04 September 2020 00:41
(CNN) Like the song said, let's get down to business: "Mulan" is big, sumptuous entertainment. It's good, but not great, transforming the story associated with the 1998 animated musical into a song-free, live-action movie that's more adequate than transcendent--a perfectly reasonable family-viewing investment that's worth seeing, but not necessarily a must-buy. The "buy" part, and business half of the show, can't be separated from the movie itself. After several coronavirus-related delays beginning with its planned March release, Disney broke down and decided to offer the film via its streaming service, Disney+, at a premium $30 price tag. Although the movie will be available to subscribers for no additional charge at a later date, "Mulan" thus becomes an experiment in home entertainment, consumer preferences and evolving models in the balance between theatrical exhibition and streaming.
That has put a lot of undue, perhaps unfair weigh on the film, in much the way its protagonist, Mulan (Yifei Liu), must carry the burden of her family. For her, it's again a choice of letting her beloved, hobbled father (Tzi Ma) likely die defending the country, or stealing his armor, pretending to be a young man and enlisting to answer the call to repel the invasion. Yifei Liu in 'Mulan.' Those are the bones of the earlier film and this one, which is "suggested by the narrative poem 'The Ballad of Mulan.'" But this new "Mulan"--directed by Niki Caro, from a script credited to a quartet of writers--also possesses a very "Star Wars"-like undercurrent. Because Mulan, it turns out, has greatness inside her and must embrace that mysterious force (her "chi") in order to unleash her "warrior's heart" and fulfill her destiny. Further driving home that connection, there's a powerful sorceress, Xianniang (Gong Li), who is similarly trapped by a patriarchal society that doesn't embrace her talents. She has responded by using her gifts to assist the Northern invaders, whose ruthless leader, Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee), thirsts for vengeance against the Emperor (an unrecognizable Jet Li). Read More