Starring: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, Jet Li, Li Gong, Doua Moua, Tzi Ma, Ron Yuan, Jimmy Wong, Chen Tang
OUR RATING: ★★½
Live-action remake of the 1998 Disney animation directed by Niki Caro. The story follows the spirited daughter of an honored warrior, Hua Mulan (Yifei Liu), who is determined and quick on her feet. When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army, Mulan steps in to take the place of her ailing father as Hua Jun. She is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. The journey transforms her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation, and a proud father.
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[first lines] Zhou: There have been many tales of the great warrior, Mulan. But, ancestors, this one is mine. Here she is. A young shoot, all green, unaware of the blade. If you had such a daughter, her chi, the boundless energy of life itself, speaking through her every motion, could you tell her that only a son could wield chi? That a daughter would risk shame, dishonor, exile? Ancestors, I could not.
Zhou: Mulan is young. She is still learning how to control herself. Li: You make excuses for her. You forget, Mulan is a daughter, not a son. A daughter brings honor through marriage. Zhou: Any man would be fortunate to marry either of our daughters. Including Mulan. Li: I ask you, what man will want to marry a girl who flits around rooftops, chasing chickens? Xiu gives me no trouble. The matchmaker will find a good husband for her. It is Mulan I worry about. They’ll call her a witch. It’s time you talked to her.
Zhou: Do you know why the phoenix sits at the entrance of our shrine? She is the emissary for our ancestors. Young Mulan: But I broke her. Zhou: Some say the phoenix is consumed by flame and emerges again. I think she can survive a broken wing.
Zhou: Your chi is strong, Mulan. But chi is for warriors, not daughters. Soon, you’ll be a young woman, and it is time for you to hide your gift away. To silence its voice. I say this to protect you. That is my job. Your job is to bring honor to the family. Do you think you can do that?
[after the attack on the garrisons along the Silk Road] Emperor: Who is responsible? Chancellor: Rourans, Your Majesty. Their leader calls himself Böri Khan. Emperor: I killed Böri Khan. Chancellor: It is his son. He has united the tribes and resurrected the Rouran army.
Young Soldier: Böri Khan fights alongside a woman. Her chi is beyond imagining. Chancellor: There is no place for witches in this kingdom. It is forbidden to use the power of chi in destructive ways. Young Soldier: And yet, it is her skill that leads the Rouran army to victory. She has trained an elite force of shadow warriors to assist Böri Khan. Emperor: We’re not afraid of dark magic. We’ll destroy this Rouran army and their witch.
Emperor: Here’s my decree. We’ll build a mighty army. Every family will supply one man. We’ll protect our beloved people, and crush these murderers. Deploy the Imperial Army. The dynasty will not be threatened.
Böri Khan: We will crush every garrison until the Imperial Army is on its knees. And then, the Imperial City will be laid bare. The emperor will be mine to kill. You have proved useful, witch. [Xianniang grabs his throat] Xianniang: Not witch! Warrior.
Xianniang: I could tear you to pieces before you blink. Böri Khan: But you won’t. Remember what you want, a place where your powers will not be vilified. A place where you are accepted for who you are. You won’t get what you want without me.
Böri Khan: When I found you on a desert steppe wandering alone, you were exiled. A scorned dog. When I sit on the throne, that dog will have a home. Xianniang: We will finish what we started. Böri Khan: And you will see to it that nothing and no one stands in my way.
Li: We have excellent news. The matchmaker has found you an auspicious match. Zhou: Yes, Mulan, it is decided. Come and sit down. It is what is best for our family. [Mulan sits, looking sad but determined] Mulan: Yes. It is best. I will bring honor to us all.
[after Mulan has been dressed and made up to meet the matchmaker] Mulan: I’m starving. Li: I already told you, you cannot eat. It will ruin your makeup! Mulan: The fiercest winter storm could not destroy this makeup. Xiu, look at my face. What am I feeling? Xiu: I have no idea. Mulan: Exactly. This is my sad face. This is my curious face. And now I’m confused. [they both laugh]
[as Mulan is pouring the tea] Matchmaker: Quiet. Composed. Graceful. Elegant. Poised. Polite. These are the qualities we see in a good wife. These are the qualities we see in Mulan. When a wife serves her husband, she must be silent. She must be invisible. She must be… [as Mulan tries to hide a spider with the teapot] Matchmaker: Is something wrong? Mulan: No, Madam Matchmaker. Thank you.
