Review: ‘Mulan’ enacts brave changes unsuccessfully translated into live action

Mulan,” one of the most anticipated films of the year and the most recent addition to Disney’s ever-growing list of live-action remakes, had potential but failed to recreate the nostalgic feel of the original by excluding several main characters and making unnecessary changes.

One of the film’s boldest moves was excluding several fan-favorite characters from the animated film, such as Mushu and Li Shang.

The decision to remove Mushu, Mulan’s hilarious miniature dragon sidekick from the film, left the live-action adaptation lacking the hilarious comedic chops that the character brought to the animation.

This remake also included several character names that were familiar with fans. These name changes just left me confused because the “new” villain Böri Khan was exactly like Shan-Yu, the animated movies’ original antagonist. Viewers could clearly tell it was the same character but with a different name, which just eradicated the nostalgia from the new movie.

Liu Yifei, the 33-year-old lead actress embodied many of Mulan’s character traits which truly helped the character come to life. This, however, was the only resemblance the modern film had to the 1998 animated film.

The biggest change in this film was the addition of Xianniang, a shape-shifting witch who works with the main antagonist Böri Khan. The introduction of the character felt out of place and seemed to be included only to squeeze in a few amusing fight scenes.

Several original characters were also left out, failing to capture the charm and chemistry from the previous film. The romance between Mulan and her love interest Honghui felt forced, and it was not the same connection that Mulan shared with Li Shang from the animated version.

Nonetheless, the movie did create some memorable scenes that boasted superb cinematography, along with a dangerous fight sequence that kept the audience on the edge of its seats. The scenes, however, could have been elevated with an exciting soundtrack.

Though there were expectations for the film to play the main theme song “Reflection,” given that Christina Aguilera had rerecorded the song this year, it was only played in the end credits. There was a scene strikingly similar to the one in the animated film when the song originally played, which could have been reapplied to the remastered version. Instead, it was a missed opportunity to restore the nostalgia.

Composer Harry Gregson-Williams’ decision not to recapture fan favorites like “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” kept the scenes dull. With the lackluster soundtrack, the film could have also benefited from incorporating musical elements like the original.

Due to theaters shutting down, the Walt Disney Company decided to release “Mulan” on Disney Plus after a six-month delay. The movie is only available for Disney Plus subscribers who pay a $29.99 premier access fee — a decision that was not well received by audiences.

Disney has announced that on Dec. 4, Mulan will be released on the general Disney Plus platform at no extra cost.

Overall, the live-action remake of “Mulan” was a good family film to watch, but it lacked what the original so strongly possessed — such as the unique charms from minor characters who brought a great sense of humor to the film. With the $29.99 cost on top of a Disney Plus subscription, this live action remake isn’t worth the price tag.

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