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"Mulan" is a cinematic eye sweet that makes up for a weak script, say critics

Liu Yifei plays in Disney's "Mulan".

Disney

There's a reason blockbuster tent poles can be seen in theaters. Unfortunately for US audiences, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced Disney to postpone the theatrical release of "Mulan" and ultimately give it a home on Disney +.

The film, which aims to combine the 6th century "Ballad of Mulan" with the popular cartoon "Mulan" from the late 1990s, should hit theaters in March. Critics who speak highly of the visually stunning film quickly realized that "Mulan" would have been a feast for the eyes for viewers on a big screen. Countries without Disney + will have the opportunity to see the film in theaters.

Nevertheless, the expansive landscapes, the elegant action sequences and the breathtaking costumes of the film are not completely lost on the small screen.

"Mulan" deviates from its animated counterpart, dropping the fast-talking dragon Mushu and happy cricket pals in favor of a more solemn and serious tone. Gone is the catchy music that made the 1998 film resonate with children and adults alike.

What is left is a PG-13 film that crosses the line between a children's film and a dramatic wartime epic and is unwilling to decide which side to side.

"'Mulan' will never let you forget that this is a conversation with the animated film that is about playing the familiar beats of its predecessor rather than telling your own story," wrote the author the Associated Press, Lindsey Bahr, in their review of the film. "Every time you hear the notes of" Reflection "sung only in the credits, you are torn out of Caro's lush spectacle and think again of the 1998 version and its songs."

Even so, "Mulan" was well received by critics. It currently holds an 82% "freshness" rating for rotten tomatoes from 152 reviews.

Here's a rundown of what critics said about "Mulan" on its way to Disney + this weekend:

Lindsey Bahr, the Associated Press

"Mulan" was shot in China and New Zealand and is "breathtaking to watch from start to finish," said Bahr.

"The razor-sharp landscapes (shot by cameraman Mandy Walker), the colorful and divinely intricate costumes (by Bina Daigeler), the elaborate fight sequences, and the faces of the actors – especially Liu Yifei who plays Mulan – are so beautiful you will like them will breathe away, "she said.

That is the consensus of "Mulan". It is visually stunning from its rich colors and landscapes to its costumes and choreographies.

Critics recently had the opportunity to digitally review the film. Many concluded that while the film was a shame, it had no chance of showing in U.S. theaters, its cinematography and wuxia-inspired action sequences could be seen from a couch. Although it's not quite the same.

"Make no mistake, director Niki Caros & # 39; Mulan & # 39; is without a doubt one of the best remakes," said Bahr.

Read the full Associated Press report.

Liu Yifei plays in Disney's "Mulan".

Disney

Angie Han, crushable

For some, Caro's visual marvels are enough to mask a script that often puts plot ahead of character development.

"In fact," Mulan "is so great it's a shame the pandemic sent it direct to Disney +," Angie Han, a writer for Mashable, said in her review. "It feels like a movie designed for the size of a real cinema, and after seeing it at the Dolby Theater back in March, I can confirm that it works better when it's bigger."

And it's not just the epic scenery that played better for Han on the big screen. Mulan's sense of humor, affection for her father, and romantic tension with a soldier played by Yoson An didn't translate as well on a laptop screen or television.

"Lius Mulan is just as loyal and courageous and true a Disney hero as anyone can hope to be, but that's all she is. The joy, longing and playfulness of her predecessor are sorely missed," Han wrote. "This is a Mulan to be admired as a role model, not to be recognized and referred to as a flawed fellow human being, or simply to be enjoyed as an entertaining and interesting person."

Han notes that the film never examines what honor means to Mulan personally, or whether she has an internal conflict over her duty to her family or the possibility that she might be exiled or executed for her actions.

"The new Mulan is enough of a rebel to reject a life of compliance and submission, enough of a thinker to prove herself a brilliant military strategist, enough of a fighter to stand up for what she believes in herself Cost to yourself – but not, as far as we can see, someone who is able to see a bigger picture questioning the status quo or planning a new path forward, "she wrote.

Read the full review from Mashable.

Justin Chang, NPR

The new adaptation of "Mulan" wanted to clearly differentiate itself from its animated predecessor and opted for a more serious tone and a lack of comic relief animal characters. Even so, the film didn't quite take on the gritty war film genre.

"Despite its PG-13 rating, a rarity for a Disney release, 'Mulan' feels like a watered down version of a potentially compelling story," said Justin Chang, an NPR writer, in his review of the film.

In addition, Chang said he was "disappointed" with the way the script deals with cultural elements such as chi and honor, "as if they were difficult foreign concepts that needed to be repeatedly explained to the viewer."

He noted that he wasn't surprised to hear Chinese characters speak in stilted English, as this has become a standard practice for Hollywood movies in Asian countries.

"Turning a Chinese legend into family-friendly entertainment with global appeal is admittedly a tricky business these days, especially when a story about the distant past clashes with today's politics," he said.

"Mulan" in particular has sparked controversy over its lead actress Liu, who recently expressed support for the Hong Kong police force and sparked boycott talk on social media.

Read the full review from NPR.

Liu Yifei plays in Disney's "Mulan".

Disney

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

"It's not just a reflection. Thank goodness," New York Post writer Johnny Oleksinski opens his review for "Mulan."

Oleksinksi criticized Disney's previous live-action remakes, calling "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" "lifeless replicas".

“'Mulan' may not be entirely original, but it does switch to live action with real courage and reinvention," he said. "Yes, I missed the catchy music and talking animals of the 1998 animated film – Eddie Murphy as the joking dragon named Mushu might be hard to swing in 2020 – but I was blown away by the stunning Chinese backdrops and high stakes battles."

He praised Liu as Mulan, despite being asked if the production had done enough to help the character survive as a man.

"You don't quite buy that a bunch of muddy guys would mistake Mulan for one of their brothers in AD 100," he writes.

Oleksinski noted that Disney +’s release of "Mulan" is a great test of Disney’s business, but that many people will find the price ultimately worth it.

"What anyone is willing to pay to see a movie is up to them, but I'm sure 'Mulan' will make you a fan," he said.

Read the full review from the New York Post.

Disclosure: Comcast, the parent company of CNBC, owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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