THE IMPERIAL CITY — Audiences have been waiting patiently for months for the live-action remake of "Mulan" to finally release. After COVID-19 pushed an initial theatrical release date in early March back to July and then delayed it indefinitely, fans weren’t sure when they’d finally be able to see the warrior in her own live-action movie. Then Disney announced it would release the film on Disney+, but with a caveat: You’d pay the $7 a month for the subscription service and then another $29.99 to watch "Mulan."
Now that the movie is streaming, you’re wondering if the movie is worth an additional $30. I’m here to tell you it is, kind of. Well, it depends. Let me explain.
This live-action remake wanted to show off both the beauty and culture of China and it many ways it did. Even though it was shot mostly in New Zealand. The color palette of the film is often stunning and gives the eye plenty to indulge in during its two-hour runtime.
It’s hard to hate a movie that gives so much eye candy. I did take issue with some of the creative choices to how the film was shot, particularly some action sequences, but overall the camera captured a very beautiful film.
Not a shot-for-shot remake
I have taken issue with some of these Disney remakes and how they make no effort to offer us anything new. The worst of the lot so far in this way was "The Lion King." The new film was nearly a shot-for-shot remake of the original and I cannot stand that. "Mulan" did not go down that route.
The basis and structure of the story is the same as the 1998 original, but motivations, characters and outcomes have been changed. Not all of the changes were for the better, but many of them were and made for a new film that will actually give you a few surprises.
Like many Disney films "Mulan" has a strong message and this one resonated with me. It pushes a similar message to the original of being loyal, brave and true, but this movie makes it a main focus. The true part actually seems to trump the others in some ways and it felt empowering at times.
The message that I loved and got behind was the idea of being devoted to your family. This wasn’t absent in the 1998 version, but it’s a big focus in this one and one I appreciated. If anything the few extra bucks may be worth it to possibly inspire your kids to be courageous, honest and maybe listen to mom and dad once in a while.
Now when I say "surprisingly boring," I don’t mean I was snoozing through the whole thing, but rather that certain sections seemed to drag. I found myself checking my watch to see how much time was left. There seems to be action sequences followed by down moments.
Not only were the down moments slow, but they often didn’t include much dialogue, or even engaging dialogue. This also led to characters that were both boring and forgettable. You’ll hardly remember anyone’s name by the time the credits roll and if someone falls on the battlefield, it won’t pack much of an emotional punch.
My kids got restless a time or two waiting for the action to pick back up, but it doesn’t take too long.
Not sure what it wants to be
This "Mulan" seems to want to be more grounded in reality at moments and then suddenly it becomes a supernatural martial arts movie. It just seems to jump all over the map and it’s difficult at times to really get into the film.
I struggle with movies that seem to have an identity crisis and this movie is one of those. It’s not lost on me that the movie is based around a character who is dealing with an identity crisis, but I don’t think that means we need a grounded war epic one minute and a wire-fu spectacle the next. The tone of the movie just doesn’t fit the execution.
Is it worth $30?
Here’s the real question, is it worth $30? I think I would have to say yes. Sure, that seems pretty steep, but it’s much less than if you were to take your family to the theater to see the film like you were planning on had it released in cinemas.
I didn’t love this movie and it has its issues as I mentioned, but new entertainment for the whole family isn’t always easy to come by these days and "Mulan" is offering us something both familiar and fresh. The kids will enjoy it and there is enough there for the parents to enjoy some nostalgia and action. You’ll also like some of the messages the movie tries to teach your kids.
"Mulan" is now streaming on Disney+ for an extra fee and is rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence.