Why “Mulan” (2020) is a cinematic disaster

Giovanni Machado, Opinions Editor

When Disney announced they were making a Mulan live-action movie, I hoped and prayed it would be good, considering how mediocre the other live-action and adaptations they had released in the previous years were.

Deep down I knew it wouldn’t be very good, but I was excited anyway since Mulan from 1998, in my opinion, is the best animated Disney movie ever.

My expectations were low but holy God.

First of all, I feel like I need to make clear that you don’t have to feel bad if you liked the movie, but if you liked it it’s probably because you haven’t watched the original animated piece yet, and if you haven’t, I strongly recommend you do if you get the chance, so you can understand why so many people are upset about the live-action.

Mulan was already an announced tragedy since it would have to live up to the masterpiece that its original version was, but the movie kept on subverting my expectations every minute that passed. Not in a good way.

First of all, I don’t understand exactly why they decided to remove some key characters from the original movie and add characters that were somewhat loosely based on them. Either remove them or don’t. For example, I truly don’t understand the importance of the character Chen Hanghui, a character loosely based on Lee Shang from the original version who was an essential part of the plot on the animated version. You could remove all Chen Hanghui scenes from the movie and it wouldn’t change the storyline whatsoever.

Another thing they changed that I thought would be okay at first was not having songs which I thought would be fine since they would probably be taking a more serious take on the story.

They don’t.

They were certainly trying to make a more serious story, but I don’t know what was the last time I’ve seen such a failed attempt at making serious scenes. There were moments I actually laughed out loud that were not supposed to be of comical purpose. One great (or horrible) example of this is when Mulan goes back to the army camp after being exiled and dishonored for being a woman in the army. When she gets back she tells the general the enemy is planning on killing the emperor, and the scene goes a little like this (have in mind I’m paraphrasing just a little bit):

General: “Why should I believe you? You’re a woman! You lied to me. I must execute you”

*Long Pause*

That Chen Hanghui guy: “I believe Mulan!”

Another soldier: “I believe Mulan!”

All the soldiers one after another: “I believe Mulan!”

General: “Ok, you’re our leader now, go stop the bad guys from killing the emperor.”

By the point, this scene ended, I was actually wheezing, which I don’t believe was the intention of the scene. But I couldn’t help it. It reminded me of a The Office scene where the new aspiring boss says everyone has to believe in her so she can be boss “Just like Tinkerbell” and everyone goes “I believe!” just like in this Mulan scene, a movie who was supposed to be a more mature version of the first one.

To give some credit where credit is due, I’ve seen many people complaining about the acting, but I honestly think it’s pretty solid considering the horrendous script the cast was given.

The villain is also another big problem with the changes they made. The Villain this time is a witch that can turn into animals, but mostly an eagle, and I saw some potential in that; it wasn’t that bad of an idea. But the execution, on the other hand, could be so much better. It is crazy how Disney creates such an interesting character and doesn’t explore her at all. All we know is that she is a witch and that she fights for the bad guys, that’s all. She has about four interactions with Mulan in the entire movie, and some of them don’t have much talking, just fighting.

That is until Mulan is expelled from the army for being a woman, and the witch finds her returning home and says a sentence that, in my humble opinion, should be banned from any bad guy vs. good guy interaction forever. “You and I are not so different, you know.” Then she proceeds by saying how they are both women and how men will never accept them as true warriors which, again, is a very good idea for a theme of the story, but it is so poorly executed that it pains me. Mulan then decides to go back save the emperor, is promoted to leader out of the blue, and then the witch and Mulan finally meet again, and their dialogue goes a little like this (have in mind I’m paraphrasing just a little bit):

Witch: “Wait, you’re a woman and you’re their leader?”

Mulan: “Yep.”

Witch: “I’m a woman and they won’t let me be their leader.”

Mulan: “Yep.”

Witch: That must mean I’m fighting for the wrong side!”

Mulan: “Sounds about right.”

And then the witch sacrifices herself by taking an arrow and saving Mulan’s life.

Do you see what the problem is here? A lot of times it seems like the movie is talking down to its audience. Like “you probably didn’t pick up the last scene, so here is a five-step tutorial to understand my movie.” It is so childish the way they establish, then re-establish, then verbally re-establish themes just in case the audience didn’t pick it up, especially when you promise you’re making a more “mature” version of Mulan.

But perhaps the worst problem with the movie is the fact that in the original movie, Mulan is just a woman who wants to protect her father. She is no warrior. She constantly subverts everyone’s expectations by outsmarting everyone, including the enemy, like when she shoots the last firework at a mountain instead of at them so the firework creates an avalanche that eliminates their entire battalion. The point of the movie is that everyone can be Mulan. But now? Well, forget that, she is gifted by nature now, even at a very young age she is amazing and skilled at everything, so too bad, you can’t be Mulan, no one can. She single-handedly defeats a good portion of the enemy army through her fighting skills, not her brain. I truly don’t even know at this point if the writers watched the original Mulan because why on Earth would you change one of the main themes of the story like that?

As someone who grew up watching Disney movies, it pains me to realize that Disney noticed a while ago that they don’t even have to try anymore in order to profit. They will keep on doing uninspired remake after uninspired remake, and people, like me, will keep on consuming because of a nostalgia factor, and, unfortunately,  that seems to be the way Disney is shifting towards, let’s just hope that it won’t get to a point where they can’t steer back.