Review of 'Mulan', a show that beautifully honors a legendary warrior
The upcoming Disney Plus premiere of the new version of Mulan brings us a solemn spectacle that doesn't fall in love but entertains us on the basis of good.
The story of Hua Mulan, the legendary Chinese warrior who defied the conventions and laws of her time and who today serves as a feminist narrative example, is one of the most esteemed in the sleeping ancient giant. We do not know whether his lost ballad of the 6th century or his later version of the XI has historical bases, but that is irrelevant if what interests us is the pure journey of the story. Disney immersed the whole world in it with the film Mulan, one of its most decent animated classics; and now he's doing it again with the eponymous version in real-world images from this 2020 directed by New Zealander Niki Caro.
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Niki Caro leads Mulan for her very clear interest in women protagonists who must prove what they are worth in a world dominated by men
The filmmaker has not laded much in the twenty-eight years she has been practicing, as she has barely shot seven feature films if we include Mulan. His debut opera was Memory and Desire, as difficult to sit as his contribution to the episodic film Dark Stories. But the one that put her in the Hollywood firmament was the strange and effective drama Whale Rider, with awards at festivals and an Oscar nomination for the novice actress Keisha Castle-Hughes; followed by the very obvious but competent In the Land of Men, with more nominations for two of his actresses, Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand.
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Then came the inconsistent The Vintner's Luck, his short "Ruby Travel" for 42 One Dream Rush, a compilation in which only Chris Milk's "Last Day Dream" stands out, far above the others; the Effective McFarland and the Acceptable House of Hope. With this curriculum, the logic that Niki Caro was chosen for Mulan is very clear in the face of his very clear interest in women protagonists who must demonstrate their strength and what they are worth in a world dominated by men, as usual. And he almost got us to forget the bad taste of the pedestal Mulan 2, even if he doesn't outperform his predecessor.
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This latest Disney proposal is recognizable by the animation film's past, with ingredients and details reminiscent of it, as well as the overall plot, of course. But just as The Lion King finds an identity of her own mid-footage, the new Mulan has decided on that virtue. Its great color, as in the case of Aladdin, does not help the credibility of its setting of the Chinese Middle Ages, which should seem dirtier and not similar to that of a children's tale. However, they also give us beautiful paintings, almost dreamlike and of different colors, and one can only admit that he enjoys contemplating them.
We may find ourselves somewhat naive in its solemnity and in certain sequences of orientalized action, especially for well-known spectators. But this happens rather in the initial stretch because, from now on, it gets us to the bottom of the old, severe, and honorable spirit of history. And there's almost no room for humor that so greatly worked in the first Mulan or, of course, for the seborrheic Mushu, just a few pinches. Because this approach is to take it very seriously, something very reasonable that weakens it in the face of the adventure of Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft, which ripped us off with laughter and, at last, moved us with genuine sincerity.
The competent cast does not go from archetypal performances, without too many nuances because the script by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Elizabeth Martin, and Lauren Hynek does not allow it either. From the skilled Liu Yifei as Mulan, who can shake hands in his prowess with Donnie Yen and his commander Tung, to Gong Li playing Xianniang, Tzi Ma in Zhou's skin, Yoson An as Honghui, Jason Scott Lee Although the emperor of Jet Li is a bit meh.
The montage is dynamic when appropriate, in scenes of action or laborious activities in which it would be boring to stop too much, serene for those who exhibit the stillness or the well-known eastern gravity or timely parallel, giving life to planning, with occasional slow motions, which does not usually shine but never ceases to be adequate. While it should be recognized that some moments, like the one in which Mulan wears the armor, had been better thought visually in the animated film. And composer Harry Gregson-Williams fulfills his musical reinforcement and when it comes to giving cohesion to the product with Eastern sounds, but it does not shine.
The film will satisfy very much those who like the realism in war cinema of exposed wounds and red swords because there is no blood here to do an analysis, but it is for fans of oriental style fighting choreographies. And they offer us a different narrative about the origin of their protagonist's abilities, perhaps no easier to believe than that of the Animation Mulan but with impeccable coherence. And a new villain or antiheroin that provides some unforeseen reflection, a curious specular perspective of two similar female aspirations on opposite sides, for a worthy spectacle that honors the legendary warrior without marveling at us.