Strong, central female characters are my bread and butter for film, television, and books. I’m talking Buffy Summers, Annalise Keating, Wonder Woman, and the like. I was stoked to hear that Disney was remaking Mulan. But does Mulan live up to the hype?
Disney’s latest live-action film, Mulan, promises to be “loyal, brave, and true” to the original legend of Mulan. The film eliminates the signing, the talking dragon, and a love story that were heavily featured in the 1998 animated film, and replaces these elements with a strong female storyline.
Mulan amplifies female voices, showcasing their strength and value. Without the love story, Mulan transforms into a fierce warrior capable of extraordinary battle feats. The film also adds a second female character, known only as the Witch. This character serves as a voice for Mulan’s inner struggles to find her place in the world and gives a glimpse into the life of powerful women at the time. This, coupled with the more authentic take on the Mulan legend, should have been a showstopper. The film should have stood out as relevant and bold.
It just wasn’t all there for me. While I enjoyed the story, I felt the film was lacking in execution. The writers attempted to infuse the film with some of the original pieces that audiences loved. In some cases, like Harry Gregson-Williams’s film score, which infuses music from the original soundtrack into the film’s score, the result is perfection. However, other elements just fell flat, like the lucky cricket. Now a person, the Cricket had few lines and seemed an unnecessary nod to the animated film.
And while I love a good female empowerment film, I just couldn’t fully commit to Mulan; instead, I found myself wanting more from the film. The battle scenes felt too short, most of the characters were less than memorable, and overall there seemed to be something missing from the film. I have to wonder, too, just how accurate the film’s depictions are. Ultimately, I connected more with Mulan’s general struggle as a woman than with any of the characters.
The Bottom Line
Mulan is the female empowerment film that I wanted but didn’t quite get. There are well-executed parts to film—the acting, costumes, scenery, film score, and (most of) the script—that are worth watching. But, overall, Mulan is best enjoyed after its December streaming date.