Disney’s “Mulan” loses its magic

Jocelyn Sandusky, Opinions Editor

Disney’s live-action adaptations of its animated films are one of two things: a carbon-copy of the original film without the spark and vibrance, or a unique, stand-alone retelling devoid of the special qualities that made the cartoon so endearing.  

Niki Caro’s Mulan” is the latter.  

Although visually stunning, the newly structured story is anything but captivating with the absence of key characters and underdeveloped roles for its cast. Mulan” plays it safe and leaves the audience longing for the bold and riveting movie this character deserved. 

Animated films are full of light and colorful spectacles. What makes them so great is that they are fun and full of life. Transitioning a story from fantasy into something realistic sucks the life out of it.  

Audiences accept a suspension of disbelief when watching animated films because they know it is fictional, but when the same film includes actual people, everything is suddenly implausible and ridiculous. Live-action films unjustifiably tone down the bold and spectacular qualities of a story to make it more realistic. 

Audiences are torn over this new screenplay. Some argue the story loses its message when it deviates from the original, while others praise the addition of new characters and a backstory. 

One reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes wroteThis movie was amazing. Admittedly, if [youre] looking for a replica of the animated movie, this is not that movie as it only has some of the same storyline but if [youre] looking for an amazing retelling and reimagining of the story, then this is a truly amazing creation. This is definitely a must-see for any true Disney fan. 

But what is Mulan” without its musical numbers, slapstick comedy, and sidekicks? 

It’s no surprise the film’s aim to be more sophisticated than its predecessor backfired. Its more mature approach is too grown-up for young children and too reserved for adults.  

According to Common Sense Media, the film holds a PG-13 rating and is more intense and violent than the original. Children are too oblivious to pick up on the important themes of family, honor, and women empowerment. So they sit there, longing for catchy songs, and instead watch warriors get stabbed and killed with knives and bow-and-arrows. Without the comedic voice of Eddie Murphy as Mushu, this movie is a drag for children and adults. 

Mulan” shouldnt have been a replica, but it lacks the creativity and edginess it needed to justify its creative decisions. 

The animated version was filled with tension and suspense. There is so much on the line, yet the live-action version somehow conveys a monotonous and indifferent tone. What should be an intense battle for good and evil, is instead a boring waste of time. 

In the cartoon, an overwhelming cloud of danger looms over its heroine. Mulan” would have benefitted from imperfect lighting. Much of the film was too well-lit when it should have been dark and gloomy to portray imminent doom. Even the villains were bland. No, wearing an all-black ensemble and a few gnarly scares is not menacing. Disney played it safe when it should have been bold. This version lacks the urgency it so desperately needed. 

But not everything about the film is bad. 

Some of the film’s most redeeming qualities are the score and action sequences. The score creates the tension that is sorely missed in other aspects. It stirs up anticipation, immediacy, and triumph. The action sequences are masterfully choreographed, well-paced, and easy to follow. Unlike other action films, it is not headache-inducing and does not cause whiplash. 

The film’s editing is good, but it is uneven. There are moments when the film is cut and put together seamlessly, but some amateur visual effects make it look like a low-level production of a bad television show. 

But the most impressive aspect of the film, bar-none, is the cinematography. The film itself is visually stunning. The wide-shots of the scenery are beautiful and breathtaking. It features some of the most impressive and vibrant imagery film has to offer. The set and costume design are equally impressive; they are intricate, precise, and include great detail. 

For the visuals alone, this film deserved a theatrical release. With a $200 million budget, according to IndieWire, the film will not recoup its money. Why would anyone want to pay $30 for a movie thats going to be free on Disney+ in a matter of three months? Releasing it in a video-on-demand format was a disservice to all the hard work put in by the cast and crew. 

Unfortunately, fans are still waiting for a Disney movie reiteration to be different enough without losing its magic touch.