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What is Disney's Live Action Mulan missing?

by Lois about a year ago in movie

Disney has been making live actions films out of classic cartoons that everyone loves. Yet, the new Mulan film faces a lot of critics, what is missing?

Mulan 2020 / 1998

In the age of female empowerment and gender equality, it seems a no-brainer to reimagine the Disney classic Mulan and bring it on to our silver screen for the new generation again. Yet, the recent live action Mulan faces a lot of backlash and film critiques. What is missing from the live action film?

If you have been following Disney's recent live action films, most of them are said to be inferior to the original cartoon ones. Say Aladdin for example, when I mention Aladdin, would you be thinking about the song A Whole New World with its iconic magic carpet ride over the diamond sky scene, or thinking about Niomi Scott in her pink dress or Will Smith as genie?

The problem of the live action films is, not of the film itself. If you watch it as a stand alone movie, it would be quite pleasant to watch. However, since it is an live action of an already beloved animation, it is almost impossible to outstand the original.

One of the reasons that makes Disney cartoon magical are the songs, The Renaissance age of Disney movies are symbolized by the songs from the movies. Part of your world from The Little Mermaid, Circle of Life from The Lion King, Reflection from Mulan. It isn't the same without these music. Mulan isn't Mulan without Reflection. These music and lyrics carry not only the movie but also the character's emotion and their development. Now here's exactly what's missing in the live action Mulan. The iconic songs.

Disney's Renaissance classic

Before we dive deep into the songs, I have personally watched both version of Mulan. To be fair to the judgement, I didn't rewatch the cartoon one before the live action one (The last time I watched it probably was like 10 years ago) so I can place a fair critique to the live action one.

Did I enjoy the lead actress' performance? No. I have to be honest here Yi Fei Liu's acting is pretty much pulling a straight emotionless face 95% in the film. Her lack of emotion, including no sadness when she left her family for the war, lack of fierce when fighting the villians is a fatal flaw to this live action. It is sad to admit Disney only casts her for her fame and that is one way to secure the risk of putting millions of dollars away than finding a new raw talent.

Yi Fei Liu as Mulan 2020

Another element that is missing from the live action is they are putting all the favorite characters away. No Mushu the dragon, no cricket , no grandma, instead they are adding a new witch to be "more realistic" and a sister serving no additional meaning to the film. It is almost completely changing the Mulan film and creating a mediocre war film.

The lack of character development of Mulan, her interaction with other characters and changing the motive of how Mulan works hard to get to where she is completely disappoints most audience all around the world. Her new power in 2020 - Chi , doesn't make her a more relatable character. Instead, instilling the concept of being the special one will make you special. The only secret is not to hide it. Is this what Disney's live action is trying to teach us?

Mushu and Cricket

Going back to our first point, music. What really fails the film as a Disney classic is it has no music at all except the background music. No songs, no "Reflection", no "I'll make a man out of you". The songs are not only a classic, but it also serves as a storytelling for the characters.

Let's take the song Reflection as an example, I have re-watched the cartoon version and found that Mulan was facing her dilemma of leaving the family and going to war for her father. She wasn't straight decisive from the start. She was upset she wasn't be able to live up to her family's hope to be a "good woman" and only want to prove to herself, to her reflection in the mirror that she can also accomplish things. And that was the moment she sang the song to reveal her sadness and her decisions to disguise as a soldier. Is this part included in the live action? No. the new Mulan just changed her clothes and cut to the next shot of her in the wild.

"Who is that girl I see

Staring straight back at me?

When will my reflection show

Who I am inside?"

The song lyrics here captures how Mulan feels. She doesn't feel like herself. Her version of self is not supported by the society or her family.

"Look at me

I will never pass for a perfect bride, or a perfect daughter"

She also feels she is not a perfect daughter as she fails the expectation of her family. Is this shown in the movie? Sorry to say it again but no, And because of all of the emotion and conflict she is feeling, she has decided to be who she wants to be :

"Somehow I cannot hide

Who I am, though I've tried

When will my reflection show, who I am, inside"

Without the magic of this song, Mulan isn't really Mulan. The lack of depth to Mulan's character in the live action film is what makes it less amiable. If Disney wants to remake any cartoons, bottom line is, please include the songs.

To appreciate the original classic again, let's take time to listen to Reflection (sung by Lea Salonga, the singing voice of Mulan and Jasmine)

And the famous pop version by Christina Aguilera

Here are some covers I recommend:

What is your favourite song from Mulan. And do you agree the essence of Disney magic are the songs?



Writing background

Got myself a degree in Creative writing but never really use it.

Created my first 10000+ words "fiction" at 17

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Singing - Youtube @loislaulife

Modelling - Instagram @loislaulife

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