Movies

‘Mulan’ Updates Its Story For A Slightly Older Audience And Its Battle Scenes Are Dynamite

Mulan becomes the latest live action remake of Disney animated canon. When The Lion King came out last year there was a lot of talk about if it was necessary or not (the overwhelming majority of movies aren’t “necessary” so I guess the answer is “probably not”) even though I wound up quite enjoying it. (Though, a big reason why I enjoyed The Lion King is because I wound up at a “family” screening, which was filled with children, instead of the normal critics screening. And their enjoyment was infectious. Add that to the list of why I miss movie theaters, even though there’s no way I’d go to one right now.) But I at least sort of get the argument that it was too faithful to the source material, so what’s the point if it’s not going to be reimagined at all? (Well, other than the $1.6 billion It made, which certainly classifies as “a point.”)

Unlike The Lion King, Niki Caro’s Mulan is a more reimagined version of the 1998 original film. The original film was rated G, is filled with music, and is truly something that can be defined as a family film. This new version has no musical performances, is rated PG-13 (and earns that rating) and is more aimed at the “young adult” market. (Two friends of mine asked if it would be suitable for their children. When asked about a four-year old, I said, “no.” When asked about a ten-year-old, I said, “probably.”) There are some pretty intense battle scenes for a “family” movie where our hero, Mulan (Liu Yifei), stabs and impales a few villains. It’s a bloodless fight, but still.

After a brazen attack by enemy forces, the local government declares each family must provide one male to fight in the army to defend against these attacks. Hua Xiu (Tzi Ma) was once a great warrior, but he’s getting old and has an injured leg, but he also has two daughters, so he will do his duty and fight. His oldest daughter, Mulan, steals his battle gear and shows up instead, disguising herself (not very convincingly, but whatever) as a man and joins the fight. She fights bravely and saves her battalion, but her ruse (not surprisingly) is discovered and she’s banished. And that’s where Mulan’s adventures come to a close as the end credits roll. (That last sentence is a lie.)

As I mentioned before, I wouldn’t call Mulan ultra-violent by any means, at least compared to other PG-13 movies. But if you’re a big fan of the original movie and want to show this to someone on the younger side, you may want to judge for yourself first. There are scenes of swords, spears, and arrows all impaling bad people in the chest. Again, the tone here seems to be aimed at the young adult market.

But I guess the big question here is, “is Mulan worth $30?” Well, first, that’s between you and your god. I will say I wound up enjoying this film quite a bit, and even more than I thought I would. More than I thought I would because the battle scenes are so well choreographed and performed. Instead of muddled CGI, everything is crisp and clear and very well done. And in these scenes Mulan borrows a bit from films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

But $30 is an interesting price point for something like this and can be looked at a few different ways. On one hand, a person has access to an almost endless supply of classic films they’ve probably never seen that, at worst, might cost $3.99 to rent. So upping that to $30 is a big jump. But it is a new movie. And a big new movie at that. And here in New York City at least, between a ticket, a soda, and some sort of food item, I’ve spent $30 on a movie plenty of times. So that price, in that respect, doesn’t seem too unreasonable, even by yourself.

But if a person has a family, this starts to feel like a bargain. A big thing to me when discussing these price points is, “do I get to own the movie or not?” I’ve said in the past I’d pay $40 to watch Tenet at home right now as long as I got some promise of a permanent digital file down the line without having to purchase it again. And with Mulan you do get that. As long as you subscribe to Disney+, Mulan is forever a part of your library. If a person has a family and members of that family want to watch it a few times, it’s really a bargain. So, $30 for a brand new movie that was going to be a blockbuster in theaters, and you don’t lose access to the movie, this all seems about right to me. But, your mileage may vary. But, for me (no, I didn’t have to pay for it, so keep that in mind), it felt legitimately fun to watch. It wasn’t quite the feeling you get in a theater, but it just felt good to watch a new huge would-have-been-a-blockbuster movie, even at home.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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