Disney’s Mulan not worth $30 early-access price tag

Disney's Mulan was originally intended for a March release, but due to COVID-19 restrictions for theaters, it was pushed back to a release on Disney Plus, with a $30 Premier Access price tag. Photo courtesy of Disney.

By Carson Lewis | Assistant Digital Managing Editor

Streaming services have been growing for years, but social changes caused by the pandemic have exploded the medium’s popularity. Disney Plus, a new competitor in the streaming media environment, released Mulan, a live-action remake of the 1998 animated classic, last Friday.

The film, originally intended for release in March, was delayed until it was eventually released on Disney Plus for a $30 premium fee in addition to the subscription plan already required. Fans who wish to see the movie before it becomes available for regular subscribers on December 4, 2020 must pay the additional $30.

The movie itself stands as a much more refined story to the comedic animated version. Humor exists in the 2020 version, but it is very hit or miss — emphasis on the miss.

This may also be amplified in the beginning due to a misalignment of the spoken audio and the mouth movements of the actors. I don’t know if this was an error somewhere along the production line, but it distracts in some pivotal scenes. It fades near the middle and end, but was a very peculiar error in the beginning of the film, especially for film-industry powerhouse Disney.

The power of the 1998 original came from the dynamic nature of animation — allowing for characters to move fluidly and with exaggerated expression. Parts of this were incorporated into the new version, specifically with the quick shifts in camera framing during the fight scenes.

The viewer is pulled along the blade of swords and the swift path of arrows. Diverse shots during these moments make it easy for the audience to continually be surprised with the twists and turns the movie literally takes them through.

However, this effect seems to lessen in use as the movie progresses, making the later fight scenes lack some of the flair the beginning scenes had.

With shooting for the film taking place in China and New Zealand, it’s no wonder that the landscape shots for the film look incredible. The majority of my enjoyment from the film came from the admiration of the rising mountains and colorful plains.

The atmosphere created by an intelligent recreation of the world to live action shows the power that great locations can have to create a sense of reality for the audience.

Given its issues, the film is worth waiting for a regular Disney Plus release for the average Disney consumer. It offers a slightly different tale to the one viewers may be expecting if accustomed to the 1998 flick, with some characters changed or eliminated entirely.

Seeing the film translated to real life, especially with the wonderful landscape views, might be able to make up for the faults of the update, and it will be interesting to review the revenue created through Disney’s newest online push towards cornering the streaming market.

The film specializes in emphasis of the severity of honor and dishonor. It gives a glimpse into a world very different from that of 21st-century America, even though it is clear that the story was intended for a North American audience through its individualistic angle at some points.

All in all, the film has some bright parts, specifically in the gorgeous views of diverse and ethereal landscapes, but these cannot cover up the film’s problems, which present themselves more often than would be expected from a Disney production.