Mulan (2009) @ 花木兰

Daily Girls
At a glance:

Disney days like these, it's hard to get a good adaptation that satisfies the senses and still educates the young. Good thing then that the oft-told legend of ancient woman warrior Fa Mu Lan is in many ways, a wonderful fairy tale. The subject matter (a girl who goes to war disguised as a man to keep her enlisted father safe at home) has produced some wonderful films; Shaw Brother's 1964 huangmei classic Lady General Hua Mulan and also the American animation treatment ten years ago, Mulan come to mind. For this Jingle Ma Hong Kong addition, we're very lucky to have the talented Vicki Zhao a.k.a. Zhao Wei (the Red Cliff movies) leadin the lineup in more ways than one. It was always goin to be a battle to tell a story as tough as Mu Lan's.
Russian singer Vitas has a token gweilo role.
He also provided the song Beneath the Glory for the score.
Bad news on the doorstep:
Took the easy way out by focusin on romantic aspects. Whole project seems like a rush job (note remarkably uneventful openin sequence) with uneven focus and excessive emo downtime (intrusive violin score). Mulan is epic only in costume and settin, but little else, especially if you're lookin for a memorable sword-and-sandal adventure. While Vicki (pic, R) may win over enough feminist sympathisers with this performance, the movie does her no justice by skippin past the powerful turns in the movie, investin in teary scenes when the audience have yet to be convincingly let in on the magnitude of her sacrifice, or war, or love for that matter. Her pairin with Chen Kun (pic, L, I think he was in Painted Skin) is flat because the romance between Mu Lan and fellow soldier Wen Tai is brief and underdeveloped. As for the rest of the cast, Jaycee Chan (Invisible Target) gets to play a blunderin footman in yet another likeable loser role, while Hu Jun (Everlasting Regret) is the one who ends up havin a meatier turn as the villainous general. The prominently announced part of CJ7 tomboy Xu Jiao as the young Mu Lan is only a brief, token show while the bizarre appearance of a Caucasian character (A Russian singer called Vitas) is also questionable.
Perennial wonderment:
If next year's Chow Yun Fatt biopic Confucius can return the great epics to Hong Kong cinema credentials. This one sure didn't do nothin for me.
Watch out for:
Vicki Zhao. The 33-year-old China-born actress knows how to put on a show. Blessed with big, bright eyes and a soft demeanour but ever-willin to do some bruisin ass-kickin in recent films, her rise to stardom is probably just as spectacular as her titular character if you go cross-century. However, her screen appeal is the singular drivin force behind this effort.
"You're not my father!"
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
This 2009 Mulan reupdate isn't an essential watch, though it does have a few Joan Of Arc moments. Best remembered as a good vehicle for Vicki Zhao's risin star. Watch out for her in the upcomin 14 Blades opposite Donnie Yen. Two stars from me for now.
Bonus material:
Here's a goldmine of 50 behind-the-scenes stills that I've got for you. Enjoy.

Chen Kun & Vicki Zhao on the set

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