As many of you know; Mulan live-action debuted on Disney+ this week for $29.99. And I honestly can’t say that it was worth it.
As a platform that aims to empower young Asians across the world, we know that media has a lot of influence on the way we view ourselves. This includes movies--especially those as culturally important as Mulan. So as someone who grew up worshipping Mulan's badassery and the original story like many other fans, I was hesitant but curious when I found out they were doing a number of things:
1. No Mushu
2. Adding a witch?
3. Having a non-Asian director and a mainly white crew (even the costume designer!?)
However, I didn’t immediately think that Mulan was going to be awful. In fact, I believed it still had potential, especially with the large budget and the eye catching trailer.
So, after watching the film, here’s my personal take on a few controversies since Mulan was released.
First, there’s the issue of the predominantly white crew and director of the movie. After reading a few articles, I found that the director, Niki Caro, was chosen to bring not only Mulan’s story but Disney’s story to life on-screen, which is their reason for choosing a white director over an Asian one. At the very best, this sounds like an excuse. Personally, I think they could have definitely found an Asian director who could’ve also brought Disney’s culture to life on screen, and more effectively directed the movie and appealed to Asian audiences more. But I guess they couldn’t find one? This is not to say that Caro isn't a talented director. She is incredible at what she does, directing the Whale Rider, a beautiful coming-of-age film that captured audiences everywhere, so she is definitely a very capable and talented director. Just maybe not the best pick for this movie.
Furthermore, after extensively clicking on crew member profiles on ImbD for an hour, I literally saw about 2 Asian crew members in any category besides stunts (which—thank god they consulted Asian stuntmasters). Heck, even the lead costume designer was white! And although they claimed to have consulted experts on traditional and authentic clothing, to have the LEAD costume designer—someone in charge of portraying the outfits, appearance, and lifestyle of an entire culture—be not OF that culture is absurd to me.
Can I mention that in addition to the director, all 8 producers, the casting director, most of the casting crew, and all of the art directors (save one—go Calvin!) were white?
But I guess I shouldn’t complain because they needed a crew that knew how to bring the “Disney magic” to the screen.
In the end however, the film was pretty culturally accurate in the little details, from the round village huts that Mulan’s family lived in to the costumes and hairstyles they wore. But, I still can't shake the awkward feeling that not many Asians worked on the film at all behind the scenes.
In light of recent news that Mulan was filmed in Xinjiang, where the Uighur “Re-education” Concentration Camps are located, we have deleted our previous blurb about giving Mulan a chance regardless because at this point, it’s just blatant disrespect. #boycottmulan
(Although, I still don’t think it is worth paying $30 to watch right now).
Last thing, my parents and I weren’t fond of the witch addition. It just seemed very awkward in the whole plot, and like it was just thrown in there (because it was). There’s really no history of witches in Chinese culture, mythology, or Mongolian culture, so it was definitely just a “Disney thing” to throw that in there. The director stated that she wanted the iconoclastic clash between the two female characters, and I get that, but it just rushes the film to a climax that feels awkward and incomplete.
That's not to say Mulan 2020 wasn't a good movie at all, because it did have some good aspects. The scenery and camera shots were beautiful, on the spanning New Zealand and China backdrops. The visuals were absolutely stunning, and the cast were pretty good as well. Overall, I think the movie could have been better executed by a non-whitewashed crew, but does achieve that “Disney flair” it was aiming for in the end.
Have any of you guys watched it? What are your thoughts?
Author: Carina Sun