The long-awaited live-action film Mulan was released on Disney+ this past weekend. In order to watch it, subscribers had to pay an additional $30 fee. Those who do not want to pay this extra fee will have to wait until December 4th when the movie becomes accessible to all subscribers for no extra cost. Mulan being my favorite Disney princess, I could not wait 3 months to see all of the action. Going into the movie, I reminded myself to keep an open mind. Past Disney live-action films had put their own twists to their original movie predecessor and turned out amazing such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, so I was excited to see what they would do for this remake.
Here are 10 things to expect (and not expect) from the live-action Mulan. *Warning spoilers ahead*
1) There is NO singing!
We all know the classic songs from the 1998 Mulan like “Reflection” and “’ll Make a Man out of You” and were upset to find out that there will be no singing in the 2020 live-action movie. After watching, I can confirm that there is no singing whatsoever. The decision to remove the singing was because of the more serious and traditional tone that the movie directors wanted to convey. The movie does play instrumental versions of the songs in the background of certain scenes such as “Honor to Us All” and “Reflection”. A new song is also introduced called “Loyal Brave True,” which talks about the 3 pillars of a good soldier. The credits also play Christina Aguilera’s 2020 version of “Reflection” and Liu Yifei’s cover of “Reflection” in Mandarin. It was wonderful for the producers to bring Christina Aguilera back again as she did a cover of “Reflection” in the original as well.
2) Mulan has a little sister.
In the opening scene, we are introduced to a young Mulan running around her village causing a ruckus as she chases a chicken. In this same scene, we are introduced to her younger sister, Hua Xiu, who is calmly sitting with their mother indoors. Producer Jason Reed explained that the reason why her character was added was in order to showcase how Chinese women were expected to behave at the time and how Mulan defied these social conventions. As Hua Xiu was added to Mulan’s family, the character of Grandmother Fa from the original was cut out. While I loved Grandmother Fa and her hilarious one-liners, Hua Xiu and Mulan’s relationship as sister’s was endearing and fit well with the movie.
3) There is NO Mushu and NO Cri-kee!
The hilarious character of Mushu and the adorable Cri-kee did not make it into the live-action film. I know that many fans were disappointed to learn this. I too could not believe that the iconic sassy dragon would not be making an appearance. Director Niki Caro explained that their reasons for doing so was all in the name of realism. Mushu’s character in the original was comedic and did not align with the vision for the movie. If there was not going to be a Mushu, then Cri-kee had to go too. Mulan does however have a phoenix who acts as her ancestral spirit guide and follows her on her journey. It does not play an active role in the actions of the story like Mushu did, but it does appear in moments when Mulan is in need and gives her inner strength.
4) There are two main villains instead of one.
The original Mulan truly gave us an evil villain in the character Shan Yu, leader of the Huns. He threatens to take over all of China and destroys anyone in his way. The new Mulan, however, gives us villains with more depth to their character other than pure evil. The first villain is Böri Khan who has a personal vendetta against the Emperor who killed his father. He wishes to avenge his father’s death with the help of an army of nomads called the Rourans. The second villain (my favorite) is Xianniang, a sorceress who was cast out to the desert for her powers. She has the power to shapeshift and possess others and uses these powers to wipe out soldiers in mere minutes! Her presence in the story was powerful as she like Mulan is a strong warrior who others cast out for being different. I absolutely loved her character because it shows that there are other powerful women in China. If she and Mulan fought together they would be an unstoppable force!
5) There is NO General Shang!
I know that all the girls were upset to find out that the hunky General who stole our hearts in the first film would not be in the live action. I won’t lie that this saddened me too as I would have loved to see a live-action general Shang sing “I’ll Make a Man out of You”. His character was instead split into 2 characters for the live action: Commander Tung and Chen Honghui. Commander Tung is the commanding officer of the Imperial Army. He respects Mulan and sees great potential in her. He liked her so much that he even wanted to set her up with his daughter, which I found hilarious. Chen Honghui was another soldier in the training camp. He and Mulan have moments in the movie where there are potential sparks for a future relationship, so fans out there can be happy that there is a possible love-interest. While I did miss General Shang, I think the movie worked well with Mulan’s love-interest and her commanding officer being two separate characters.
6) Mulan meeting the Matchmaker is a COMPLETE disaster!
We all remember laughing at the cranky Matchmaker as she accidentally painted a mustache on herself with ink in the original Mulan. In the remake, the Matchmaker is still a serious lady whose job is to match young women with potential husbands. Havoc ensues during the evaluation due to a spider that Mulan tries to keep away from her sister who is deathly afraid of spiders. The spider causes a chain of events resulting in the tea set to shatter. The Matchmaker enraged shouts that she has brought dishonor on herself and her family. Mulan’s caring nature is shown in this scene as she tries to protect her sister even if it means getting in trouble.
7) Mulan takes her father’s place.
One cannot deny the complete selflessness and bravery it took for Mulan to make the decision to join the army to save her disabled father. This is what makes her one of the best Disney princesses and Disney was sure to keep this in the remake as it is a hallmark of her character. It is a scene that is inspiring and gives me chills when I watch. There is no DIY sword hair-cutting in the live-action, but all other aspects of her escape remain the same, even the part where she leaves her hair comb behind to let her parents what she gone to do.
8) Ling, Chien-Po, and Yao become friends with Mulan.
I was so happy to see that these characters made it back onto the big screen! They provide the movie with some light-heartedness conversation in between the more serious training scenes. I was glad that the producers threw in some laughable scenes with the friendship that grows between these characters. While they don’t join in to sing about a girl worth fighting for, they do get into a discussion about their dream woman that sends the same message as the original: The ideal Chinese woman is someone who was beautiful, cooked and cleaned, and admired them. The three men all come to respect Mulan and see her as their equal, which is just a beautiful aspect of the movie because Mulan has broken the mold of what a typical Chinese woman should be.
9) Mulan creates another avalanche and saves her regiment.
No scene is more exciting than watching Mulan use her wits to create a whole avalanche and wipe out the enemy. It was exciting in the original and it was equally exciting to watch it in the live action. Not only does she save the rest of the soldiers, but she saves Chen’s life as well. Recall from the original movie that Mulan saves Shang from being buried in the avalanche. Our heroine is no damsel in distress! In the remake, Mulan does not get the recognition that she deserves for saving their lives because they don’t know she started the avalanche. This frustrated me immensely when I watched it because instead thanking her, they expel her from the army. Thankfully, our heroine is resilient and dutiful because she doesn’t stay away for long when she learns that the emperor is still in trouble.
10) Mulan saves the emperor and all of China.
Mulan takes charge of the army and leads them into battle with the enemy. While the rest of the soldiers are tasked with facing the Rourans, Mulan goes after Böri Khan herself who has taken the emperor. Sound familiar? An epic battle scene ensues with Mulan gaining the upper-hand after her spirit guide arrives and empowers her Chi. Granted, the defeat of Böri Khan is not as epic as Shan Yu’s demise with all the fireworks and Mulan zip lining off the roof, but the feeling of joy at the end is all the same. The emperor recognizes Mulan for the warrior that she is and offers her a position in the Imperial Army acknowledging her actions in front of a large crowd. It’s the happy ending that we all love to see!
While some people may be turned off by the differences between the live-action and original Mulan, I ask all fans to give the movie a chance. The movie has so much to offer and sheds a whole new light to the legend of Mulan. It was visually beautiful with the scenery, the costumes, and the action scenes; and it touches your heart with the elements of Mulan that matter most. You will fall in love with Mulan all over again as you witness her save China and bring honor to us all.