When Mulan (2020) first came out I was, to say the least, completely uninterested in seeing it. Personally, I think animated films should be left animated so getting someone like me to enjoy this movie was already an uphill battle. Against my will, I saw the movie with friends, and boy were my already low expectations not even met.
It was as though anything fun or humorous was stripped right out of the movie to make it more realistic. Then they added too many nonsensical elements to even achieve that goal. They removed Mushu, the energetic dragon spirit that encourages Mulan and lightens the mood, and replaced him with…nothing. Except maybe the CGI Phoenix that adds zero to the story except for symbolism without an ounce of subtly.
Humorous scenes like all the men bathing together with a cautious Mulan or Mulan’s soldier friends dressing as women to distract the guards were cut maybe for politically correct reasons. Okay, fine. However, they could have replaced them with something funny or fun, instead of the scene where Chen Honghui talks to Mulan’s back about their friendship, in which she uses her cringey “man voice,” or the scene where the army buddies straight up attack the guards vs. distracting them.
Even more disappointing was her storyline about overcoming challenges with hard work and determination being replaced with her succeeding because she’s the magic “Chosen One.” Not only does this strip the movie of it’s powerful message, it makes it nearly impossible to care about any danger Mulan was put in. The original Mulan was vulnerable and relatable as a person, but this Mulan is a superhero, so there is never any concern about whether she will get out of a situation alive.
They removed Li Shang from the movie because there was concern about Mulan having a romance with her commanding officer not being appropriate, even though in the original, they do not get together until after Mulan leaves the military. So, instead of an interesting storyline where Mulan slowly earns Li Shang’s respect and trust as a man and then again as a woman, we got a lukewarm storyline about her befriending Chen Honghui, who’s personality and chemistry with Mulan was…fine, I guess.
Despite all the efforts they went to to be politically correct, they STILL ended up with a weird anti-feminism message. In the original movie, we watch as Mulan struggles with the sexist expectations placed on her and then cheer as she defies them and changes the perceptions of those around her. In the remake, there is the same premise except there is a powerful female witch, Xianniang, fighting to take this oppressive system down, but in the end she sacrificed herself for Mulan, who’s fighting to preserve the empire the way it is. Uh, okay.
This is a smaller detail, but I am also salty they took Mulan’s line where she stands up for herself, “You trusted me as Ping. Why is Mulan different?” away from her and they have her male friends stand up for her instead.
Finally, Yifei Liu, the actress that plays Mulan, brings almost nothing to the role. Her face is wooden throughout almost the entire film, aside from the occasional smile. She fights, kills and literally watches Xianniang die in her arms with the exact same expression I have while reading my Geographical Information Systems textbook.
If I had to say one good thing about the movie, I would say that the outfits were colorful and well designed. They were probably the most interesting thing about the movie. Overall, Mulan (2020) put me in the mood to rewatch the original.