western audiences, Mulan is an animated disney adventure starring a
cross-dressing protagonist and Eddy Murphy as a dragon. This title,
which shares the same name, is a live-action martial-arts epic produced
and filmed in China. Inspired by the same legend as the disney version,
it tells the story of a girl warrior thrust into battle for love and a
wish to save her dying father. This movie is stark, moving, and at times
very bleak, and don’t expect a happy ending.
Mulan’s father is an aging warrior who has just been called into service
to protect his homeland from the marauding Rouran army. Sensing that
this will be his last battle, boisterous Mulan (Wei Zhao) steals her
father’s sword and armour and goes to war in his stead. She has the
company of Fei (Jaycee Chan), a childhood friend, and soon earns the
trust of Wentai (Kun Chen), another soldier in her battalion. Mulan and
Wentai quickly rise through the ranks, eventually gaining control of an
entire army group, and are forced to make some hard decisions as they
are flung into battle against the numerically superior Rouran forces.
all the elements you would expect from a martial arts epic: great
choreography, authentic period costumes and a bittersweet soundtrack.
There are times when you have to put the logical side of your brain on
hold, especially when Mulan is dressed as a male soldier- does everyone
really think she’s a man, just because she ties her hair back and runs
around in a suit of armour? But for the most part these weaknesses are
forgivable, because the characters are so deep and believable.
film where the battles play out as much in the characters’ minds and
hearts as they do with swords and horses. The level of intimacy between
the two lead characters is amazing, even though they rarely even touch
during the course of the story.
cinematography is good, it never reaches the grand heights that it
should in a movie with this scope. There are some great shots, but
they’re not quite as expansive as you want them to be. The framing is
tight and the action looks hemmed-in at times, probably as a result of
trying to make a few hundred extras look like a few thousand. It’s a
movie told from a worm’s eye view. While you never really feel awestruck
by the fighting, you do feel connected to the characters and their
a couple of issues with pacing. Most of the scenes end with the screen
fading to white, before we’re whisked away to the next location.
very frequently towards the end of the film, and makes it feel rushed-
as if they’re just checking boxes. We’ve seen what happened to the
Rouran, bang, onto the next loose end. The film would have benefited
from a more relaxed style of direction, where each scene was allowed to
reach its natural conclusion rather than being chopped short.
There is a
facility to test your audio setup, by playing a sound through each
speaker in turn. For some reason your ears will be blasted by roaring
static when this happens, instead of a pleasant chime or gong. There
are also a handful of trailers.
isn’t a great showcase for the Blu-ray format; while the image quality
is passable, there is some noticeable graininess to the picture. In one
particular indoor shot, the image degenerates to a very low standard.
never blows you away with its visuals or storytelling, this
interpretation of Mulan has a way of softly working its way into your
heart. You’d be hard pressed not to like or empathise with these
characters and their pain. The resolution is far from happy, but it has
a simple kind of logic- you feel that it couldn’t have ended any other
way, even if you wanted it to. And who said every movie has to end with
a ticker-tape parade or dancing ewoks anyway?