When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Chinese Army to defend the country from Huns, Hua Mulan, 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. Disguised as a man by the name of Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her innermost strength and embrace her true potential.
“Mulan” has darkness and moments of tough violence, though it remains bloodless to keep a PG-13 rating. Caro wants harder edges this time around, but the heart of the story remains, with Mulan on a quest to find herself as she protects her homeland, recognizing and defending her value as a woman (Liu is an excellent fit for the part). It’s a point that’s sold with distinction, and while Mushu isn’t around, the concept of a guardian spirit remains, offered here in the form of a phoenix that represents the soldier’s evolutionary cause.
“Mulan” retains entertainment value and a different sort of impact as a live-action offering, giving fans a semi-fresh take on familiar business, while younger audiences are sure to respond to the character’s growing confidence and heroism. At the very least, this is Disney sticking a toe outside of their comfort zone, refusing a straight remake to rework the material to fit new expectations for screen courage.