlessly blends modern fight choreography with martial arts straight out of the golden era of kung-fu movies. It’s exciting. It’s beautiful. And above all, it’s cool. Watching Mulan flip off a horse and kick an airborne spear straight into an enemy? Hell yeah! We’re cheering her on.
And it’s not just flashy stunts. All the action directly leads back to the heart of the character. This Mulan didn’t just take up the role of a soldier to save her family. She’s always known she was a warrior at heart – but societal expectations forced her to hide her gift. So when Mulan dons her father’s armor and steals his sword, she’s not testing out a new persona. She’s becoming who she was always meant to be.
I will say, the live-action Mulan doesn’t have the humor of its animated predecessor. Admittedly, the live-action film is more serious. Besides the war backdrop, the thematic emphasis on staying “loyal, brave, and true” doesn’t lend itself as well to laughs. Still, I wouldn’t have minded a few more comedic beats during the lighter moments.
Justice for “The Witch”
The biggest letdown in Mulan is Xianniang, “the witch.” Frankly, the movie did her dirty. The film works hard to establish her as incredibly powerful. On top of being an accomplished martial artist, she can perform impressive feats of magic: turning into animals and possessing people’s bodies, among other things. The Witch should be Mulan’s final opponent – they’re set up as foils, two women with powerful chi, one battling for the collective good and one for personal gain and destruction. Instead, with next to no real influence, Xianniang decides she’s going to side with Mulan after all. And then sacrifices herself to save the other woman.
I’m not saying Xianniang shouldn’t have chosen to stand with Mulan. It would have been a nice moment of female solidarity, done correctly. Instead, with the conclusion feeling so abrupt and rushed, the moment feels hollow.
Mulan: The Bottom Line
Abrupt resolution of Xianniang’s arc aside, I really enjoyed Mulan. The action and beautiful visuals, combined with the underlying message of being yourself, make this one a must-watch. (Though you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to pay $30 to see it now.)
Stream Mulan with Disney+ Premier Access starting September 4.