The Complete and Utter Failure of Disney’s 2020 “Mulan” Remake

Dru Clay

     The Disney live action remakes have received a wide range of press throughout the years. Some are serviceable, others completely miss their mark, and now we finally have the one that totally jumps the shark. It was not thought of as a possibility to go downhill from the practical cinematic disaster that was The Lion King 2019, but somehow Mulan 2020 has usurped the film industry’s expectations. This film is, without a doubt, one of the biggest and most offensive failures of the year. 

The 1998 animated film Mulan is widely considered one of the best and most progressive films put out by Disney towards the end of the “Disney Renaissance”, a period of animated films dubbed so for the energy it reinvigorated the (at the time) declining Disney brand with. This period saw films such as Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid hit theater screens to the delight of thousands of movie going fans. In a vain attempt to recreate the feeling evoked by this period of time, Disney has been releasing a slew of live action remakes of these animated classics. At best these films are serviceable, and at worst they are Mulan 2020. 

The original Mulan is regarded by many Disney fans as one of the true classics of the Disney archive. It, as is the style of Disney, took the old legend of Mulan and reimagined it for the modern age. There are problems with the film, no doubt – the characterisation of the guardian spirit Mushu being cited as one of the most distracting aspects. However, this film was one of the first animated films (and the first Disney film) to portray a female lead as equal to, if not superior to, her male counterparts in combat prowess.

The message of the original 1998 film is one that’s hard to disagree with. It was one of the earliest films representing women and men in a near egalitarian light, and its action packed nature was sure to make it a cinematic masterpiece once brought to the live action realm – right? The short answer is no. There is an issue with these Disney live action remakes that has been a constant ever since 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, and that is the fact that they are fixated on mending seemingly menial inconsistencies in the plot and worldbuilding that went by unnoticed in the original films. Oh, and instead of admitting that Mulan was a superior combatant to her male buddies through sheer grit alone, they just gave her super powers.

The politics surrounding this film are also questionable. The lead actress, Liu Yifei, openly supported the Hong Kong police force’s brutal treatment of the people during the events of late last year, which have unfortunately not waned in the passing months. Furthermore, this movie was actually filmed on location, in Xinjiang, and in the credits Disney gives special thanks to the CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Region Committee for being so cooperative – hurray! It should probably be mentioned that that very organization is currently detaining more than a million Uighur people suspected to be Muslims in internment camps, according to sources at CNN, Refinery29, and the Los Angeles Times. Bad form.