Follow TV Tropes

Following

Film / Mulan (2020)

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mulan_2020_film_disney_plus_release_poster.jpg
"Do you know why the phoenix sits on the right-hand of the Emperor? She is his guardian. His protector. She is both beautiful and strong. Your job is to bring honor to the family. Do you think you can do that?"
Hua Zhou
Advertisement:

Mulan is an American war action drama film directed by Niki Caro and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. It is a live-action remake of Disney's 1998 animated film of the same name, itself based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan.

When the Emperor of China (Jet Li) issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders attacking China, Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei), the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. She is spirited, determined and quick on her feet. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential.

The cast also includes Donnie Yen as Commander Tung (filling more or less the same role as Li Shang), Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan (this film's version of Shan Yu) and Gong Li as Xian Lang (a witch who's allied with Bori Khan).

Advertisement:

The film had a world premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 9, 2020. It was originally scheduled for wide release in the United States on March 27, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was postponed several times. The film would ultimately be released on September 4 through a premium, experimental Disney+ model while receiving a more traditional theatrical rollout in areas where theaters were open. A month after its Disney+ debut, it also received a release on more traditional VOD platforms.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer 1, Super Bowl TV spot, Trailer 2


Advertisement:

Mulan (2020) contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Gong Li playing a tragic figure is certainly not new, as her career is littered with them; this is the first time she did play a villain however.
    • Ming-Na Wen’s unnamed character wears a robe that’s the same shade of green as the original Mulan’s outfit.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: During the campfire before the battle with the Rourans, Mulan assures her fellow soldiers that they'll all protect each other... except for Yao, who she might kill for herself if the opportunity arises. Yao sees the joke for what it is and laughs along with the others.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • The Matchmaker in this adaptation is not an Ursula-esque Gonk like in the animated film.
    • Nelson Lee as the Chancellor also falls under this, compared to his animated counterpart Chi-Fu.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • The new prologue introduces Mulan as a young girl, who stirs up quite a bit of chaos while chasing a chicken around her home village.
    • The film spends a lot more time in the military camp, and focuses more on the soldiers' rigorous training prior to their first major battle.
    • In a scene taken from the original ballad, Mulan herself is tasked to lead the men to the Imperial City for their final showdown with Bori Khan's army.
    • In the original film, Mulan's chances were blown due to Cri Kee and her own errors. Here, her chances are ruined because her sister has a panic attack from seeing a spider and she immediately tried to calm her down.
    • The reason Mulan's unit went to the front in the original film was due to Mushu's meddling. In this film, the request is genuine rather than a forgery.
    • In the original film, it is unknown what happened to Mulan's sword after she was discovered as Shang arrived to return her helmet. Here, it is destroyed in the final battle with Bori Khan, and it gets replaced when Commander Tung gives her a new one at the end of the film.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: In the original film, the Chinese army suffered severe incompetence with the army being incredibly overconfident and badly underestimating the Huns. Here, they are shown to be genuinely skillful strategists, with the reason the Rourans keep winning is because of Xian Lang's powers allowing her to make the Chinese enter terrain on the Rourans choosing.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Unlike in the original film, where the Matchmaker had plenty of valid reasons to be angry at Mulan, here the whole debacle starts because the Matchmaker kicks the table over in a panic due to a spider. Mulan manages to grab all of the items, but she falls and they break anyway. Instead of admitting it was her fault, the Matchmaker throws the entire blame for the debacle on Mulan.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Mulan's family name is now "Hua" instead of "Fa", which is actually the same name, but using the Cantonese pronuciation instead of Mandarinnote . Also, her alias is no longer "Fa Ping"note  but rather "Hua Jun".
  • Adaptational Origin Connection: Bori Khan longs to kill the Emperor because he was the one who killed his father. In the animated film, Shan Yu didn’t have any sort of personal grudge against the Emperor.
  • Adaptational Modesty: In the original film, the bathing scene featured Mulan, Yao, Ling, and Chien Po and Mulan's shoulders were visible, and at one point, the three men are seen (albiet in shadow), completely naked. In this film, Mulan is up to her neck and water and only Chen enters the water with her. It is not resolved with Mushu biting Chen in the butt(as he is not present in this film) but with Chen leaving on his own will. This is averted when Mulan herself enters the lake; in the original film, we only see her in grass up to her neck as she disrobes, while in this film, she gets a Toplessness from the Back scene with only a tree branch covering her buttocks.
