December 28th, 2020

This week is a tale of two reviews for the same topic; Mulan.  I had never seen the Disney animated original back in 1998.   Knowing that I was going to view the updated real life version I decided to check out the original.   Mulan (1998): The animated version is a musical and tells the story from the 15th Century with the Chinese emperor engaging a conscripted army (one male person from each household) to engage with the horrible Huns who have invaded the northern territory.   Mulan’s elderly father has two daughters and a wife.  Eldest daughter Mulan is a tomboy who isn’t interested in being “matched” by the local matchmaker.   Dad volunteers to be conscripted and fight despite a wonky leg.   Mulan decides (against the family wishes) to take his armour, sword and horse to fight in his place.   She is part of a group of new recruits.    Before she arrives, she meets up with a small dragon, voiced by Eddie Murphy who is the comic relief.    His role is very much the same as Donkey in <strong>Shrek</strong>.   Shrek was from 2001, but it also seems to channel 1992 Aladdin (which was also recently remade in real life).   In short Mulan acts as a young man, and then saves the platoon from the Hun hoard and ultimately the Emperor.   I doubt that I am giving anything away by stating this.   The songs are okay.   Eddie Murphy has a couple funny lines.   The ultimate battle sequence Mulan does something that in hindsight isn’t all that remarkable, but it took some outside of the box thinking.   The Forbidden City entanglement was more than a little unbelievable.   This is a story of a strong woman in times of great repression.   She overcomes cultural challenges and proves her worth to her father, her family and her Emperor.    I know more than a few women who look upon this in a favourable light.   For me, it was okay.

The latest Mulan released on Disney+ was from 2020 and unlike more recent re-makes from Disney is not a true translation.   In most instances the musical aspects are supplemented so that the now live version is longer than the 90 minute animated feature.    Many Disney remakes have done this like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast.    In this instance the music is eliminated entirely, and I think to the peril of the overall look and feel.   There is a more serious tone as the young Mulan attends training and eventually encounters a new character, a female witch, who is assisting the Huns.   Mulan’s family speaks of women being labelled as witches and this is obviously not a good situation.   Ultimately the witch and Mulan have more encounters.   This is a significant difference to the original.   There are other scenes as well including the romantic interest who are also very different.  Adding the witch along with other changes didn’t make the story better. In fact I found it a distraction. I wasn’t expecting to do a full scale comparison between the two, but I kept being reminded how different the live version was to the original. Disney+ wanted a significant contribution to watch this when it was first released. I am glad that I didn’t spend the money for it. This is beloved story for many. Having seen it twice in the last week, I don’t feel as though it is something that has added to my Disney catalogue of movies worth watching. So I would avoid this one.

Finally, the Mandalorian Season 2 was completed with the conclusion which I have to admit was a little bit of a surprise. We had learned earlier that the Baby Yoda could potentially engage with some Jedi, although there weren’t many left by sitting atop that one mountain where he was snatched by the bad guys. I won’t reveal more than that. I will say that the technology for making actors younger isn’t really as good one would be hoping. Enough said on the subject. I did enjoy the season, however I would say that for two seasons there were more than a few episodes that felt like filler. By the last couple of episodes it was better and moved along. Was this a satisfactory ending to it? Meh, I don’t know. Was it worth watching, sure. I am more impressed frankly with the ability to have the episodes LOOK like they are filmed in Tunisia and other places in the Star Wars universe. They weren’t. They are projected screens on sound stages. You never would know it in looking at it. There is a documentary about the technology in bringing this series forward, and it was good to see. The ongoing technology is evolving so very quickly. Still. Real actors are a benefit and add to the viewer caring and being engaged.

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