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Mulan Movie Review - Magnificent Spectacle

Girlpower triumphs against all odds.

Reviewed by on Sep 03, 2020
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw Disney’s new Mulan film. It is packed with martial arts and other action, great costumes, gorgeous sets and a story for the ages. Acting also excels. Worth the long wait. Read our full movie review.

In Mulan, we are in ancient China and young Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) is a dutiful daughter except she excels at martial arts rather than tea-pouring and other girl stuff. When the Emperor (Jet Li) declares that each family must provide a male to be one of his soldiers, Mulan’s father Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma) has to volunteer since he only has two daughters but he is ailing.

Mulan Movie Trailer



Mulan runs away, poses as a boy (Hua Jun) and goes through Imperial soldier training. She is tested many times and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential.  In her epic journey she transforms into an honored warrior, saves her nation and earns the respect of all…including her family.

Mulan (Yifei Liu) takes her father's horse and armorMulan takes her father's horse and armorCourtesy of Disney

Too Boy-Like

Tween Mulan practices with a sword and performs martial arts. Her father can’t bring himself to tell her that she’ll never be a warrior. She must bring honor to her family by marrying well but he is secretly proud of her although he must tell her to “hide your gift away”. She tries to repair a statue of a Phoenix that she broke. It is the symbol of her family. Meanwhile, along the Silk Road trade route, a beautiful, shape-shifting sorceress takes over the body of a boy and he can suddenly fight with magical powers. In the Imperial City, the Emperor is told that garrisons along the Silk Road trade route are being attacked so trade has stopped.

The sorceress works her dark magicThe sorceress works her dark magicCourtesy of Disney

Building the Army

Learning that the attackers are Rouran, led by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and he is using a witch’s dark magic to be invincible, the Emperor orders that each family supply a warrior to help crush Bori Khan’s group. The witch Xian Lang (Gong Li), who can turn into a hawk, reports this back to Bori Khan and we learn that she was in exile and he saved her. Now she must do his bidding and help pave the way for him to take over the throne.

Mulan dressed up to be a wifeMulan dressed up to be a wifeCourtesy of Disney

Meanwhile, Mulan, now older, rides her beautiful black horse in the wild but is told that the Matchmaker has found someone she will marry. She sadly agrees, dresses up and goes with her mother Li (Rosalind Chao) and younger sister Xiu (Xana Tang) to homemaker classes but, in trying to help her sister, fails miserably.

Mulan must learn skills considered femaleMulan must learn skills considered femaleCourtesy of Disney

Soldiers Arrive

When soldiers arrive, every family turns over a male member to join them. Since the Hua family has no boys, father, although sickly, must volunteer. The family knows that, although once a great warrior, dad won’t come home. Mulan makes a huge decision and sneaks away in the night taking dad’s battle sword, his horse and armor.

Mulan takes her father's swordMulan takes her father's swordCourtesy of Disney

She will catch up with the brigade of soldiers and pose as a boy called Hua Jun. When this is discovered, the family fears for her life. If she is exposed as a girl, she will be killed if she doesn’t die in battle. Mulan is lost on the road but a beautiful phoenix appears and leads her to the battalion where she tangles with handsome Chen Honghui (Yoson An) another would-be soldier.

Mulan (Yifei Liu) as Hua Jun fights HonghuiMulan as Hua Jun fights HonghuiCourtesy of Disney

New Rules

The battalion Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) recognizes her father’s sword and keeps an eye on her. She has to wrap her chest, not shower with the boys etc. to hide her true identity. The trainees are given rules; to break them means banishment or death. While becoming “one of the boys”, Mulan shows her amazing skills and the commander is impressed.

The stern Commander Thung (Donnie Yen) sees Mulan's potentialThe stern Commander Tung sees Mulan's potentialCourtesy of Disney

Mulan almost accidentally reveals herself to Honghui while bathing in a river. There is an attraction on her part but she turns her back and he takes that as an insult, never seeing that she’s a girl. Meanwhile Bori Khan assures his men that the witch will obey him. The Emperor took their lands in the last war and killed his father. Revenge will bring him to the throne. They take over the next garrison.