  • Adaptational Nationality:
    • Mulan and her family live in a tulou, ostensibly indicating that they belong to the Hakka people from southern China, while the Mulan from the legends originated from northern China, near the Yellow River.
    • The invaders in the 1998 film were Huns, which the Chinese dub rendered as Xiongnu. Here, the invaders are identified as the Rourans, which the film has in common with a live-action version from 2009.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Mushu does not appear in the film, mostly to appeal to a Chinese audience, who didn't like the original film's comedic treatment of dragons, considered sacred creatures in Chinese culture. His role as Mulan's guardian is instead taken by the phoenix, who bears similar colors to Mushu as a subtle nod to the character.
    • In the original legend, Mulan has a kid brothernote  and an older sister. Here, Mulan only has a younger sister. The sister could count as an inversion of this trope, since she appears in this film despite not being in the animated movie which it is mainly based on.
    • In the original film, Mulan's grandmother lived with them. In the remake, Grandmother Fa clearly is not present, with Mulan's mother and sister being the only two females living with Mulan and her father.
    • Mulan does not suffer any Revealing Injury in the mountain battle, and voluntarily reveals her identity, unlike the original film where her real gender is discovered because she suffered a nasty stab wound that nearly killed her.
  • Age Lift: In the original ballad, Mulan had an older sister and a younger brother. In this adaptation, Mulan is the elder sibling, while her sister is the younger one.
  • Anachronism Stew: One of the film's goals was to be more culturally authentic than the original, which also contained quite a lot of this trope and Artistic License – History, and as a result the film is heavily implied to take place specifically during the Tang dynasty (which lasted from 618 to 907). Nevertheless it pulls in quite a few influences from all over Chinese history.
    • Mulan's enemies are the proto-Mongolic Rouran Khaganate, who existed long before the Tang dynasty's founding. They were the likely antagonists of the original Mulan poem, but Mulan would've been an inhabitant of the bordering Northern Wei Empire, thus Xianbei rather than Han Chinese. The correct Northern neighbors to use for a film set in the Tang dynasty would have been one of the various neighboring Turkic empires.
    • Mulan lives in a southern tulou, inaccurate for both the region and time period. The Tulou structures were built from the 12th century onward, while the Ballad of Mulan which is the ultimate source material, is set between the 4th to 6th centuries. On top of that, these structures only exist in the Fujian province of South-Eastern China, which is as far removed from the North as one can imagine, yet the Rourans are somehow close by. The Tulou were also inhabited by the Hakka which Mulan is not.note 
    • During the matchmaking scene Mulan is done up in what looks to be mostly the correct Tang makeup, but it also features elements of Qing dynasty fashion as well, on top of appearing to be more appropriate for royalty (which Mulan is not).
    • Likewise, the attires of the characters are drawn from not one, but several dynastic fashions from different periods.
    • In one scene, Mulan is shown practicing tai-chi, which wouldn't exist until maybe the 12th century.
    • The counterweight trebuchet used by the invaders dates back to the 12th century at the earliest.
    • The characters use simplified Chinese characters, invented in the twentieth century, rather than the more accurate traditional characters. note 
  • Ancestral Weapon: Mulan fights with her father's sword.
  • Animal Motifs: In this film, the Hua family is associated with the phoenix, and one appears to follow Mulan throughout the film.
  • Appeal to Authority: When a guard questions an order by the Chancellor, supposedly on behalf of the Emperor, to congregate in the city center, the Chancellor (who at this point is possessed by Xian Lang) asks him if he questions the Emperor.
  • Arc Words: "Loyal, Brave and True" are repeated both throughout the film and through the promos, encouraging Mulan to be loyal to her family, brave for taking her father's place at risk of death, and true to her own personality.
  • Artistic License – History: Bori Khan's name means "wolf" in modern Turkic, but he is the leader of the Rouran Khaganate, who were more closely related to the Mongols and likely spoke an early form of their language.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After the guys finally defeat the Rourans in the alley, the scene gets eerily quiet as we cut to Cricket lying motionless against the wall with his eyes wide open. After a few seconds pass, he inhales and gets to his feet, completely unharmed.
  • Bathtub Bonding: An outdoor bath variety with Chen joining Mulan while she bathes in a lake, assuming her to be the male Hua Jun. Played for laughs, since Mulan is obviously horrified of him discovering her gender and has a minor Naked Freak-Out while making sure to have her back to him the entire time while he attempts to converse.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Although the film is arguably the darkest and the most violent Disney remake to release with tons of onscreen deaths and portrayal of War Is Hell, the only blood that is shown throughout the whole movie is Xian Lang's wounded hand.
