Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will always be the favourite but Mulan isn’t far behind. I can overlook the Donny Osmond song and the voice casting of Eddie Murphy purely because Mulan is the only Disney Princess that doesn’t require a Prince to save her.
I came across this version of Mulan by accident and was curious to see how her story would fare when it is not being warped by Disney.
PLOT: Hua Mulan (Wei Zhao) takes her ailing father’s place in the army after the Northern Wei Dynasty goes to war against the invading Rouran. Mulan, along with her childhood friend Tiger (Jaycee Chan) and young general Wentei, (Kun Chen) keep Mulan’s sexuality a secret to avoid her execution. Mulan and Wentei quickly rise up through the ranks and victory appears certain until Modu (Jun Hu) a rogue warrior takes command of the Rouran. END PLOT
The story of Mulan is familiar until she joins the army. The film thereafter focuses on Mulan's career within the army rather than her desperation to hide her secret. Mulan's feminine features and voice are surprisingly never questioned by her men.
The love affair between Mulan and Wentei is purposely muted by the characters and ends on a typically sombre note however it does not reach the utterly devastating heights of the Jin/Xiao Mei relationship in House of Flying Daggers.
Wei Zhao plays an appropriately strong and vulnerable Mulan with ease. Jaycee Chan (the son of Jackie Chan) and Kun Chen were also very capable in their supporting roles however this was Zhao’s film.
The fact the cast are all unfamiliar, even with my (very) basic knowledge of Chinese film, makes it easier to buy into the love affair. The translation at times was cheesy and the dialogue would not have worked if it was spoken in English.
Mulan is a slow burner and although there are several decent battles they are quite short in length. The most effective set piece was the Rouran execution of the Chinese prisoners – the soldiers sang as they were being executed and a brothers dying together moment made it a very emotional watch.
It is really hard to fault Mulan as it is a gorgeous, character driven film which deserves to be watched on more than one occasion. It gets 8.5/10. The only problem is it’s just not The House of Flying Daggers.