In the latest attempt by Disney executives to exploit nostalgia and steal your money, Mulan 2020 somehow fails to deliver even an average, coherent story. This live-action remake of the 1998 animated classic, directed by Niki Caro and starring Liu Yifei in the titular role, is a parody of its predecessor with a ridiculous script that gives the impression that the writers just stopped trying.
Newly introduced in the remake is this thing called “chi,” a mystical power that allows the user to utilize greater stamina and perform acrobatic feats such as jumping between buildings and deflecting projectiles mid-flight. In the first scene, the narrator (Mulan’s father) establishes that his daughter is gifted with a great amount of chi. Using this power, she easily becomes the most formidable fighter in her platoon and single-handedly accomplishes basically everything. This version of Mulan is far less relatable and sharply contrasts with the one from the original film, who starts out as the weakest among her peers and becomes the best through sheer perseverance. I’ll always remember the scene when Mulan finally succeeds in reaching the top of the bell pole when everyone else thought the challenge to be impossible—it is inspiring!
This chi nonsense is a straight-up betrayal of that legacy. The new Mulan accomplishes things mostly via the use of her superpower, suggesting that in order to break gender boundaries or to achieve anything, working hard doesn’t matter as much as having talent. That’s a depressing message. It’s also mind-boggling that nobody else seems to be able to use chi, or least there’s no mention of it as far as I’m aware. This special power is a highly unnecessary inclusion and without a doubt the most distasteful, counterproductive plot device I’ve ever observed.
Mulan’s character becomes more and more ridiculous as the story goes on. While she is already overpowered during her military training, she suddenly becomes even more overpowered during her battle with the Rourans—this film’s equivalent of the Huns—to the point of absurdity. She encounters this witch who serves as the big bad villain. Perhaps out of some misguided compassion, the witch informs Mulan that pretending to be someone else “poisons” her chi for some unknown reason. Then the former appears to kill our protagonist with a shuriken, which apparently contains so much force that it launches her body a good distance backwards, smashing into a rock.
Contrary to the witch’s claim, Mulan’s cross-dressing actually saves her life. The shuriken miraculously lodges in Mulan’s leather chest binding, and she lives to continue the fight. This time, however, she removes most of her gear and lets her hair down, as if she has forgotten that the penalty for her deceit is immediate expulsion from the army. Somehow, she is able to defeat multiple opponents all by herself, flipping and kicking around virtually unprotected. Seeing our protagonist basically playing the video game “Dynasty Warriors” on them, the Rourans flee in fear thinking that she’s also a witch.
At this point, the movie just completely lost me. I get the feeling that the filmmakers wanted to make Mulan into some sort of superhero, because that’s what she is in this movie, and this completely breaks any suspension of disbelief. Whereas the original Mulan wins the battle through some quick-thinking, this Mulan succeeds because she’s so absurdly powerful and the plot demands it. She manages to bait the Rourans—who all seem to have suddenly lost probably 50 points of IQ by this point—into firing their trebuchet at the snow-covered mountain, causing an avalanche and burying themselves. And that’s how the battle ends.
Aside from Mulan, everyone else is also nonsensical. They’re either making dumb decisions or doing things that don’t fit who they are. For example, why is the witch so quick to give Mulan, an enemy, such valuable information? It’s clear that she detests serving the Rourans, but the film tells us that she needs them in order to fulfill her goal of creating a place where her powers will be accepted. It makes no sense to turn her back on that goal. Towards the end of the film, we are supposed to believe that Mulan is so inspiring that the witch undergoes an instantaneous change of heart. She goes from doing the Rourans’ bidding to taking an arrow and dying for Mulan in a single scene. Why would a sorceress as powerful as herself even need to take the arrow in the first place?
Both the emperor and the villain turn out to be idiots. The former, upon hearing that the latter has come to duel and kill him, unsuspectingly and happily accepts the duel, walks out of his palace all by himself and gets trapped immediately by his opponent and his goons. These same goons are nowhere to be seen during the final confrontation between Mulan and the villain. Why does the villain not summon help? In addition, why did he stop shooting at Mulan after that one arrow was intercepted by the witch?
Every character in this film is so unconvincing, they feel like generic non-player characters in a terrible video game, existing only to make things happen and keep the story moving. Meanwhile, Mulan is playing this game on the easiest difficulty. Every hint of loss or danger is merely a facade.
The film can’t even redeem itself with the little dragon Mushu, who was voiced by the wonderful Eddie Murphy in the original, or the epic theme song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” Neither are in this movie—a conscious decision by the filmmakers to “tell this story in a way that is more real, more relatable” according to the film’s producer Jason Reed. This has got to be a joke.
With its awful writing and plethora of changes that no one asked for, Mulan will easily become the worst film of 2020, and it’s definitely one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Yet Disney has the gall to charge you an extra 30 dollars on top of a Disney Plus subscription for this disgusting defilement of our childhood memories. Do not waste your money on this. Don’t even pirate this. You’ll want your two hours back. Go watch “The Boys,” an amazing Amazon series about superheroes being terrible people. It just got a second season, and I’ll be reviewing it when all the episodes come out.