  • Broken Aesop: While Mulan in the animated film and the original ballad has to struggle and work hard to prove herself, this version has a natural talent thanks to her chi and is immediately a master in everything and even if the movie says that those same traits would be praised in a man, whereas they are scorned in women like Mulan and Xian Lang, an attitude that is justly presented as a bad thing, the only woman in which are scorned is the witch, and it happens for reasonable reasons since she uses her powers for evil purpouses.
  • Casting Gag: Mulan's Japanese voice is Asumi Rio, former top star (leading otokoyaku - male role actress) of the Takarazuka Revue's Flower Troupe. Mulan is named after the magnolia flower. Who better to voice a woman pretending to be a man than a woman who played men for 16 years? Furthermore, Mirio also played Lady Oscar in The Rose of Versailles - a woman raised as a man and trained in swordfight.
  • Collateral Damage: When Mulan triggers an avalanche to wipe out the Rouran army, many Chinese soldiers are shown to be caught in it, as well.
  • Combat Parkour: Plays a major role in the action sequences. Even as a child, Mulan is naturally skilled in parkour, and she eventually utilizes her talents when she faces the Rourans in battle.
  • Color Motifs: Red, the color of the phoenix. Mulan wears red for most of the film (as do her fellow soldiers), and the color is used prominently in the Creative Closing Credits, as well as most of the promotional material.
  • Cool Big Sis: Mulan clearly has a close relationship with her sister, in that the second she has a panic attack at the Matchmaker due to seeing a spider, Mulan immediately jumped up to calm her down.
  • Cool Sword: Hua Zhou’s sword, which has the disc-shaped guard characteristic of a dao, but the straight double-edged blade of a jian. Mulan wields the weapon once she joins the army, and it becomes her Weapon of Choice throughout the film. At the end of the film the Emperor gifts her with a more conventional jian, encrusted with jade in the handle.
  • Darker and Edgier: A notable example in the context of Disney remakes. The original Mulan film was rated G, and Disney's remakes have consistently been given PG ratings. The Mulan remake, however, is the first Disney remake to be rated PG-13. Notably, the body count is much higher now, characters both major and minor are actually killed onscreen, and the lighthearted, comedic tone of the original has been watered down in favor of a more mature edge.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original film, it was unknown what happened to Hayabusa. In this film, Xian Lang dies towards the end of it.
  • Delaying Action: One of the newest scenes have Chen Honghui and the other soldiers of Mulan's unit fight the surviving Rouran soldiers to allow Mulan time to get to the Emperor's palace and save him.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Much like the original film, no punches are pulled in regards to the gender attitudes of the time, with Mulan being told to accept a husband that is found for her, and her chances with the Matchmaker are blown solely because she was trying to calm her sister. This is further underlined by the fact that Xian Lang's mistreatment because of these attitudes were the reason she joined Bori Khan in the first place. Even then, he treats her like dirt and she resents the living heck out of it.
    • Bori Khan is especially notable given that nomadic peoples were much more equal in regards to gender, and Shan Yu in the original film was completely unphased when he learned Mulan's real gender, even seeing her as a Worthy Opponent. Khan's misogyny is unusual to his culture.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Mulan and Xian Lang have one prominent showdown during the fight in the mountains. Downplayed, however, as Mulan is still presenting herself as Jun at this point. Xian Lang emerges victorious after knocking Mulan down with a blade, though the weapon doesn't kill her thanks to her leather chest bindings. They do not have a rematch after Mulan sheds her male guise.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Mulan fights Xian Lang in the mountains where she chases Bori Khan, shortly before the iconic avalanche. The final fight is with Bori Khan, at the construction site of a new imperial palace.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted. Mulan cuts a platform she and Khan are fighting on, and Mulan grabs the top rope in time as Khan presumably falls to his death. However, Khan survives just long enough to fire one last arrow to kill the Emperor, which backfires quickly.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Xian Lang grabs Bori Khan by the neck and warns him she can tear him into pieces in the blink of an eye, clearly reminding him that she is an ally, and not a soldier.
  • Expy: The red phoenix that watches over Mulan throughout her journey is more or less the movie's answer to Mushu, right down to its feathers bearing the character's color scheme.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Rourans end up causing the avalanche when Mulan tricks them into firing their catapult in the direction of the mountain.
  • Hordes from the East: In this case, Bori Khan and the Rouran Khaganate are the hordes from the north.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: In the teaser, the matchmaker’s description of the qualities that are looked for in a proper wife continues over images of Mulan's time in the military and feats of badassery.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: During Mulan's first day at camp, Commander Tung lists several infractions; all of them have the listed punishment of death, with the exception of dishonesty, which is punished by expulsion and disgrace. It's made quite clear that being caught for dishonesty is a Fate Worse than Death.
