Sunday, September 20, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 29
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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND
13TH (2020)
ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2018)
BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC
BINGABLE: ABANDONED (2016)
BINGEABLE: Barry
BINGEABLE: CASA DE LAS FLORES
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG
BINGEABLE: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARIES
BINGEABLE: OUTLANDER (2014-present)
BINGEABLE: STRANGER THINGS 3
BINGEABLE: THE SINNER (SEASON 2)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: COOL RUNNINGS (1993)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: FISH TANK (2009)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: HOUSE
BLAST FROM THE PAST: OLDBOY
BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE PRESTIGE (2006)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: WILD AT HEART
BLOW THE MAN DOWN
DA 5 BLOODS
DICK TRACY (1990)
FIRST COW
GREYHOUND
GUILTY PLEASURES: CHEER (2020)
HAVE A GOOD TRIP: ADVENTURES IN PSYCHEDELICS
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
JOJO RABBIT
JUST MERCY
LYING AND STEALING
ONLY
PALM SPRINGS
PROJECT POWER
SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! AN AUDIO MISADVENTURE (2011)
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE LOVEBIRDS
THE OLD GUARD
THE POSTCARD KILLINGS
THE VAST OF NIGHT
TREAD
TV REVIEW: BOSCH
TV REVIEW: CATCH-22
TV REVIEW: COBRA KAI
TV REVIEW: DEFENDING JACOB
TV REVIEW: FEAR CITY
TV REVIEW: GENERATION KILL (2008)
TV REVIEW: HANNIBAL (2013-2015)
TV REVIEW: HOMECOMING
TV REVIEW: I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE
TV REVIEW: I MAY DESTROY YOU
TV REVIEW: I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
TV REVIEW: LENOX HILL
TV REVIEW: LITTLE AMERICA
TV REVIEW: LOVE ON THE SPECTRUM
TV REVIEW: MRS. AMERICA
TV REVIEW: NORMAL PEOPLE
TV REVIEW: PANDEMIC: HOW TO PREVENT AN OUTBREAK (2020)
TV REVIEW: PERRY MASON
TV REVIEW: RAMY
TV REVIEW: RUN
TV REVIEW: SPACE FORCE
TV REVIEW: TABOO
TV REVIEW: THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD
TV REVIEW: THE LAST KINGDOM
TV REVIEW: THE MIDNIGHT GOSPEL
TV REVIEW: THE MORNING SHOW
TV REVIEW: THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL
TV REVIEW: THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA
TV REVIEW: THE VOW
TV REVIEW: UNDONE
TV REVIEW: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
TV REVIEW: ZEROZEROZERO
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS
UNDERRATED: SHUTTER ISLAND
UNDERRATED: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL
[UN]WELL

Disney’s Mulan remake offers less heart, soul, and empowerment than the original

MULAN

PHOTO BY , COURTESY OF DISNEY

MULAN


Where is it playing?: Disney Plus

What's it rated?: PG-13

What's it worth?: $Stream it (Karen Garcia)

What's it worth?: $Stream it (Caleb Wiseblood)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider, McFarland, USA, The Zookeeper’s Wife) helms this live-action remake of Disney’s beloved 1998 animated film. To save her ailing father from being drafted into a war, a young woman, Hua Mulan, disguises herself as a man to fight in his place. (120 min.)

Editor’s note: Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood and New Times Staff Writer Karen Garcia took over Sun Screen while the Starkeys enjoyed the week off.

Caleb: Like its animated predecessor, Mulan begins with an executive order from an unnamed emperor of China (played here by Jet Li), who decrees that one male from every household in the nation must join the Imperial Army in its fight against northern invaders. But unlike the original film, where the opposing side is an army of Huns, this remake’s primary antagonist is Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee), who leads a battalion of Rouran warriors into China and vows to murder its emperor. #TheWrathOfKhan. Besides bloodlust, another attribute the original’s villain shares with Khan is a penchant for pet falcons. But Khan’s falcon is more than just a falcon, ’tis rather a shapeshifting sorceress of sorts, Xianniang (Gong Li), who can jump between her animal and human form at will (think Professor McGonagall except evil). I love how the filmmakers decided to expand upon the falcon character while simultaneously omitting Mushu, the original film’s primary comic relief (voiced by Eddie Murphy), in favor of a more “realistic” take on Mulan. I can picture how it all went down in the writer’s room: “Nobody’s gonna buy a talking dragon in live-action form. But remember how successful Birdman was? Maybe we can have our very own Birdwoman?”

Karen: Xianniang is an interesting addition to a beloved Disney classic, but I feel like she was thrown into the film to do Khan’s dirty work of invading villages. However Xianniang and Mulan (Yifei Liu) have something in common: They both have strength and power that is dismissed because they’re females in a patriarchal world. I appreciate the sentiment, but Xianniang’s side story is a bit of a stretch for me. Actually, the recent Disney live-action reboots of old films are all a stretch for me. At least most of them have the original songs in the film—I’m just bitter that I didn’t get to sing along to “Reflection.” I get it, this was more of a serious adaptation of the film, and on that note, the actors were also very serious, dare I say … flat. In the original when Mulan goes to a training camp for the Imperial Army, she meets a group of men with comical personalities who become her friends, something that was sorely lacking in this go around. Who is that girl I see on my television screen staring straight back at me? Well, it’s not the best reflection of the 1998 Mulan

Caleb: Ancestors, hear my plea/ Please bring my $30 back to me. Mulan isn’t worth the “Premier Access” price it’s currently offered at ($29.99 with a subscription to Disney Plus). But if you’ve already got Disney Plus, I recommend streaming Mulan a few months from now when the additional fee goes away. In the meantime, my advice is just stick to the original. I can relate to your bitterness, Karen, I also missed the songs, especially “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and “A Girl Worth Fighting For.” I really wish they would have tried integrating the musical numbers into the remake. Is a character bursting into song any less believable than Xianniang’s “animorph” powers? Even the warfare scenes felt more powerful and atmospheric in the animated film. Mulan’s training sequences feel watered down as well. The remake implies Mulan was gifted with qi (depicted in the film as a magical energy source rather than the traditional martial arts concept it’s named after), which is how she’s able to fight so well. In the original film, Mulan is an ordinary woman who trains hard to become a natural badass, no magic required. I think it’s clear which of the two versions is more empowering.

Karen: If you don’t want to take our word for it, The New York Times reported that Disney had high hopes that the $200 million film would culturally resonate with moviegoers in China, but instead it was met with complaints. The audience was reportedly troubled by the westernized character that “succumbed to Orientalist stereotypes.” On par with Caleb’s perspective, another issue was the fact that Mulan is turned into a hero because of her qi powers rather than finding the power of inner strength to be who she wants to be—how is that relatable? If you’re looking for a film that will empower your youngsters and teens, stick to the original. This just doesn’t cut it. That goes for you too, Disney, leave the classics alone. Stop being lazy, and come up with new characters and stories that can transcend generations. Personally, I’m just tired of reboots. (120 min.) 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood and New Times Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week’s Sun Screen. Send comments to gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.









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