MulanDirector – Niki CaroCast – Yifei Liu, Donny Yen, Tzi Ma, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, Jet Li
Mulan finds a way to offend almost everyone. Are you a feminist Let the simple notion of empowerment let you down. Do you consider yourself a human rights advocate? Then you will no doubt be outraged by Disney’s willful ignorance of the mass atrocities. Or are you just a fan of the movies? Good luck with the impersonal attitude of director Niki Caro.
While the artistic merit of Disney’s live-action remakes has always been questionable – their existence can be attributed more to Hollywood’s condescension towards Chinese audiences than to creative reasons – these films also seem to be getting increasingly boring. Mulan was flatly rejected by China when it appeared in theaters there, and hopefully put an end to the West’s incursions into that market.
Both Hollywood and Bollywood have viewed China as a simple paycheck for far too long. You are pushed below average « products » into the throat of the country, convinced of its less demanding taste. But the Chinese audience got it. And this time it’s personal. Unlike Thugs of Hindostan, a simple film no one in China wanted to pay for, Mulan seeks to « honor » Chinese culture by pouring millions of dollars into the apparently misguided Hollywood film of its kind since the Keanu Reeves star 47 ronin. It is a large-scale cultural appropriation.
In a classic attempt at misdirection, Disney put together a largely Asian cast, but failed to maintain this sensitivity in hiring the predominantly white crew. At the head of the studio was the internal talent Niki Caro. Your presence may reassure those who prefer to tell stories about women from women, but do you see what I’m getting at? With a woman at the helm, you solved a problem, but what cultural insights could a New Zealand filmmaker possibly bring to a Chinese story? It’s like handing the reins of a Rosa Parks biopic to Zoya Akhtar.
And in this crossfire of cynical decisions, the audience suffers. Not only is the new Mulan a bleak slog, it also purposely doesn’t know the spirit of the animated original. As you may have heard, Caro ditched the songs and tipped a more serious tone, similar to the epic films by Jhang Yimou and Ang Lee, the latter of which Mulan relayed. She also changed the main villain’s ethnicity, perhaps on encouragement from Disney.
Mulan cannot be separated from the cultural context that surrounds him simply because these are decisions made by the filmmakers and through those decisions they have invited discussions about them.
It would have helped if it had been a better movie, with a gripping story and a powerful message, but it feels mostly uninspired – just an excuse to make more money. This is unforgivable, given the multitude of resources available to Caro.
For example, why do the elaborate sets look like they were built three days before filming when they should have looked more alive? Why does the CGI look so artificial when several reports have budgeted the film at around $ 200 million? If you thought Henry Cavill’s computer-generated mouth looked weird in the Justice League, wait until you see what they did to Jet Li’s face in Mulan. Convince me it isn’t badly done deepfake. The legendary Li is just one of the many casting coups that the filmmakers have carried out. Gong Li, who plays a shapeshifter, also belongs to the ensemble; Tzi Ma, who plays Mulan’s father; and the great Donnie Yen, whose martial arts skills are utterly wasted in a movie that would rather cut fight scenes at random than let Yen get down to business.
Of all of Disney’s live-action remakes, Mulan differs the most from its animated original. While most of those films – Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King – tended to respect the source material, Mulan constantly stumbles upon himself trying to reinvent the wheel. It is also too preoccupied with being politically correct, which is noble in terms of concerns, but also something that requires sincerity. There is very little of that here.
Disney, the Walt Disney Company, Hua Mulan, Liu Yifei
World News – AU – Mulan Movie Review: A monumental misfire from Disney, the worst of its live-action remakes
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