Matchmaker: It’s ideal for the teapot to remain in the center of the table. Mulan: Yes, I understand. But I think the teapot should remain where it is. Matchmaker: Move the teapot, Girl. [Mulan moves the teapot, the spider gets out, freaks Xiu out, causing her to flip over the table]
[after Mulan’s disastrous meeting with the matchmaker] Matchmaker: Dishonor to the Hua family. They have failed to raise a good daughter!
Village Magistrate: Citizens, we are under attack from Northern Invaders. Our land is at war. By edict of His Imperial Majesty, the Son of Heaven, every family must contribute one man to fight. One man from every house.
Zhou: I am Hua Zhou. I served the Imperial Army in the last battle against the Northern Invaders. Village Magistrate: Have you no son old enough to fight? Zhou: I am blessed with two daughters. I will fight. [as Zhou goes to accept the scroll, he falls, Li stops Mulan from going to help him] Li: No. You will only humiliate him further.
Li: You’re a war hero. You’ve already made many great sacrifices. Zhou: Are you suggesting our family not comply with the Imperial edict? Mulan: But how can you fight… [Zhou slams the table] Zhou: I am the father. It is my place to bring honor to our family on the battlefield! You are the daughter! Learn your place.
[referring to Zhou, to Mulan and Xiu] Li: We must be strong. This time, he will not return.
[referring to the sword] Mulan: It’s beautiful. Zhou: Beautiful tool, for terrible work.
Zhou: The phoenix. You remember? She has followed me into battle before, and she will follow me now. And she will tell our ancestors I’ve been loyal, brave, and true. Mulan: I wish I was as brave as you. Zhou: There is no courage without fear.
Zhou: You must be courageous, Mulan. For your mother, and your sister. For me. It is my duty to fight. My honor to sacrifice for the emperor. Mulan: If I were your son, you wouldn’t have to. Zhou: I would change nothing about my life.
[reading the inscription on her father’s sword] Mulan: “Loyal, brave, and true.”
Zhou: My sword. My armor! It’s gone! Li: Who would do such a thing? Zhou: The conscription scroll. It was Mulan. Li: You must stop her. The Northern Invaders will kill her! Zhou: If I expose her lie, our own people will kill her.
Zhou: Ancestors, honored phoenix, ancestral guardian, I beseech you, watch over my daughter, Mulan. She has made a terrible mistake. I taught her too late to know her place. I indulged her. She is innocent of the world. Of men. And the evils of war. And now she’s in great danger. Please, honored phoenix, protect her.
Zhou: There were men gathering from all over the kingdom. An alien and savage tribe to her. To hide amongst them, she knew she must become one of them.
Cricket: I’m Cricket. My mother says I was born under an auspicious moon. That is why my mother says I’m a good luck charm.
[after Mulan falls to the ground] Honghui: [mockingly] Need a hand, little man? Mulan: Insult me again, and you’ll taste the tip of my blade! Honghui: Lower your sword. Mulan: Or what? [as they raise their swords to fight they are stopped by Commander Tung]
Commander Tung: What is your name? Mulan: Hua Jun, Commander. Commander Tung: Is this your family sword? Mulan: It belongs to my father, Hua Zhou.
[after Mulan enters the soldiers tent] Sergeant Qiang: I told you to line up for showers. Mulan: Showers? Sergeant Qiang: Showers. You lot stink! And I need a volunteer for night guard duty. Mulan: Me! I mean, I volunteer, sir.
Sergeant Qiang: Stealing. Penalty, death. Desertion. Penalty, death. Bring women into camp, or consorting with women in any way. Penalty, death. Dishonesty. Penalty, expulsion, disgrace. Disgrace for you, disgrace for your family, disgrace for your village, disgrace for your country. We’re going to make men out of every single one of you.
[referring to the drawing] Ling: We were matched twenty-eight days ago. Her name is Li Li. Her skin is white as milk. Her fingers like the tender white roots of a green onion. Cricket: Ling is a romantic! Ling: Her eyes are like morning dewdrops.
Yao: I like my women buxom. With strong, wide hips. Cricket: I like kissing women with cherry red lips. Po: I don’t care what she looks like. Mulan: I agree. Po: I care what she cooks like.
