Omair Alavi|Published October 10, 2020
Some animated films should never be made into live-action; while some with a few adjustments can become a separate entity in their own rights. Disney’s live-action version of Mulan falls into the second category, where it managed to steer away from the childish elements of the animated flick and became a different entity altogether. It may not have screened in cinemas due to pandemic, but made it to the digital world, where it managed to impress the audience with its new and fresh take on the legend of Hua Mulan.
Like the animated version of Mulan that came out in 1998, the live-action one also revolves around a young Chinese girl named Mulan (Yifei Liu) who is too independent and tomboyish for her traditional village. In fact, had it not been for her lengthy hair, others would have taken her for a boy.
That’s exactly what she uses to her advantage, and when the emperor (Jet Li) orders that every family must send one man to fight for the nation, Mulan disguises herself as a boy and replaces her injured-yet-proud father. How she keeps her identity a secret from her fellow soldiers, impresses her superiors with her fighting skills and helps the Emperor defeat the Rouran warrior (Jason Scott Lee), who has a powerful shape-shifting witch Xian Lang (Gong Li) on his side, is what makes Mulan worth your time.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t find the comic dragon Mushu and the musical numbers that were part of the animated version, because the makers very intelligently replaced them with stunning locations, well-executed fight sequences, and a few additions here and there to give the film a modern feel. One must commend the director Niki Caro who manages to excel at both the dramatic scenes and action sequences. The film’s main lead Yifei Liu emerges as the highlight of the movie as she is present in every other frame, gets to act both as a girl and a boy, and carries herself with the grace and elegance required from a Disney princess.
There are many lessons in the story — be fierce, chase your dreams, and don’t fall short because of your gender. It teaches the parents to consider boys and girls as equal, and girls can do whatever boys can. If Mulan can save the Emperor of China with her wits and skills, then so can many of us who might not be that talented, but given the chances can excel if supported wholeheartedly.
Published in Dawn, Young World, October 10th, 2020