Disney’s long list of remakes is one entry longer – although they can only be seen on Disney+ in United Kingdom after the Corona crisis shook up the cinema industry. If MULAN You can find out in our review that it belonged in the cinema.
OT: Mulan (USA/CAN/HKG 2020)
The powerful Emperor of China (Jet Li) has to protect his country against invaders from the north and therefore has hundreds and hundreds of men drafted into the army. A man from every Chinese family is supposed to fight for him – including the father of the young Mulan (Yifei Liu), Zhou Hua (Tzi Ma). As an old, dutiful veteran, he wants to follow the draft order even though he is ill and severely weakened. However, Mulan is sure that if he goes to war, her father will not survive. Without further ado, Mulan decides to disguise herself as a man and go into battle herself. Under the name Jun Hua, she sets off on a dangerous journey through China to join the military and complete the tough training to become a warrior under Commander Tung (Donnie Yen). But she not only has to deal with the rest of the recruits, but soon also with the dark magic of China’s adversaries…
The Disney studios certainly don’t hold back when it comes to remakes. In the recent past alone, there have been loose remakes of well-known Disney titles, such as “Elliot the Dragon” or “The Jungle Book”, films such as “Cinderella” and “Dumbo”, which took the premise of the animated film and added many facets thematically have, as well as films like “Aladdin”, “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Lion King”, which adhered to their original with increasing intensity. “Mulan” can be placed somewhere between “Elliot, the Dragon” and “Cinderella”: There are scenes that are similar, but a little more grounded, than in the Disney animated hit from 1998. Mulan, played by Yifei Liu, causes how previously the drawn Mulan, slapstick chaos at a matchmaker due to a creepy crawly. Her secret nighttime swim in a lake is interrupted to comedic effect by a man from whom she tries to hide her identity. And the elegant, playfully arranged score by Harry Gregson-Williams (“The Martian – Save Mark Watney”) repeatedly takes up melodies from the Disney cartoon.
Together with a host of warriors, Mulan (Yifei Liu) goes into battle.
But the direct references, let alone the sequences that are closely based on the animated film, are much more sporadic in “Mulan” than in “Cinderella”. From an ice-cold economic point of view, this is probably due to the fact that a more precise adaptation of the animated film was not in the Disney company’s interest: Since the booming cinema location of China is becoming increasingly important in justifying the exorbitant budgets of Hollywood films, and Disney is dealing with that With the opening of the extremely expensive Shanghai Disneyland increasingly trying to appeal to the Chinese public, a “Mulan” remake in the “Aladdin” or even “Beauty and the Beast” sense would be almost fatal. The 1998 film, hailed here as a Disney classic, is generally very unpopular in China – the folk ballad on which the film is based is a cultural asset with high sentimental value in China, which is why Disney’s free adaptation and the high number of comedic elements Chinese mainstream fails. And the fact that a newly invented character who does not appear in the ballad (namely the talking dragon Mushu) is named after a dish usually has the same effect on Chinese people as USAs would probably think if Disney adapted the “Ring of the Nibelungs” as an animated film invent a talking pig in lederhosen called “Schweinshaxn mit Dumplings”.
“In general, the 1998 film, hailed here as a Disney classic, is very unpopular in China – the folk ballad on which the film is based is a cultural asset with high sentimental value in China, which is why Disney’s free adaptation and the high number of comedic elements Chinese mainstream fails.”
So: out with Mushu. Out with the attractive, friendly mentor and love interest Li Shang. Purely with Chinese philosophy and a larger, character-based seriousness. That’s the calculation – without these considerations about how Disney could present itself better in China, the film wouldn’t exist. But, as has been the case in art for centuries, commissioned work can also develop its own attractive qualities. It doesn’t necessarily have to become a product. Fortunately, this also applies to “Mulan”. Director Niki Caro (“Whale Rider”) stages this quieter, more dramatic, more elegant retelling of the “Mulan” story, as is her nature as a storyteller. Films like “The Zoo Director’s Wife” established her as a director with sentimentality in the popcorn cinema style, and “Mulan” skillfully fills this attitude. Caro often allows Mulan’s inner struggle to fight for herself, her fatherland and the honor of her family by doing something that is portrayed as dishonorable to be expressed in taciturn or completely non-verbal sequences. And the obligatory slapstick interludes and “I’m pretending to be a man” situational comedy, which mark “Mulan” as a fun film for almost the entire family despite its calm and drama, are carried out unobtrusively and charmingly by Caro.
Mulan goes to the front out of love for her family.
As flat as some of the gags may be on paper, Caro designs them in such a way that they ultimately complement Mulan’s characterization, as they are acute situations in which the protagonist has to maintain her composure. If you’re a fan of the animated film, some comparisons inevitably come to mind – for example, the goosebumps-inducing moment in which Mulan decides to secretly take her father’s armor at night is actually perfect for an adaptation by Caro, since the film is by 1998 unwittingly anticipated the basic tonality of this remake. And Caro and the script team (Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin) frantically tick off this turning point. And even though Caro generally stages the action scenes very dynamically and gracefully (you could describe it as aesthetically adept “Wuxia for beginners”), the big avalanche action moment is a massive contrast to the animated film. But with Donnie Yen (“Rogue One. A Star Wars Story”) As a charismatic, strict instructor and a leading actress who makes the title role intensely her own, these passages can be forgiven – significantly more than the half-baked CG animals that appear in a film with a budget of at least 200 million dollars (rumor has it Prices are significantly higher) simply cannot be. The costumes are opulent, the sets are lovingly detailed and the landscape shots by camerawoman Mandy Walker are captivatingly illuminated.
“Commissioned work can also develop its own attractive qualities. It doesn’t necessarily have to become a product. Fortunately, this also applies to ‘Mulan’.”
Conclusion: Anyone who only finds the “Mulan” story interesting with a hearty pinch of humor will inevitably be disappointed, as will anyone who expected a real wuxia film. This “Mulan” wants to be Disney’s approach to Chinese film sensibilities, or to put it nicely, Disney’s introduction to a film world that is probably not close to all Disney+ subscribers. Viewed as such a film, this gallant remake is extremely successful – the marketing policy can, can and should be discussed elsewhere.
“Mulan” will be available on Disney+ for VIP customers from September 4th at a price of €21.99 and will be available regularly from December.