Movie Review: Mulan Played by Vicki Zhao
Zhao Wei was really able to execute Mulan rather well. Compared to Disney, the legend is well-told especially with how she was based on a legendary female strategist named Fu Hao. Okay so I thought that things get rather realistic to how Mulan was gone longer than you've expected and that she's actually a skilled martial artist, so we don't see any of that ridiculous stuff of Mulan being a wimp. Actually I would have voted for Esther Liu or Crystal Liu but she did her part well. But for a series, I'd vote for Esther Liu as Mulan. Her beauty however wasn't very ancient of a China girl, she in fact looks kinda blended for the role but she does have her alluring figure here. I think she played her part well. Not surprising if you've seen previous movies of hers involving ancient China attires and her fighting prowess is well shown. In fact, I liked how she was able to display her martial arts skills against a bully in the military camp. The part was also offered to the lovely Liu Yi Fei but she refused. This would be considered one of Chen Kaige's masterpieces overall and as you read it through, uyyou'll see why.
Chen Kun, well I don't know him that well but he does play Weitai well, although I would have preferred Takeshi Kaneshiro for that part. The way he portrays a strict general is well done at every angle although there's always somebody better for the role. I thought of it that he delivers with much force, it wasn't a mistake to choose him for the role although better choices like Vic Zhou or Wallace Huo could have been made. As Weitai, he really has a force greater than Shang. He could actually portray a cold general who eventually warms up to Mulan. But it's a pity that his part is where he visits Mulan and only gets turned down because he has to marry the Rouran Princess- all thanks to his stupid father! Come on, he's not the firstborn son, so why him? Stupid. But he does express his part so well, I cried. But the ending was really so realistically done it's worth praising him for a challenging role. Jaycee Chan well he does his part in a good way as her friend, another person who keeps her secret. As usual, Jaycee Chan shows a less serious side of him. He was like the Mushu of the movie. Since it's at a realistic angle, so we can't have Mushu as a talking dragon. Instead, he is a real live person in the name of Fei Xiao Hu. Considering how annoying he is, I'm glad he died. Too bad Eddie Murphy wasn't voicing him so at least I'd get to imagine Mushu die.
What I liked most was how the antagonist Men Du (Shan Yu for you Disney fans) was portrayed by Hu Jun. Hu Jun shows much of a cold-blooded visage it's easy to hate his character. I mean, he's convinced us that his character was so cold-blooded and how he killed his own foster father to further his goals, he did it well. For the plot, Men Du outdoes Disney's Shan Yu in the film considering this is NOT for children. He is far more ruthless and ambitious but ironically met his end inside his own tent. He did have feelings for his (foster?) sister acted by Li Xu Yun, a character that didn't exist in any other versions of the folk tale of Hua Mulan. Actually it wasn't out of love but rather because she's the true heir of the Rouran tribe that he wanted her and he was apparently just some orphan picked to be the heir of the leader whom he killed.
Plotwise, it did also take some tribute to Disney but at a darker angle. For example, the three soldiers Yao, Ling and Chien Po all died instead of making it out of the war. Or the Prime Minister who was supposedly comedic in Disney was a traitor which was another well done plot twist. Not that he sided with the Rourans (Huns) but he wanted Mulan to die at the hands of the Rouran army to secure his position. However it was satisfying to see the Prime Minister executed for his betrayal... something that you'll never see in a Disney film. Also, all the blood in the film would make this film definitely not for children.
With how the battle was won, Mulan won by deception by disguising as a soldier and revealing herself to the Rouran princess (acted by Angel Liu). With that, Mulan was able to rescue the defeated General Wei Tai (who was bested by the best Rourans) in a subtle tactic. Of course, the film leaves with a hanging ending of whether or not Wei Tai will follow his heart so I believe a sequel would be necessary to answer that question. But for me, I am believing that she and Wei Tai will end up together in a darker version of the second Mulan movie.
Overall, it was a great film that remained realistic. My rating? 8.5/10.