Let's just put the dots on i: the history of Mulan (although it is more correct to say "Mulan") is not a product of modern trends of feminism, but an important element of Chinese culture, which, according to researchers, is about one and a half thousand years old. Monuments were erected to the legendary warrior girl, poems were dedicated to her, and movies were made about her. And the disney cartoon of 1998 is not the first and certainly not the last adaptation of the myth, even if it is the most famous on a global scale.
However, the Chinese themselves — or at least the Chinese critics-found it rather ridiculous. If to sum up their claims, then under the guise of cultural exchange Disney she served the audience a hefty bucket of cranberries and racist stereotypes. In the 90s, the middle Kingdom was a notable market for Western movies, but it was definitely not the main one, so the cool reception there could be safely ignored. However, times have changed: now China owns a solid chunk of Hollywood, you need to focus on it, you have to fawn over it if you want to see billions of dollars in fees. This means that the "great mouse" has a reason to correct a long-standing mistake. Well, or promise to fix it.
So, China is a distant past. The state suffers from the raids of the zhuzhani tribe-cruel nomads, who are led into battle by the ferocious Bori Khan and his assistant-a sorceress. In order to save the country, at the behest of the Emperor, a General military muster is announced — one man from each family. Unfortunately, in the Hua family from a small village, only one man remained — an elderly father who never fully recovered from old battle wounds. For him, the first battle will definitely be his last. And so his daughter, the clever and brave Mulan, secretly puts on her father's armor, saddles a horse and under the guise of a guy goes to protect the country and the honor of the family. Only here the girl will have to fight not only with barbarians, but also with social prejudices.
Jet Li has a small but memorable role in the film
What can not be blamed for the new " Mulan», so this is in a frame-by-frame copy of the original cartoon. This remake compares favorably with the lazy retellings of " Beauty and the Beast», "Aladdin» and especially " the Lion King». Moreover, in the film Niki Caro at the first viewing, you can not even see a single visual reference to the cartoon. It feels as if the tape was being taken as far away from Mulan as possible» 98th year... to eventually lead to " Mulan» 2009. This is, if anything, a fairly large-scale Chinese military epic, as serious and pretentious as possible. It was shot as an ideologically correct answer to the disney musical and showed Mulan not as a self-willed girl, confused in herself, but as a true patriot, ready to sacrifice personal happiness for the sake of the country. Of course, for such a radical transformation of the heroine, "Corporation of good" did not dare, but plot and visual borrowings can be recognized without problems.
However, Director Niki Caro honestly admitted that in preparation for the project, she studied all the existing film incarnations of Mulan, and therefore coincidences are not accidental. But let's call it homage or stylization, especially since the film also has its own findings.
For example, the creators deftly avoided a topic that was considered too sensitive in China: the romance between Mulan and Shang. They say that it is not appropriate for an officer to play tricks with a subordinate, even if he is actually a woman. Therefore, in the film, the cute General's son was replaced by an equally cute private, and the role of Mulan's direct commander went to Donnie yen. Three comical fellow soldiers remained, but now there is no clear division between them according to the stereotypes of "good — natured fat man", "skinny crook" and "aggressive Shorty" - now all at least look like real people. The cute cricket from the cartoon was also subjected to a sudden humanization — it is an awkward young soldier, whom my mother affectionately called "the Cricket". The Huns, as already mentioned, have been replaced by the zhuzhani, but this has little effect — all the same barbarians under the command of the same evil Khan.
Having upset fans of the original with the exception of the little dragon Mushu (this image was considered particularly offensive in China), the creators, however, left fantasy elements in the picture. The main one is Bori Khan's assistant, the Xiannian witch, who can turn into a hawk. And she claims to be the most outstanding original character in all disney remakes. This is not just a villainess, but a tragic anti-heroine who was pushed to the dark side by the cruelty of people. The image is sufficiently cliched, and worked out at the top, but the magnificent Gong Li plays so piercingly that the script flaws go into the background. However, the film almost does not use its inconsistency. Usually, antagonists with gray morals are introduced in order to instill in the viewer or character a grain of doubt: and whether the protagonist is fighting for the wrong side? But Mulan is not led to any provocations — it is basically alien to reflection.
Against the background of the sorceress Bori Khan seems well quite a flat villain
The Central image is simplified even in comparison with the cartoon, let alone the Chinese picture, where the heroine, for a second, fell into depression because of the death of her comrades. No, this was another Mulan-human, vulnerable. And in 2020, the audience will see a purely marvel superheroine. She even has a superpower: controlling the energy of Chi, which allows a village girl to throw spears with her feet, catch arrows on the fly and soar to a height of several meters. All these tricks are also justified by linking to fantasy, or rather, to the traditional Chinese genre of wuxia, where the laws of physics are ignored in favor of entertainment. Remember " Crouching tiger, hidden dragon», "Hero», "House of flying daggers»? This is what the new wave theory is all about. Only "Mulan" is inferior to the listed paintings both in inventiveness, and in pretentiousness, and in poetry.
Although by Western standards the film is stunningly beautiful, this can not be taken away: picturesque landscapes of the middle Kingdom, detailed scenery (not like the cardboard streets of "Aladdin"), luxurious costumes — everything pleases the eye, as it should. The battles are as brutal as the limitations of a disney movie allow, and when Donnie Yen, jet Li, or Jason Scott Lee appear in the frame, you can count on perfectly staged fights. True, duels with the direct participation of the main star, Liu Yifei, are mercilessly cut by editing, but what can you do about it — where can a pop singer compete with real martial artists?
The scene with the avalanche moved to the remake, but there are now many more questions about it
For all its entertainment and noticeable attempts to respectfully portray a culture alien to the creators, "Mulan" falls into the same trap as other disney remakes: shows more, tells less. There are a lot of added details, but they do not compensate for everything that was lost along the way. And it's not about the mush, not about the songs (they are organically woven into the soundtrack) and not about the love line (it actually exists, just in a slightly modified form), but about the development of Mulan herself and her environment. They do it all too easily and too quickly. Mulan is initially a great warrior, and her fellow soldiers and commanders are ready to reject centuries-old army traditions overnight for the sake of a new friend. So it turns out that the degree of conflict and, therefore, drama in a combat fantasy with a rating of 12+ is lower than in a Comedy musical for the whole family.
"Mulan" is definitely a step forward in comparison to other disney remakes. The film at least claims some artistic independence, even if in the plot plan and loses to other retellings of the Chinese legend. Another thing is that this is a technically competent execution of a still meaningless task. For whatever reasons, and no matter how far from the originals all these reinterpretations go, there is no real need for them — at least for the viewer. After all, cartoons are still better.