A promotional poster for "Mulan." (Photo retrieved from wdwinfo.com)

Live action remake of ‘Mulan’ does not ‘bring honor’ to original animation

The 1998 “Mulan” was an iconic movie that I grew up watching countless times. It was one of my all-time favorites, and I had highly anticipated the 2020 live-action adaptation.

However, the live-action movie paled in comparison due to a lack of elements that made the original so special.

The animated “Mulan” film told the story of Fa Mulan, a girl in Imperial China. Despite feeling the pressure of “bringing honor” to her family by marrying wealthy, Mulan disguised herself as a man and took her father’s place in a soldier draft during a war against the Huns. 

Shockingly, two of the most important characters, Mushu and Shang, were missing from the live-action remake. 

Mushu, a dragon, was known for his comical, confident personality and loyalty to Mulan. Throughout the animated film, he provided comedic relief during serious moments and never failed to make Mulan and the audience laugh. He made the film lighthearted with his sass and boldness. 

Mushu also comforted and motivated Mulan during her training and always took care of her, even if in small ways such as pushing Mulan back up when she fell or catching fish for her to eat. 

In the recent “Mulan,” Mushu was replaced with an unnamed phoenix that played a minimal role, serving only as a symbol of protection for Mulan. 

In the original, Shang trained Mulan and the other men for the war against the Huns, teaching them the importance of bravery and strength. He was a steadfast and just leader who eventually accepted and respected Mulan’s true identity as a woman.

Shang was replaced by a fellow soldier trainee named Honghui. He didn’t have much screen time, so it was difficult to gauge his personality. Honghui also didn’t have any friendship building moments with Mulan, so I thought he was an unnecessary addition to the movie. 

Without Mushu and Shang, the live-action film lost two important characters and Mulan’s closest friends. The movie also lost its original comedic elements. I prefer funnier films, so it was disappointing. 

All Disney movies have one thing in common — the songs. This movie is the exception. It didn’t include any of the original songs which were the highlights of the animation and the part to which I was most looking forward. Also, no new songs were produced for the adaptation. 

Live-action remakes of “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast” had songs from the original animated films. New songs like “Speechless” from “Aladdin” also were introduced in its adaptation, so it was disappointing to see “Mulan” with no songs at all. 

There was also a random magic component that was added to the live-action story. Mulan was born with incredible power but was forced to repress it because such energy was only worthy of being wielded by a son. However, the viewers never even see her “powers” in the live-action, so it didn’t really make sense, nor was it necessary. 

In the animation, Mulan was simply a kind and courageous girl trying to protect her father from certain death at war. I liked that concept better because it showed how ordinary people can be brave despite how powerless and insignificant they might seem. 

Some things I did enjoy about the recent “Mulan” film were the painstakingly choreographed fight scenes and the amazing camerawork and sets. 

In Mulan’s battle against the villain Bori Khan, they fought in a building under construction. She was forced to balance precariously on thin wooden boards while holding Khan back. During the fight Mulan also managed to do delicate flips and acrobatic moves to avoid his attacks. 

Lastly, the sets in the movie were detailed and fairly accurate for the time period in which “Mulan” is set. They provided vivid visuals, and I thought the set was high-quality. 

Overall, the live-action “Mulan” is a good film with high-quality sets, costumes and props. However, it is misleading to call it an adaptation of the original, as many elements were cut out. It is a great movie to enjoy with family and friends but don’t expect it to be like the original.

Faithfulness to the original
Props and sets
Reader Rating9 Votes
Good camerawork
Mulan's fighting was well coreographed
The plot wasn't similar to the original
No songs
Mushu and Shang were excluded

— By Lauren Lu

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