  • The Matchmaker: True to the animated film, Mulan visits the local matchmaker to prove her capabilities as a bride. As in the original, a few unfortunate mishaps completely blow her chances.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film begins with a few scenes from Mulan's childhood, showing her as a budding warrior, before skipping ahead to her adulthood.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: After taking her father's sword and armor, Mulan rides towards the military camp with only a bushel of apples. Apples did not exist in China during the Northern Wei era.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • A few of the songs from the animated film are alluded to throughout this version. When Mulan is told that she must visit the Matchmaker, she quietly tells her family, "I will bring honor to us all". At the training camp, Commander Tung quotes "I'll Make a Man Out of You" on two separate occasions, and when the soldiers chat during their break, their conversation alludes to the lyrics of "A Girl Worth Fighting For".
    • Naturally, Mulan's makeover montage is accompanied by an instrumental rendition of "Honor to Us All". "Reflection" also returns as a Leitmotif for Mulan during her more triumphant moments.
    • The Emperor's throne room houses two large dragon statues that resemble Mushu, Mulan's dragon sidekick from the original film. Similarly, a dragon statue reminiscent of the Great Stone Dragon can be seen in front of the Hua family's house.
    • The phoenix's feathers are primarily red, yellow, and blue in color, the same colors as Mushu.
    • One of Mulan's fellow squadmates is named Cricket, a reference to Cri-Kee the lucky cricket.
    • In her first scene as an adult, Mulan sees two rabbits running and later comments she coudn't tell which one was male and which was female - this is a reference to a line from the actual Mulan poem, and a metaphor for the entire story.
    • This poster for the film is an exact recreation of the poster for the animated movie. Same goes for the poster shown above, which mimics this iconic image from the original.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • Many of the trailers and TV spots for the movie featured Xian Lang more prominently than Bori Khan, giving the impression she was the Big Bad while Khan was merely an Unwitting Pawn or The Heavy, especially given that the trailers implied Xian Lang either killed Khan's father, along with the fact that Xian is the one shown in the palace. Nope. Khan's the Big Bad from the get-go and Lang is on the side of evil only because people hated her for being a witch, not helped at all by being a woman, while it's implied though not confirmed outright that the Emperor killed Khan's father in self-defense.
    • Many of the trailers and TV spots directly showed a phoenix flying over Mulan whenever Hua Zhou asked for their protection implying that the phoenix, which is the family guardian, would serve a similar role to Mushu. While the bird does occasionally guide Mulan on her quest, it doesn't accompany her as much as Mushu did.
    • Several of the TV spots seemed to indicate that Commander Tung had managed to see through Mulan's disguise with the last thing before the next line is supposed to be spoken is Mulan's terrified face. Instead, he recognizes her powerful chi, and merely offers Hua Jun a higher position, along with the hand of his daughter in marriage (much to Mulan's discomfort), but the conversation gets cut off.
  • Noodle Incident: It's not entirely clear how Bori Khan's father fell to the Emperor, and the film doesn't delve much into the event.
  • The Phoenix: At the start of the film, Mulan's father extols the virtues of the Phoenix, which is supposed to represent the Chinese version. After Hua Zhou asks the ancestors to protect his daughter throughout her journey, the legendary bird is sent to guide Mulan on her destined path. However, it's appearance and powers make it closely resemble the Western Phoenix.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • Besides the matter of Shang, Mushu is Adapted Out and Phoenix imagery and symbolism is used instead since Chinese audiences didn't respond well to the animated film's irreverent handling of Chinese Dragons. However, the Phoenix imagery used is actually Western, not Chinese, and the Chinese Phoenix is entirely different.
    • Mulan never gives herself an Important Haircut like in the key emotional scene from the 1998 film. This was done to make it more accurate to the Chinese culture of the time, since men also had long hair. Whether or not this was necessary is up to the viewer.
  • Red Is Heroic: In contrast to the green-themed uniform she wore in the animated movie, Mulan prominently wears red throughout the film, as do the other Chinese soldiers.
  • Remake Cameo: Ming-Na Wen, the voice of the original Mulan, makes a physical appearance when she introduces Mulan to the Emperor of China.
  • Revenge Myopia: Bori Khan seeks to avenge his father's death, implied to have been at the hands of the Emperor. However, it's also implied that the Emperor did so out of self defense. The actual circumstances are never fully addressed.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Done a few times.
    • The concept of Chi is misused enormously. Mulan's abilities come from it, but it's described as only for boys and warriors. Chi is in everyone as it's a concept of Life Energy akin to blood, and in folklore anyone can learn to use it in time and with training; it's not some magic superpower you have from childhood.
