thu 01/10/2020

Mulan review - Niki Caro's live action take on the '98 classic underwhelms | reviews, news & interviews

Mulan review - Niki Caro's live action take on the '98 classic underwhelms

Mulan review - Niki Caro's live action take on the '98 classic underwhelms

Disney's latest live-action classic works out some kinks but loses the magic

Liu Yifei as the young Hua MulanLui YiFei as Fa Mulan

Whilst New Mutants slips surreptitiously into cinemas, Disney’s live-action spin on Mulan arrives with more fanfare on their streaming platform, even if it does come with a price-tag of nearly £20.

Whilst New Mutants slips surreptitiously into cinemas, Disney’s live-action spin on Mulan arrives with more fanfare on their streaming platform, even if it does come with a price-tag of nearly £20.

Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) and her cohort of screenwriters have ironed out the kinks of the 98 animation, giving it a greater feminist spin, but losing much of the heart and humour of Tony Bancroft and Barry Cooks original film. 

The story focuses on the young Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei), a free spirit who has to suppress her martial gifts for the sake of the family’s honour. When her invalid father (Tzi Ma) is conscripted to fight an invading horde of bandit-warriors, led by Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee), she chooses to protect him by stealing his sword and armour and riding off to join the Emperor’s army. Li Gong as Xian LangThere are a few new twists in this live-action remake, the avian shape-shifting witch Xian Lang (Li Gong, pictured above) being the most notable. She acts as a dark mirror to Mulan, having been cast out of her society when she dared to defy the patriarchal standards of the day. 

The love story between Li Shang and Mulan is tweaked, replaced instead with a new character Chen Honghui (Yoson An), a fellow conscript rather than a superior (a wise choice given the original power dynamic). More disappointing is the absence of the diminutive dragon Mu-Shu, who is replaced by a randomly appearing, silent phoenix. 

There are some notable set-pieces involving impressive Wuxia action, albeit with a Hollywood sheen. Battles take place against desert backdrops, followed by rooftop acrobatics, and there's an impressive final showdown in the Emperor’s palace. It’s thrilling action, but there’s a strong sense it would all probably look better on a cinema screen. Most impressive is the music by Harry Gregson-Williams, which blends the family tunes of the animation within a sweeping, rousing score.

Although it’s been stripped of the original animations sense of humour, Mulan is a neat enough blend of Hollywood visuals and Wuxia action, resulting in a competent live-action remake. 

It’s thrilling action, but there’s a strong sense it would all probably look better on a cinema screen

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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