Monday, 26 January 2015

Review : Disney's Mulan (1998)

mulan This retelling of the old Chinese folktale is about the story of a young Chinese maiden who learns that her weakened father is to be called up into the army in order to fight the invading Huns. Knowing that he would never survive the rigours of war in his state, she decides to disguise herself and join in his place. Unknown to her, her ancestors are aware of this and to prevent it, they order a tiny disgraced dragon, Mushu to join her in order to force her to abandon her plan. He agrees, but when he meets Mulan, he learns that she cannot be dissuaded and so decides to help her in the perilous times ahead.

Mulan is highly thought of as being one of the better known Disney classics, there is something about Mulan which people love and are attracted to, I can't quite put my finger on as to why the public reaction to this is so high, but it is and people love it.

It came out mainly around the time towards the end of Disney's second golden era, and it's teaching whoever watches a lesson of instinct - you do what's right, you follow the right path, determination drives you forward and you don't give up kind of lessons. It's also educational about the time period in which it's set, learning about chinese values and customs which I think is an advantage for disney and offers diversity to the range of stories in which they tell, there's no princes or dragons or damsels in distress, it's a spin on a chinese folktale compared to other films like Tarzan which would come out the following year (1999) it's a tremendous advantage for Disney to be able to tell any story in any format, in some cases this is quite a dark story.

It's one of those hybrid films which is a mixture of many things and different things for different people, you are allowed to take your own pros and cons from it and be able to make up your own mind about what it is about - of course you can do that with any film you see, but with Mulan it's all the more distinctive in the freedom that you have when you actually put your mind to it and watch it. 

It's an Family, Musical, Animated adventure which has great benefits for children, they get to laugh and learn about team work and how determination in the right attitude goes a long way. However if you are a child at the age of 5 or under, Parents may find some of the scenes in this lush Disney adventure frightening. Mulan becomes a hero and helps her people but she does so by rebelling against authority. She also learns to fight with weapons. The Huns destroy Chinese villages and kill people (though not shown on screen it's left to the imagination as to how horrific the attack could have been. 'Red' signifying danger etc.) and some battle scenes are scary and intense to watch as well.

An advantage to this however is battle scenes like the final showdown between Mulan and her nemesis Shan Yu (Leader of the Hun Army) provide thrill and keep the audience engaged throughout the whole time frame of the moment. And final battles are usually very well executed in Disney films and the moments in which I'm sure most people remember with such fondness.

I think that Disney took a bit of a gamble doing Mulan, as it's not like anything else they have ever done : she doesn't fit the princess mold, and most people had never heard of her. And the end results were a bit mixed at the time of it's release. It's widely renowned as being a classic today; but the settings are gorgeous, and Mulan herself is one of a kind in the Disney canon - it's just considered a shame that in the end she still needs to be married off to a "Prince Charming" who saves the day.
Still, many aspects of Chinese culture are incorporated such as reverence to one's ancestors, the significance of dragons, and the importance of honour. That as a collaborative is very good and plays into the audiences overall education in what they get out of it, you can watch an action movie and see all these big explosions and impressive choreographed gun fights which are all fine and dandy but by the end you question? what did I get out of that. 
With Mulan at least I benefit something from it. I like films which their objective is to teach and you as the viewer watch and learn, and you certainly should give Mulan a lot of attention to it's credibility. 9/10!
NEXT : a Bug's Life

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