Honghui: Tell us, Hua Jun. What’s your ideal woman? Mulan: My ideal woman is courageous. Po: A courageous woman? Mulan: Yes. And she has a sense of humor. She’s also smart. Po: Smart? Cricket: Well, what does she look like? Mulan: That’s not the point. Yao: Courageous, funny, smart. Hua Jun’s not describing a woman, he’s describing me. Honghui: That’s not you, Yao. That’s definitely not you. Not you. [they all laugh]
Honghui: Are you matched? Can I ask? Mulan: No. I mean, yes. I was. Almost. Didn’t work out. Honghui: Lucky you. I mean, how do you even begin to know how to talk to a woman, let alone be married to one? Mulan: Just talk to her like you are talking to me now. Honghui: Yeah, I wish it was that easy. What if she doesn’t like me? Mulan: She will. I mean, I think she will, you know? You never know with women.
Honghui: [to Mulan] You should really consider skipping guard duty and taking a shower. You stink, my friend.
[to herself after she shows her chi during a spear duel with Honghui] Mulan: You idiot. Now everyone sees it. You must hide your chi!
[after congratulating Mulan on her spear duel with Honghui] Yao: You reek, soldier. Cricket: Have you even showered once yet? Po: You smell bad.
[as Mulan is bathing by herself in the lake at night] Honghui: Hua Jun. I’m glad I found you. I see you’re finally getting clean. The Fifth Battalion thanks you. Mulan: I came here to be alone.
[Honghui joins her in the lake] Honghui: What was that today? It was incredible. Mulan: I don’t want to talk about it. Honghui: Why not? I can’t believe all this time you’ve been keeping your skill a secret. What else have you been hiding? Mulan: Nothing. Leave me alone.
Honghui: Hua Jun, we started off on the wrong foot. Can we be friends? Mulan: I’m not your friend. Honghui: Very well. But you are my equal. We fight together against the same enemy. I will do all I can to protect the others. You can turn your back on me, but when the time comes, do not turn your back on them.
[to his men referring to Xianniang, under her guise as a hawk] Böri Khan: Make no mistake, the witch serves me and therefore, all of us. She knows who her master is.
Böri Khan: [to his men] Then, I will give you revenge for the land we lost to the empire. For the shame of the last war. For my father, who the emperor killed. If gold is not enough, I will give you blood. Sharpen your swords. Our time has come.
Xianniang: Now I know. I serve you. I am the slave. Böri Khan: And you would do well to remember it. Over there, witch. The next garrison. Destroy it.
Commander Tung: Hua Jun. It seems you have been hiding something. Mulan: Commander… Commander Tung: I sensed it the moment I met you. But now I’m sure. You see, I have a secret as well. I know your father. He was a great soldier. In you, Hua Jun, I see the shadow of his sword. Perhaps this shadow falls heavy on your shoulders. You can’t allow your father’s legacy to hold you back. You need to cultivate your gift.
Commander Tung: Your chi is powerful, Hua Jun. Why do you hide it? Mulan: I don’t know.
Commander Tung: The chi pervades the universe and all living things. We are all born with it. But only the most true will connect deeply to his chi and become a great warrior. Tranquil as a forest, but on fire within.
Sergeant Qiang: [to the soldiers] The Rouran enemy is vast. They are ruthless and unpredictable. Yet physical force need not be met with equal force. The warrior yields to force and redirects it. Disadvantage can be turned into an advantage. Four ounces can move a thousand pounds.
Sergeant Qiang: Up until now, you’ve been boys playing soldiers. Today, you become men. You will now take the oath of the warrior, pledging fidelity to the three pillars of virtue. The enemy possesses none of these, and therefore can be defeated. Remember this when you meet him on the battlefield. Draw sword! [the soldiers draw their swords] Commander Tung: Loyal. Soldiers: Loyal! Commander Tung: Brave. Soldiers: Brave! Commander Tung: True. Soldiers: True!
Mulan: Commander Tung, there’s something that weighs heavily on my heart. I need to confess it to you. It has to do with the three virtues. Commander Tung: There’s no shame in being fearful before battle. In fact, it’s a testament to your honesty that you confess such doubt. Mulan: Yes, Commander. But the other virtues… Commander Tung: Hua Jun, you’re a good man. Perhaps one day you could accompany me to my village, where I will introduce you to my daughter. And our village matchmaker, of course. Mulan: Yes, Commander. That’s my great honor. Commander Tung: I look forward to seeing your father’s face when you give him this news.
Commander Tung: He who moves first controls the enemy. We leave at first light.
Yao: Anything you want me to tell your mothers when you die? Cricket: That’s not funny. Yao: What’s the matter? Scared? Cricket: No. Ling: Who knows who will live past tomorrow? We may never see each other again.
Mulan: My father once said, “There is no courage without fear.” Yao: So? Mulan: So this is natural. Po: Well, it doesn’t feel natural.
