In the live-action update of Disney’s animated Mulan (1998), a female warrior disguises herself to take her father’s spot in the Emperor’s army to fight off northern invaders.
Hua Mulan, a young woman living in rural China with her family, has grown up skilled in the martial arts and gifted with Chi, a supernatural force that aids her acrobatics. When the Emperor demands that each family provide a soldier for the Imperial Army to combat invaders, Mulan’s father is too weak and old to go, so Mulan disguises herself and goes instead. Over the course of the film, Mulan will be faced with opportunities to prove that she has a character, a wisdom, that outshines the antiquated expectations of women that her fellow soldiers hold true.
In director Niki Caro’s update, the action is poetic and fierce, set against a backdrop of what is actually China (and occasionally, New Zealand). The choreography of the action and the beauty of the scenery set up the development of the plot, as Mulan moves from being an individual denied her full life to being a person of importance who provides life to everyone else.
When surveying the landscape of stories told and films made, the story of Mulan shines as one highlighting what girls and women can do, and how they’re often told they can’t. Mulan outfights, outwits, and out-serves all of the men in her circle, and proves innately gifted for the problems her country faces. She is Esther “for such a time as this,” and it shows. At the same time, the Mulan story told here highlights that the men in her circle have choices to make, too: Will they stand with her? Will they stand for her? Will they give their voices and power to affirming her gifts?
In a world divided, we all have choices to make. What will we stand for? Who will we stand with? As the saying goes, if we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything.
Mulan (2020) stands tall, but unfortunately, due to violence and non-Christian faith practices, this film is Not Dove-approved.
The Dove Take
Mulan 2.0 does not necessarily break new ground but shows again how a young woman has the courage and wisdom to lead, even when the men around her are too foolish to notice.