Mulan is the Live-Action We’ve Been Waiting For

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When Walt Disney Studios started announcing that it would remake the classic Disney Animation movies into live-action versions, I got excited to see more grown-up stories highlighting the culture and folklore stories that the films stemmed. What we got was an attempt to recreate the animated movies nearly shot for shot with every song along with some new ones thrown into the mix. While some of these films were visually stunning to see on screen (The Jungle Book, for example), most of them fell flat on what I would have loved to see. Mulan is the first to break this mold and give us the storytelling we were looking for. 

Fans were outraged to hear that Mulan wouldn’t feature some of the iconic songs like “Reflection” or “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” Then we found out that Mushu would not be making an appearance as well, and that’s when my ears perked up like an excited puppy. I knew that Mulan was going to be very different. When you strip away the comic relief of a talking dragon and spunky cricket, you’re left with an action movie that showcases Chinese culture and history. A film that adults can enjoy and appreciate outside of the cartoons they grew up watching.

Yifei Liu (Mulan) is a treasure. She is fierce but posed. She embodies the character perfectly. 

Mulan Fighting

I’ve always loved that Walt Disney brought classic folklore stories to a new generation, but the stories change quite a bit from the originals because, let’s face it, they were pretty scary. If The Little Mermaid had stuck with the sad and tragic ending from the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, people would riot. We need our happy ending, and that’s ok! Mulan’s happy ending isn’t about a love interest, but of a warrior that changed everything and brought great honor to her family and country. 

Mulan is visually stunning from start to finish. From the small village that Mulan lives to the expansive and mountains in China, there are bright colors that tantalize the eyes. The same is true of the colorful costumes. The matchmaker scene is one of my favorites because of the elaborate E’huang makeup that was common during the Northern Wei dynasty. The best burst of color is the phoenix that acts as Mulan’s spirit guide. I guess you could say that in the live-action version, Mushu was replaced with the phoenix. 

Mulan China

Tzi Ma, who plays Mulan’s father, Zhou, narrates the story of Hua Mulan. The story stems from a narrative poem from 6th century China called “Ballad of Mulan.” Having Mulan’s father narrate, gives the story additional depth into the importance of family in Chinese culture. Her father is the one that asks the phoenix to watch over Mulan in the war. One of the themes in the story is being loyal, brave, and true. Virtues that are so important for everyone to live by in life. There is a new song, “Loyal Brave True by Christina Aguilera that showcases this as well, and it’s beautiful.

There are some good surprises in Mulan that fans will love to see. Like a cameo from Ming-Na Wen that was perfection! The powerful addition of Xianniang, a witch with powerful chi played by Li Gong was a welcome addition to a male dominated cast. 

Xianniang from Mulan

Mulan stays true to its Chinese cultural roots. From the Phoenix and Dragon statue pairs together to the makeup that Mulan wears to the matchmaker. It’s a beautiful look into this story. While younger audiences my not stay focused for long ( my 8-year-old went to play halfway through the movie), older children can appreciate the story and empowerment it brings. My husband also agrees that this is the best way to experience a Disney live-action remake. It’s an action movie without all the gore that war brings. While I would like to see more original stories from Walt Disney Studios, I could handle more remakes like Mulan

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father. “Mulan” features a celebrated international cast that includes: Yifei Liu as Mulan; Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Cheng Honghui; with Gong Li as Xianniang and Jet Li as the Emperor. The film is directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Elizabeth Martin & Lauren Hynek based on the narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.”

While Mulan didn’t get the theatrical release in the theater it deserves, moviegoers will get the chance to watch this magnificent story on Disney+ with Premier Access.  Starting September 4, with Premier Access, viewers can watch Mulan before it’s available to all Disney+ subscribers. Disney+ will offer Premier Access to Mulan for $29.99 on Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available.


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Meghan Cooper is a writer, content creator, movie critic, and geek living in Atlanta, Ga. She loves movies, traveling, and lots of coffee. Member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association, Georgia Film Critics Association, and Atlanta Film Critics Circle.

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