    • Xian Lang being called a "witch" and ostracized for her powers. "Witches" (the Western idea of the term, anyway) did not exist in China; while there were women who could use magic, such as soothsayers or shamans, they were actually greatly respected by the people, often holding high positions in their villages and sometimes in royal courts (as shown in Kung Fu Panda 2). Even if a woman was punished for using magic to harm someone, there was no persecution geared towards being female and practicing magic in general. If anything, Xian Lang's characteristics are far more in line with an animal spirit like Daji the fox; she would've been labeled as an evil spirit or demoness instead of a "witch", and persecuted for not being human rather than for her powers.
    • The phoenix trait of 'rising from the ashes' is more Western than Chinese.
  • Scenery Censor: After Mulan disrobes to bathe in the lake, there's a brief faraway shot of her entering the lake nude in a Toplessness from the Back shot with a strategically placed branch covering her buttocks.
  • Sequel Hook: The film ends with Commander Tung arriving and offering Mulan a new sword and a position in the army. It doubles as a reference to the original ballad, as Mulan was in the army for a whole decade.
  • Shoulders-Up Nudity: When Mulan bathes in the lake, she is up to her neck in the water, and the same goes for Chen when he joins her, presuming her to be Hua Jun.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Bori Khan and a large number of Rourans are absent from the majority of the mountain battle and are therefore spared from ensuing avalanche, in stark contrast to the animated film where only Shan Yu and his four elite generals survived.
  • "Spread Wings" Frame Shot: As Mulan asserts herself in her final fight against Bori Khan, her family's phoenix can be seen briefly spreading its wings behind her, giving her the appearance of having wings.
  • Squishy Wizard: Zig-zagged. Xian Lang is a powerful witch who can clearly fight, as her battles alongside Bori Khan and her duel against Mulan showed. However, she needs to be specifically defending herself; when Bori Khan tries to shoot Mulan with an arrow, Lang takes her falcon form in order to intercept it and has no opportunity to change back and protect herself as well.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Just like in both the original legend and the original Disney movie, Mulan disguises herself as a man in order to enlist as a soldier in the Imperial Army.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Subverted when Xian Lang takes the arrow fired from Bori Khan for Mulan. Xian Lang proceeds to have her parting words with Mulan, but by this point, Bori Khan has already turned away to resume preparing the Emperor's steel bath.
  • True Companions: After being exiled from the army following her reveal, Mulan returns to base to inform her comrades of the Rourans' assault on the palace. When Tung threatens to have her executed, her fellow recruits stand up for their friend and join her to save the Emperor.
  • Truer to the Text:
    • As small as it is, Mulan has the surname of "Hua" rather than "Fa" (the spelling of the Cantonese pronunciation), making it closer to the original legend. On an additional note, the leader of the invading force being a Khan reflects the original version of the legend where the invading force originated from the Rouran Khaganate and the invading force actually being the Rourans makes it more faithful on yet another level.
    • The inclusion of Mulan's sister is also from the original legend rather than the animated film, albeit a younger sibling rather than an older one. The younger brother from the legend, however, remains absent.
  • Uncertain Doom: The fate of the people possessed by Xian Lang is left unclear, as they’re never shown regaining their bodies after she transforms back into herself. This ultimately leaves the fate of the Chancellor up in the air.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Xian Lang explicitly cites this trope, pointing out to Mulan that when the Chinese army finds out who she is, they will kill her because of her gender regardless of her service.
  • We All Live in America: The Chinese characters reference the phoenix dying in fire and rising from the ashes, which is more associated with the western phoenix than the Chinese ones.
  • Wuxia: The genre’s influences are all over the film, especially in the shots with the aforementioned Combat Parkour.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Mulan's sister is absoluetly terrified of spiders, and one showing up in the Matchamker session causes Mulan to fail miserably.
  • You Are Not Alone: When Mulan returns claiming that the Rourans have taken the Imperial City, Commander Tung tries to dismiss her warnings as the words of a proven liar; a vast majority of the unit immediately expresses their support for her.
  • You Are in Command Now: After proving her worth to Commander Tung (and gaining the support of all her squadmates), Mulan is tasked to lead the men to the Imperial City to save the Emperor and take down the Rourans once and for all.

"I’m Hua Mulan. I will bring honor to us all."
 
Feedback

Video Example(s):

Top

Aw man, no Mushu?

The 2020 Live-Action Remake of Mulan removes all of the beloved Disney Songs, Lee Chang, and Mushu that were present in the original Disney Film.

How well does it match the trope?

4.79 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / AdaptedOut

Media sources:

Main / AdaptedOut

Report