Mulan: the Chinese folk tale that inspires Niki Caro’s film (which follows closely the animated film, but also deviates from it here and there) deals with themes (honor and duty, but most notably a woman’s role in life) which feel very attuned with our days. That relevance, however, doesn’t translate into an energetic film; this one feels bloated and dull. A large portion of the problem comes from Yifei Liu’s performance as the title character, at best indifferent and expressionless; she is physically convincing in the action scenes, but her emoting is poor. Tzi Ma is fine as her father, playing well the clash between the pride for a gifted daughter and the shame for her not fitting the roles society attributed to her. Li Gong makes an interesting antagonist. The camerawork of Mandy Walker captures the colorful production design (by Grant Major) and costume design (by Bina Daigeler), but some of her camera movements during action scenes don’t quite land. The action sequences clearly drink from wuxia but lack its fluidity and elegance.
Read also: Mulan (1998)