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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Mulan' Review: Liu Yifei Leads A Mythical Live-Action Adaptation With Plenty Of Action

Liu Yifei swinging a sword on a battlefield

I’ll make a remake out of you. Why? Because you’re a Disney property. Latest addition to the astounding amount of either live-action or computer animated remakes of Disney’s classics (’Dumbo’) and new classics (’Aladdin’) is of course 2020’s Mulan, directed by Niki Caro. Once again it’s about a Chinese girl Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) who isn’t ready to meet her designed ’’match-for-life’’ and embarks to the imperial army’s war against revolutionists instead of her father, point being that she pretends to be a man. This time there aren’t magical dragons by her side and neither there are musical numbers, the movie opts to focus on Mulan’s ’’chi’’ and the looming war instead. That just happens to be a big part of the film’s problem as it’s quite messy and dull, something that even the 200 million dollar visuals can’t really save.

Those visuals are nearly all thanks to the wonderful work that the cinematographer Mandy Walker does. Crisp wide lenses capture the landscape, few zoom shots are a nice surprising touch that get you ready for the incoming action sequences and those involving fights shoot the stunt work really well and in a way that you might not expect. It should be pointed out though that much of that work goes unfortunately to waste because of the sloppy editing that doesn't trust the viewer's eyes as well as the awkward VFX which comes off as silly looking, not as an enhancement. Colours (especially the red and orange shades) pop really well on screen and a collection of screenshots would make a really cool flipbook type of thing. And, despite missing the musical numbers, there are few stand out moments in Harry Gregson-Williams' score that support the visual style in key moments.

What doesn't support the visual side is the lack of convincing storytelling aspects, mostly failing because the character writing is honestly laughable. This time Mulan herself doesn’t even train herself to become the destined hero, she just happens to be natural born superhero who doesn’t need to put the work in. That’s exactly what makes the story so boring - she flirts with another soldier, Honghui (Yoson An) whose only trait is that he is into Mulan and she ’’fights’’ two villains that aren’t capable of anything really. One villain, Xianniang (Gong Li), is a shapeshifter for some reason (note that this ’Mulan’ movie was supposed to be less fantastical) but she doesn’t even really put up a fight despite knowing magic. The film just lacks focus from the writing (four screenwriters!), to the stoic acting (not good, not horrible) to post-production (editing, VFX). One thing it all culminates to symbolically is the fact that everyone in the film looks absolutely flawless during the action scenes; flowing hair, perfect skin, ironed clothes, no hesitating expressions and no signs of blood. It’s like no one even put up a fight.

Smileys: Cinematography

Frowneys: Characterisation, makeup, hairstyling, VFX

Is it a bird? Is i... oh yeah it's just a bird.


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