Disney’s Mulan reviewed: ‘A visually stunning odyssey of self-discovery’

Disney’s Mulan remake has faced multiple delays in its release due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the much-anticipated live-action film, originally slated for a March release, will now be making its way on to Disney+.

From Friday, it is on the Disney+ Premier Access platform for the cost of £19.99, as well as the £5.99 monthly subscription fee for the streaming service.

However, the film will be made available to all subscribers from December 4 for no added fee, according to Disney’s website.

But how has it been received by critics?

PA’s film critic Damon Smith shares what he thought of it.

– What do you need to know?

The film is a live-action reimagining of Disney’s 1998 animated original.

– It stars: Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Gong Li, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, Xana Tang, Ron Yuan, Jun Yu, Chen Tang, Doua Moua, Jimmy Wong.

– A summary:

New Zealand director Niki Caro’s live-action rendition of the Ballad Of Mulan – reportedly the most expensive picture overseen by a female director – bypasses the big screen to debut exclusively on the Disney+ streaming channel.

From its humorous opening image of a spirited girl chasing a runaway chicken over rooftops, Mulan challenges suffocating, traditional gender roles (“A daughter brings honour through marriage”) and encourages self-expression within the comforting embrace of a family unit.

Scriptwriters appropriate structural elements from the 1998 Disney animation, including a centrepiece avalanche, but Eddie Murphy’s wisecracking dragon Mushu has been excised to strike a self-reflective tone, echoed in understated yet deeply moving performances.

– The cast: 

Yifei Liu is radiant as the eponymous heroine and Gong Li slinks elegantly through handsomely mounted scenes as a conniving sorceress, whose heart has been blackened by repression.

Balletic fight sequences are breathlessly choreographed, enhanced with acrobatic camerawork that tumbles perfectly in sync with the actors.

A bloodthirsty army led by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) attacks garrisons along the Silk Road in north-west China, aided by the dark magic of shape-shifting witch Xianniang (Gong Li).

Yifei Liu stars as Mulan (Photo: Film Frame..© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
Yifei Liu stars as Mulan (Photo: Film Frame..© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

The Emperor (Jet Li) issues a decree that one man from every family must enrol in the Imperial Army to quash this treacherous uprising.

War hero Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma), who requires a walking stick to support a heavily braced knee, prepares to serve, resigned to never seeing his wife Li (Rosalind Chao) and daughters Mulan (Yifei Liu) and Xiu (Xana Tang) again.

Headstrong eldest child Mulan openly questions the Emperor’s edict.

“I am the father. It is my place to bring honour to the family on the battlefield. You are the daughter. Learn your place!” barks Zhou.

– Mulan magic 

Mulan is a visually stunning odyssey of self-discovery, threaded with the same heart-tugging emotion as Caro’s 2002 film Whale Rider.

Composer Harry Gregson-Williams incorporates melodies from the 1998 film into a sweeping score that gifts Christina Aguilera a chance to reprise signature ballad Reflection over the end credits.

Grant Major’s jaw-dropping production design with impeccable set decoration courtesy of Anne Kuljian, enriched by Bina Daigeler’s ravishing costumes and captured as breath-taking panoramic vistas by cinematographer Mandy Walker, deserve to be savoured on a big screen.

Cinema’s great loss is Disney+’s gain.

Rating: **** out of 5.