Disney DIS did a blockbuster job of translating the ancient story of Mulan from Chinese legend to a 1998 animated version and now to live-action. Yes…I know that those of you who cherish the animated version feel a certain loyalty to the films your younger self enjoyed, but get over it. The live-action Mulan is spectacular.
For those of you unfamiliar with the ancient story, it’s about a young woman who disguises herself as a man in order to take her aging father’s place in the army, and in so doing, becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process.
Gone are the sillier aspects of Disney’s 1998 animated version such as the talking dragon, Mushu, voiced by comedian Eddie Murphy. Mostly gone is also the splendor of the original musical score. But in its place is a telling that is far more realistic, relatable, and visceral for today’s audiences.
Mulan is about pure woman empowerment. At a time when women were completely subordinate to all things men, she proved herself to be a competent warrior in a man’s world. Live-action allows us to better relate to moments when she breaks free of the manmade shackles.
Mulan is about country and family above all else, condensed in the phrase, “Loyal. Brave. True.” Live-action allows us to feel more connected to Mulan’s personal and family struggles and the decisions she makes for love of country and family.
Mulan is about unfulfilled potential and what it takes to achieve greatness. The live-action version showcases this beautifully throughout.
Mulan is well acted with Liu Yifei in the title role, and Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li and Jet Li in supporting roles. They provide the flesh and blood needed to make this a far more relatable version than any animated version ever could.
Mulan paces well, providing one action sequence after another, pausing when needed for more subtle character development.
The 1998 film was a marvel, achieving $304 million at the box office. I still love it. But had this live-action version been launched in 1998 instead, I am willing to bet it would have made even more. Children and adults thrive on relatable characters, and this Mulan delivers.
While some countries without Disney+ will have an opportunity to watch Mulan in theaters, those countries with Disney+ will only have it available on TV with a Disney+ subscription. Some will dismiss the small screen version. Don’t. Many are now accustomed to their monster home entertainment systems, and streaming has made them more accustomed to value. For just $29.99, Disney+ subscribers can watch Mulan in the comfort of their homes, which alternatively would have cost about $40 to $50 for two theater tickets and food. A family of four might have paid as much as $80 at the theater. And if you can wait until December to watch the film, become a Disney+ subscriber and you can watch Mulan for free.
Disney just created another blockbuster for a new generation of audiences and launched it in a new medium. In so doing, it may have changed the way we watch blockbusters forever.