RELEASE DATE: September 4, 2020 (Disney+ Streaming)
MPAA RATING: PG-13 (for sequences of violence)
Let’s begin with the upside. The look of this film is awesome, so much so that it’s a shame (for many reasons) that the pandemic has caused the delayed release of Mulan to premiere on the small screen rather than allowing audiences to fully enjoy the experience theatrically. Beyond the scope of the film, the costuming and set design are terrific, as is the music score composed by Harry Gregson-Williams. And acting leads, including Yifei Liu as Mulan and Jason Scott Lee as the evil Khan, are admirable.
The downside of Mulan is that this live-action offering is much darker than Disney’s 1998 animated musical feature of the same name. The PG-13 rating reflects this heavy tone and is directly related to the amount of violence depicted. There is no gore, as such, otherwise it likely would have received an R rating. Another downside is that if Disney+ subscribers want to see the film now, it will cost them $29.99 to do so as a “premiere” offering. It will be available to all Disney+ subscribers on December 4.
In the hands of director Niki Caro (Whale Rider), there are times, especially during the very well-choreographed action/battle sequences, when the film seems to combine elements of Braveheart, The Matrix, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The studio and filmmakers have also taken some heat for acknowledging, in the film’s credits, the cooperation in the production by some Chinese government entities that have been linked to propaganda and/or to human rights violations.
Do I recommend this more mature version of Mulan? For adult audiences, okay. But for the youngsters in the family, you may want to stay with the animated version, which offers the same messaging with less violence, some inspirational songs, and a bit of Disney whimsy.