Mulan trains as soldier Hua JunMulan trains as soldier Hua JunCourtesy of Disney

Off to War

Although not fully trained, Mulan’s battalion must defend the next garrison in line from Bori Khan’s army.

Bori Khan attacksBori Khan attacksCourtesy of Disney

Mulan is about to confess all to the Commander but he wants her (or her boy identity that is) to marry his daughter! The soldiers swear to be Loyal Brave and True, the words on Mulan’s sword. She tells her fellow soldiers to fight for each other.

Mulan, as a man, in her first battleMulan, as a man, in her first battleCourtesy of Disney

During the horrible battle, Mulan is the only one chasing a group of Bori Khan’s men. She has an encounter with the witch who knows who she really is. It seems she kills Mulan but it is her male persona who dies. Mulan rises as herself, hair flying, riding her horse, obviously a young woman.

As Hua Jun, Mulan faces the witchAs Hua Jun, Mulan faces the witchCourtesy of Disney

Saving the Day

Fully herself now and using all of her martial arts skills, Mulan saves her whole battalion from destruction by Bori Khan’s army. She saves Honghui by carrying him away from sure death and leaving before he sees her. After the battle, Mulan confesses to the Commander and her friends.

Mulan finally herself in battleMulan finally herself in battleCourtesy of Disney

Despite saving the day, she will be expelled from the army. If she returns, she will be killed. Alone in the wilderness, Mulan is approached again by the witch who was also a female warrior and exiled for it. They are alike but Mulan won’t join her and Bori Khan’s marauder squad.

Mulan sadly alone in exileMulan sadly alone in exileCourtesy of Disney

Learning that he is already on the way to sneak into the city to kill the Emperor, she risks her life by going back to her unit with the news. At first she isn’t believed but Honghui and others say let her lead them to save the Emperor! Will she succeed? Will she ever be fully accepted as a great warrior despite being a girl? Will she and Honghui ever be a couple?

Will the soldiers let Mulan lead them?Will the soldiers let Mulan lead them?Courtesy of Disney

Wrapping Up

This new, live-action version of Mulan is well worth the wait. Granted, it would have been great to have seen it on a giant screen but the wonderful costumes, locations and sets hold up fine on your TV screen. The action, both martial arts and battle varieties, is well-directed (by Niki Caro, a woman who directed the well-received Whale Rider, also about an empowered female character).

The Emperor is in dangerThe Emperor is in dangerCourtesy of Disney

The many various martial arts used look similar to those in the classic Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Acting is well done. Chinese actress Liu Yifei, although a bit older than her character, gives us a believable, strong yet vulnerable Mulan. Even Christina Aguilera’s performance (check the music video) of “Loyal Brave True” is beautiful.

Beautiful costumes and setsBeautiful costumes and setsCourtesy of Disney

On the downside, I was a bit disturbed by the story point that “bad guy” Bori Khan reminds his men that their land was taken by the Emperor and we never learn the circumstances in which his father was killed by the ruler (in the last war I assume). Does taking people’s land make the Emperor a hero for whom Mulan would give her life? Not so sure.

Bori Khan uses sorceress Xian LangBori Khan uses sorceress Xian LangCourtesy of Disney

I also would have liked just a bit more development of the budding romance between Mulan and fellow soldier Honghui. Granted, for most of the film he thinks she’s a guy but after he knows the truth, could they do a teeny bit more than barely touch hands when parting?

Mulan stands in front of Honghui (Yoson An)Mulan stands in front of HonghuiCourtesy of Disney

Disney films are almost always about devotion to family. This one lays the concept on thickly and that is fine but could we get Mulan’s final decision (family vs. “career”) and not be left hanging?

Despite a few flaws, Mulan is a beautifully-made, girl-empowering film that should be vastly entertaining for you, your crew and parents. We recommend with four stars.

Mulan Movie Rating: 4

Mulan Movie Review - Magnificent SpectacleCourtesy of Disney

Watch Mulan starting September 4th!

Disney+ will offer Premier Access for $29.99 on disneyplus.com. Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available.

What is Your Take?

Have you been looking forward to Mulan forever? Do you agree that males and females are equally valiant and capable warriors? Let’s hear your opinion here or blog it up on your Kidzworld profile page!