Mulan (2009)

Posted in Reviews by - March 14, 2020
Mulan (2009)

Forget catchy pop songs and talking dragons, this sobering Chinese version of the Mulan story is an earnest and at times effective war movie, and far from family-friendly. In one scene, Mulan smashes a guy’s head off. That may be in the deleted scenes of the Disney version, but I very much doubt it. Other powerful moments include a defiant musical number during a mass killing (expertly and effectively handled), and a brittle, battle-hardened malaise which sets into the film around the second act, highlighting the monotony and futility of war. Jingle Ma takes his cues from the moody, sweeping wuxia romance of films like Zhang Yimou’s Hero (complete with a laden score designed to pull on the heartstrings, and a very similar colour palette), and the epic, sword-smashing bloodlust of battle flicks like Braveheart. Mulan even gets to deliver similarly rousing pep talks to her soldiers once she is promoted to general after 12 years in the Wei army, battling Mongol tribes in the 5th century. Little consideration is taken to disguising the great Chinese actor Zhao Wei in the title role; instead, she plays Mulan as mostly lost and vulnerable, and even following her transformation, she is never fully convincing as a military leader. The film uses her romance with the Emperor’s son, Wentai (Chen Kun), as motivation for her rise to power, and this only happens once Wentai has made the decision to fake his own death as a way of allowing her to become unshackled by her emotions. Her childhood friend, Tiger (Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie), is also revealed to be involved in the manipulation. Tiger adopts parts of the Mushu role from the animation, working as Mulan’s cheerful confidant, and brings a much-needed lift to an otherwise solemn film.

AKA: Mulan: Warrior Princess.

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