Mulan: What The Qi? A Review Of The Remake

I love the animated Mulan. 

Released in 1998, in a world of Disney movies where parents are often-times not present or not even alive, Mulan brought home the importance of family and filial piety finely balanced with the message of staying true to oneself. It was heartwarming, funny and empowering.

mulan: what the qi? a review of the remakePhoto via South China Morning Post

The long awaited live-action remake of Mulan premiered on 4th September 2020. Klook’s Movies kindly gave us the opportunity to catch the premier of the live-action remake of Mulan and with that, the opportunity for me to review the remake of my favourite Classic Disney movie.

Dear readers, I will now go into my review of the live-action remake of Mulan. Be warned.  

mulan: what the qi? a review of the remakePhoto via Reddit

Mulan the live-action remake is really just a mashup of Star Wars and Frozen in an Ancient Chinese setting. Mulan’s strength, previously drawn from her determination to bring her family honour, is now centred around Qi (aka Chi). 

In classical Chinese philosophy, Qi is an energy, a vital life force held by every living entity. In Mulan, Qi is like The Force in Star Wars but only for boys. However, Mulan, falling into the classic ‘Chosen One’ trope, holds an abundance of Qi. She is powerful and already skilled in the martial arts as a child. This leads her to cause havoc in her village in which she displays an unbelievable martial arts sequence and is eventually told to hide her Qi. Frozen, anyone?

This reframing of Mulan’s background strips the movie of any hope of character development. Accordingly, with the removal of iconic songs such as ‘Honour to Us All’ and ‘Reflection,’ we lose the grounding values of Mulan’s character and her motivations. 

mulan: what the qi? a review of the remakePhoto via bbc.co.uk

With the removal of ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ and ‘A Girl Worth Fighting For,’ we miss out on the bonding between the soldiers and we gloss over Mulan’s tenacity to prove herself. 

The live action heavily relies on the audiences’ prior knowledge of the animated film. Having lost the journey of Mulan’s character development and the cultivation of mutual friendship and respect between the soldiers, the second act of the movie felt like a series of large leaps. Going into battle, Mulan was padded with the thickest of all armours, plot armour. Her plot armour was so thick and padded that she took off all her actual armour during battle. 

mulan: what the qi? a review of the remakePhoto via Los Angeles Times

Mulan from beginning to end is fully formed and detached from all the other characters in the movie. The only change was that she decided to no longer hide her superhuman Qi abilities. We see familiar plot points from the animated film but bled dry of all its emotion and heart. 

In making her superhuman, Disney removed the very human elements of the animated film, that Mulan was just a woman who took risks despite the great odds working against her to save her father. 

And I left the cinema just craving to rewatch the Mulan of my childhood. 

By: Catalina Hubbard

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