When the film ended, I shut my eyes in embarrassment. I was ashamed. Despite the wonderful hands behind the camera, crafting and fashioning each shot, this film fell short of every cinematic expectation. The first Disney branded film to feature an all-Asian cast is a children’s movie with cartoon dialogues, overreaching score and moronic plot points. It’s amazing that anyone agreed to make this film this way cos if you told me anyone could waste Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Ming Na Wen (f**king Ming Na Wen) and Yifei Liu, I’d bet my eyes that the day would never come. It’s not even a totally horrible watch – Niki Caro’s directing is perceptive. It’s just that the script seemed to have been written by a feminist robot from the 80s. Because I’m sure today’s feminist will cringe at that “I believe Hua Mulan” scene that’s about to go down as one of the worst film scenes I’ve seen. Never have I seen a social message so forced, stripped of its essence and become a joke in 10 seconds. Every actor in that scene, I’m wondering, as you were saying those words out of your mouth, did you not feel the need to yell Cut! walk off the set and wire back your salary? I know you felt it. Take action next time.
Why I crammed all that in one paragraph is because I never wanted to honour this film with a review because it was a complete waste of my time and its mediocrity kept dropping my jaw at intervals.
Mulan is the story of two women feeling out of place in a male dominated Chinese Dynasty. One can float in the air, jump high buildings, race her horse straight at the enemy to set camp behind them without them seeing how she passed through – she’s Mulan and she’s the female soldier disguised as a man to replace her father in the army. The other one can turn into a bird; can also turn into birds; is skilled in Martial Arts; can shapeshift; and has never heard of meaningful death scene in Hollywood.
These two women, using their immense power, spend the entire film working for MEN to actualize MENS’ goals while internally desiring for a world where women are MEN’S equals.
How Mulan tells the story of these women and how it ends, is painfully bad. The only thing this film gets right are the costumes, set design, and really awesome locations. Everything else feels programmed by robots with no connection to the times. Oh, I’ve said that before. I guess repetition is contagious. The mediocrity of the film is undefined and that’s a problem: it’s definitely a bad film but it was undecided on how bad it wanted to be.
The villains, the Rouran Army, are Marauders + Vikings + Dothrakis + Ninjas. They can walk on walls but will flee for their lives if they see a woman who can dance ballet in the sky while brandishing a sword.
The film throws in a fat boy for the soldiers to pick on. For a film trying to elevate gender and crush inequality, making a fat round boy the funny one and the butt of all the other character’s jokes is counterintuitive. If I see one more fat boy in a Hollywood film who exists only as a joke, If I see that one more time…
To be honest, as if I wasn’t Father Confessor already, I couldn’t find anything reasonably decent in Mulan. Even the action and fight scenes that should have saved its face were terribly ambiguous, shameful and un-unique. Only the directing makes sense. Which is why Niki Caro should be given another chance to direct an actual action movie, not this flamboyant hide and seek in China.