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The ‘Mulan’ Exit Survey

After the live-action remake hit Disney+, staffers discuss the improvements made, the Witch’s strange sexual energy, and the big question: whether the movie was worth splashing $30

Disney/Ringer illustration

Deciding not to wait for U.S. theaters to completely open again, Disney dropped the live-action remake of Mulan on its streaming service on Friday for the cost of $30. It’s a revolutionary move that could change the way movies are released altogether—even after the pandemic is over. But before we get to all that, we need to talk about what was actually released. After streaming Mulan from their home theaters this past weekend, Ringer staffers unleashed their thoughts on the movie.


1. What is your tweet-length review of Mulan?

Tunde St. Matthew-Daniel: A grown-up version of a Disney classic that’s much closer to the original source material. It’s nowhere close to having the replay value of its predecessor, but it’s properly cast, necessarily updated, and visually worthy of a proper theater experience. (Or my couch.)

Jason Gallagher: If you’re an adult who is overly precious about late ’90s animated movies, then either buckle up or stay home. If you are a child or the parent of a child who is looking for a “big kids” movie that’s not too crazy, you’ll have a good time.

Claire McNear: Very beautiful, plenty of fun, but also awfully serious. Also, Jet Li is old now?!

Kate Halliwell: This movie did not include the line “Let’s go kick some Hunny buns,” and as such I would like a refund.

2. What was the best moment of the movie?

Gallagher: Mulan can bicycle kick arrows now. Pretty sick.

McNear: I enjoyed the “You’re fired!”/”I quit!” exchange between Böri Khan and the Witch.

St. Matthew-Daniel: As someone who ranks the ’98 Mulan as second only to The Lion King, I loved seeing Ming-Na Wen appear toward the end of the movie. It’s both a great cameo and a perfectly-staged homage as the OG Mulan symbolically passes the torch to the new live-action heroine.

Halliwell: The 0.5 seconds when Mulan was cradling the Witch where I low-key really thought they were gonna kiss.

3. What was your least favorite part of the film?

St. Matthew-Daniel: It was announced early on that Niki Caro’s Mulan wouldn’t be a musical, and that made perfect sense given its PG-13 rating. And besides, the ’98 Mulan was only part musical—the singing stops after shit gets real. But in addition to musical numbers, the score of the first Mulan plays a crucial role in its most memorable scenes. The composer of the new movie, Harry Gregson-Williams, does a fine job and even drops subtle notes from the 1998 soundtrack, but overall, this version is void of epic musical cues during key scenes.

Halliwell: I did not enjoy what they did with the concept of “chi.” Mulan is already a great character, she doesn’t need magic powers.

McNear: I was so excited for human Cricket to cut loose, but he ... never really did anything?

Gallagher: I thought it was wild that none of the male soldiers could tell Mulan was a woman. It works in the cartoon but in real life, a woman who puts her hair up in a ponytail and that’s it ... still just kinda looks like a woman? No?


4. What’s the biggest improvement from the original movie? What’s the most glaring change?

Gallagher: I liked the fighting sequences, particularly on the horses. Also Harvey Fierstein wasn’t pretending to be Asian in this. Two pretty big Ws there.

Halliwell: I did enjoy the action, silly as some of it was, and I enjoyed the addition of the Witch. But every time the score kicked in, it reminded me how much I missed the music of the original movie.

McNear: I understand that they couldn’t possibly have put in all the songs without making it weird. But I still missed the songs!

St. Matthew-Daniel: Biggest improvement: Mulan revealing her gender of her own volition, whereas in the animated version she gets caught due to injury. Great move for a character who was already dealing with masking her true self way before she rode off to war.

The most glaring change was Jet Li’s Emperor looking very capable of dropping a few bad guys. The only thing the animated Emperor dropped was the occasional pearl of wisdom about grains of rice or howling winds.

5. What scene in this movie would have benefitted the most from including Mushu?

McNear: Any of the later action sequences that didn’t really have dialogue. It doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom!

