Mulan (1998) Movie Review
Mulan might have been the 8th canonical Disney Princess if you arrange them chronologically, but she definitely sparked change other than the previous seven before her. And her influence carries on to the ones after her.
Traditionally, Disney Princesses are divine characters in the Disney world. They are good-hearted individuals that would rather stay behind the prince than face danger. Instead, she would sing and prepare food for the needy because she is royalty, either in blood or in attitude.
Mulan somehow sparked a change from the typical Disney Princess character to being more independent.
We follow the story of Fa Mulan, an adventurous young woman who hopes to bring honor to her family. Her family arranges for her to meet a matchmaker to demonstrate her capability to become a future wife, but she fails and is deemed a failure and a disgrace.
Due to a growing threat from the Huns led by Shan Yu, Mulan's father, Fa Zhou is conscripted to join the army even though he is not fit to serve. She tries to persuade him, but her father insists he must do his duty. Mulan cuts her hair, takes her father's armor and sword, and disguises herself as a man to participate in his stead. After the family learns of her departure, they pray to the guardians for Mulan's safety. A small dragon named Mushu is sent to awaken the Great Ancestor but destroys its statue, so he decides to travel as Mulan's aid.
Mulan arrives at the training camp and changes her name to Ping. Mushu acts as her assistant but is always providing clumsy guidance. Captain Li Shang helps her train along with others. The Emperor's counsel, Chi-Fu, threatens to dissuade him not to allow Li Shang's army to help in the battle. Mushu fakes a letter to order Shang to follow the imperial army. They set out to the mountains and arrive at a burnt village. They discovered that the Huns had massacred the imperial army.
The Huns soon ambush them. Mulan devises a plan, causes an avalanche, and buries the Hun army. Shan Yu wounds Mulan, and they retreat. While recuperating, Captain Li Shang discovered that she deceived them by faking her gender. He expels her from the army and left behind as they go to the Imperial City to report the Huns' defeat. Shan Yu and several others survived, and Mulan saw them heading toward the capital.
Mulan heads to the city first to warn Li Shang. The surviving Huns captured the Emperor. Mulan and the others defeat Shan Yu's men. Mulan lures the enemy leader to the roof. With the help of Mushu, they were able to defeat Shan Yu. The Emperor praises Mulan for her efforts, and the citizens recognize her. Mulan returned home to her family and gave the gifts the Emperor gave her but refused. He is happy that she is back alive. The family ends with Li Shang arriving and accepting Mulan's invitation for dinner, and Mushu is reinstated as the guardian.
Mulan's character may have been a non-typical Disney princess, like Merida from Brave, with her warrior-like attitude and masculinity, but she still is. I like that her character is more independent. Her nature somehow evolves through a time when women become stronger and more independent. You can still sense the personalities of other princesses like Snow White, Ariel, or Cinderella in her.
I like that Mulan doesn't feel like a typical Disney film. It starts off showing some adult thinking wherein the titular character gets disgraced by her own family and wants to prove that she can be dependable. Then by adding a few funny scenes, especially with Mushu around, it became more enjoyable and easy to watch. The movie's runtime is pretty short, but the story is packed with wild adventures, good songs, and great action sequences.
What I like the most about this movie are the characters. Mulan, Captain Li Shang, Mushu, and other supporting casts were terrific. They are both funny and wild bunch of people that you appreciate more because they bring life to the plot. I even liked the villain Shan Yu. I think he is a menacing character that will use any means necessary to achieve his goals. I must say that he is a very Disney-like antagonist.
Of course, who can't forget the excellent and mesmerizing music composed for this movie? Led by the singing voices of Mulan and Captain Li Shang, Lea Salonga, and Donny Osmond. They have already well-established their contributions to Disney. All the songs are composed by Matthew Wilder, and the lyrics are by David Zippel. I like the music here more than any other Disney movie because it adapts well to the plot and storyline.
This film's legacy enabled it to have a live-action adaptation which, in my opinion, showed injustice to the original. At least they tried, though.
I genuinely love the film. I recommend it to viewers who want to watch animated movies in the 90s. It is a suitable couch type of movie and a pretty enjoyable one.
A very well-deserving 4.5 out of 5 stars.