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Friday, July 23, 2021
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    ‘Mulan’: I’ll make a movie out of you

    Ben Nietzel
    Ben Nietzel works as the principal of Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School. He also enjoys coaching Muskie football and reviewing movies.

    Muscatine Living

    A young Chinese woman pretends to be a man so she can join the Imperial Army to protect the kingdom from invaders, save her father, and try to avoid dishonoring her family.

    Pro – Worthy of a remake

    “Mulan” is a live-action remake of the 1998 animated film of the same name. Disney has spent the last few years reimagining their 90’s smash hits into new versions. In many cases, it has felt like a pretty naked money grab, as inferior versions of their classic films have left viewers wondering why they didn’t just watch the old ones, assuming they could find a VCR. This was most noticeable in the 2019’s “Lion King.” “Aladdin” was a step in the right direction, as it contained actual people and had some awesome parkour sequences. “Mulan” is the pinnacle of these remakes. How high of a pinnacle is up to the viewer, but there is no doubt that the “Mulan” was a movie that could actually be made better by turning it into live-action.

    Pro – Beautiful

    “Mulan” is an undeniably beautiful movie. The scenic backdrops are gorgeous, from frozen, misty swamps to snow-capped peaks. The full beauty of China (and New Zealand) is on display in the film.

    It’s not just the background though. The cast is great, and certainly highlighted by strong performances by Yifei Liu in the title role, as well as Donnie Yen as Commander Tung and Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan. The action in this movie is also very enjoyable to watch, and again, speaks to the potential value of turning this animated movie into a live-action one. I’ll never get tired of watching guys on horses flip around to shoot arrows backwards!

    Con – “Mulan”?

    “Mulan” is interesting in that it deviates the most from its predecessor. Where “Lion King” felt like a shot for shot remake, “Mulan” has entire plot lines and characters added and deleted. At face value, this feels like a strength; creating a strong reason for the film to exist and be seen. In practice though, the outcome feels like a movie benefiting from brand recognition rather than a homage to the original.

    It’s confusing just who this movie is for. Gone is the cute, fun humor, as exemplified by the complete gutting of Eddie Murphy’s Mushu. This is not a movie for young kids, as noted by its deserved PG-13 rating. It has some fun Kung-Fu and wire work, but every streaming service offers a variety of better options for anyone looking for that. The battles are cool, but gone are the massive armies of the original (much cheaper to draw them of course). It’s far from a grand epic people might be looking for. The romance is more stunted than a “Twilight” sequel as well, and some of the plot devices are confusing at best.


    “Mulan” is an entertaining movie, and a fine way to spend an evening for a family of pre-teens on up. Still, it seems to strip away much of what made it a Disney movie in the first place and leave behind a film that is competent, but not excellent. You’re likely to enjoy watching it but will unlikely feel like you want to own it. Gallop over to the Fridley Palms Theatre to grab some popcorn and give this one a view if you have some free time this holiday season.

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