Mulan Review – A revolutionary saga with a pinch of ‘fantasy salt
BY Soumik Saha
Mulan is an intriguing tale of a girl’s struggle to make her place in a man’s world. With action sequences as fluid as choreography, engaging camera work and a storyline that flows without a glitch, director Niki Caro has done a formidable work in creating a visually spectacular remake of the animated version of the 1998 animation by Disney Studios.
Mulan (played by Yifei Liu) hails from a remote village and is gifted with great ‘chi’, which according to Chinese belief is a natural acumen of one’s soul to be one with her surroundings. When a little girl in the village is expected to learn stuff like disciplined tea-pouring, Mulan rides horses, practices kung-fu in the paddy fields and chases chicken over roof tops. The conflict of the film is laid in the very beginning, when her mother say, “daughters are not supposed to have chi, sons have chi”. Mulan’s chi makes her a natural fighter and a fierce one. Her father, being a veteran warrior fans her skills, but her mother fears of her being coined as a ‘witch’ which may bar her from the society, leave alone getting a suitable boy.
Her father Hua Zhou (played by Tzi Ma) being a war veteran is called into war against the invading tribal king Bori Khan (played by Jason Scott Lee). Despite having a damaged leg, Zhou accepts the call and gets ready to go, knowing the fact that he’ll not return from this war. Mulan, steals his armour and sword and flees in the dark of the night to join the Imperial Army in his place, disguised as a man. Herein starts her big adventure which not only changes her fate but also alters the course of history.
Though this remake lacks of fantasy elements like a talking dragon as in the original animation, the tone of gender struggle is again manifested through Xianning (played by Gong Li) a shape-shifting witch who despite her supernatural powers, still has to depend on Bori Khan to find her place in the kingdom. The other fantasy element of the film is a phoenix which guides Mulan and is probably an emblem of her soul.
Yifei Liu, succeeds in bringing her character to life. She is fierce as a warrior, fun as a young girl and even sensuous in front of her love interest and fellow soldier Chen (played by Yoson An). Donnie Yen, deserves mention for his short yet powerful presence as Commander Tung, while Tzi Ma continues to be one of the best dads on the silver screen. Gong Li as witch Xianning leaves behind a powerful impression with the portrayal of the underlying pathos of her character.
The theme of the film revolves around breaking the patriarchal archetype and thereby turns into a revolutionary saga with a pinch of ‘fantasy salt’, making it palatable to the whole family who can watch it on Disney+.