St. Matthew-Daniel: Honestly, none. Mulan is far from perfect and has a few forced moments (e.g. the shower scene), but not once did I feel the need for Mushu.

Halliwell: Mushu would never have let our girl go without a shower for so long.

Gallagher: While we’re on the subject, most of the people upset about no Mushu are the same folks who thought it was offensive that Disney tried to re-create the Genie in the live-action Aladdin. Or they’re out here hashtagging #NotMyTimon when the new Lion King came out. I don’t know what some of my adult peers want out of these live-action remakes. What I do know is the talking comic-relief dragon would’ve been awful in this movie.


6. Is Mulan a superhero?

St. Matthew-Daniel: 100 percent. As a Marvel connoisseur, I know a superhero origin movie when I see one and Mulan entirely fits that bill:

  • She takes on the family mantle due to an aging parent like in Thor
  • She fights a villain that’s a dark reflection of the hero like Black Panther and Iron Man
  • The ending leaves the door open for potential sequels like every single movie in MCU history

The only thing missing here is a post-credits scene. (No, there isn’t one.) (Yes, I checked.)

McNear: Magic-adjacent superpowers that single-handedly save the world (OK, empire) and leave mere mortals (OK, fellow mortals) gazing in awe? Check, check, and check.

Halliwell: Yes, and I do not like it. The joy of the original Mulan is that she’s just a regular girl—not the fastest or strongest, but smart, capable, and determined. Making her into a Jedi defeats the entire purpose of the character.

Gallagher:

Disney

7. Tag yourself: Tung, Honghui, the Witch, or Mulan’s dad.

Gallagher: I genuinely don’t know what to do here. What does “tag yourself” mean? If it means to identify yourself as one of these characters, I think it’s obvious, based on my response to this question, that I’m Mulan’s very old and depressing dad.

Halliwell: I’m the Witch—annoyed at how loyal Mulan is to these gross men who don’t even like her.

McNear: I want the Witch to teach me how to do her makeup.

St. Matthew-Daniel: Picking Mulan’s dad simply because I’d like to take this moment to give Tzi Ma a shout-out. My man went from being Jack Bauer’s nemesis in a couple of 24 seasons to being a Disney dad. You love to see it.

8. Rank the live-action Disney remakes.

Gallagher:

1. Aladdin
2. Christopher Robin
3. The Jungle Book
4. The Lion King
5. Lady and the Tramp (Yeah, I said it.)
6. Mulan
7. Beauty and the Beast
8. Alice in Wonderland
9. Dumbo

St. Matthew-Daniel:

1. The Jungle Book

[massive drop-off]

2. Aladdin
3. The Lion King*
4. Mulan
5. Beauty and the Beast

*The Lion King would be lower, but Disney got all that extra Beyoncé content and that definitely helps.

Halliwell: I’d put Mulan above the uninspired, creepy The Lion King remake, but below the fun, underrated Cinderella.

9. All things considered, was Mulan worth the $30 price point?

McNear: I’m not sure what my northern limit is for the luxury of not thinking about [gestures at everything] for two hours, but it’s definitely more than $30.

Halliwell: “Hunny buns” line aside, I’d say it was worth it. I’ll take pretty much any new entertainment these days, and appointment viewing is even more rare. My family got takeout and sat down together to watch this on Friday night, which was the closest thing to a night at the movies we’ve had since March. Maybe I’m just desperate, but my bar for entertainment is basically the floor these days.

Gallagher: It’s 2020, I’m a parent, and I’m running out of ideas. Mulan was worth $30.

(PS: The kid loved it.)

St. Matthew-Daniel: The math says yes. Before the pandemic, ticket prices plus concessions would easily run you close to $50 in Los Angeles. For $30, I got a little sense of normalcy in my home theater and I can rewatch the movie anytime with Disney+.

Bring on Black Widow.