Mulan: Listen to me, all of you. We will live. I guarantee it. Because I will protect you. We’ll protect each other. We’ll fight for each other. [Honghui notices Mulan’s hand shaking] Mulan: Except for you, Yao. I might take the opportunity to kill you myself. [they all laugh]
[after the soldiers battle the Rourans and Mulan is found by Xianniang] Mulan: You’re a witch. Xianniang: Am I? And who are you? Mulan: I’m Hua Jun. Soldier in the emperor’s Imperial Army. Xianniang: Liar. Your deceit weakens you. It poisons your chi. [they fight and Mulan loses her sword]
[after she gets her sword back] Xianniang: I ask again. Who are you? Mulan: I’m Hua Jun. Soldier in the emperor’s Imperial Army! Xianniang: Then you will die pretending to be something you’re not. [she then throws a small dagger at Mulan]
Zhou: And Hua Jun did die. For a lie can only live so long. But Mulan. Mulan lived. [Mulan becomes conscious, and finds her chest shield protected from small dagger]
[after Mulan makes the Rouran soldiers cause an avalanche in order to help her comrades] Mulan: I’m Hua Mulan. Forgive me. Cricket: He’s a girl? Commander Tung: You are an imposter. You’ve betrayed the regiment. You’ve brought disgrace to the Hua family. Mulan: Commander… Commander Tung: Your deceit is my shame.
Sergeant Qiang: Commander, what is the punishment assigned to this imposter? Commander Tung: Expulsion. Mulan: I would rather be executed. Sergeant Qiang: From this moment forward, you are expelled from the emperor’s Imperial Army. Commander Tung: If you show your face again, your wish to be executed will be granted.
Xianniang: [to Mulan] You can never go home. Your disgrace is worse than death.
Xianniang: I understand. I was a girl like you when people turned on me. You don’t think I longed for a noble path? I’ve lived a life of exile. No country, no village, no family. We are the same. Mulan: We’re not. Xianniang: We are. The more power I showed, the more I was crushed. Just like you.
Xianniang: You saved them today, and still they turned on you. You are just at the beginning of your power. Merge your path with mine. We will be stronger together. Mulan: You follow a coward. A leader who runs from battle. Xianniang: Böri Khan did not run from battle. That coward will take the Imperial City, and your emperor will fall. Mulan: That can’t happen. Xianniang: But it happens even now. Join me. We will take our place together. Mulan: I know my place. And it is my duty to fight for the kingdom and protect the emperor.
Mulan: Commander Tung, we must ride to the emperor. His life is in danger. Commander Tung: The emperor’s life has never been safer. Mulan: That’s what Böri Khan wants you to believe. Please, you have to listen to me. Commander Tung: Sergeant, hand me my sword. Mulan: Kill me if you must. But first, listen.
Mulan: Böri Khan is already far ahead. The Imperial Army can’t stop him now. But perhaps a small, well trained force could. When employed correctly, four ounces can move a thousand pounds. Commander Tung: Only a foolish man listens to someone whose very existence is a lie.
Honghui: You would believe Hua Jun. Why do you not believe Hua Mulan? She risked everything by revealing her true identity. She’s braver than any man here. And she’s the best warrior amongst us. Cricket: I believe Hua Mulan. [the other soldiers all repeat the same]
Commander Tung: Hua Mulan, your actions have brought disgrace and dishonor to this regiment, to this kingdom, and to your own family. But your loyalty and bravery are without question. You will lead us as we ride to the Imperial City.
[referring to Böri Khan] Chancellor: He offers a duel. Emperor: Prepare my guards. We ride to the site, immediately. Chancellor: Your Majesty, it is far too dangerous. Emperor: Silence! My people have suffered enough. Now I must act. I will kill this Böri Khan like I killed his father. With my own hands.
Böri Khan: Surely you didn’t expect a fair fight? Emperor: How did you convince my chancellor to betray me? Böri Khan: That was not your chancellor.
[as Böri Khan’s men are heading for them] Honghui: You need to find the emperor. We’ll hold them back. Mulan: Till next we meet, Honghui.
Mulan: Your Majesty, I’m Hua Mulan from the Fifth Battalion. I’ve come to protect you! Xianniang: Impossible. A woman leading a man’s army.
Mulan: You were right. We are the same. Xianniang: With one difference. They accept you, but they will never accept me.
Mulan: You told me my journey was impossible. Yet here I stand. Proof that there is a place for people like us. Xianniang: No. It’s too late for me. Mulan: You can still take the noble path. It’s not too late. Please. I need your help. Where’s the emperor?
Böri Khan: [to the Emperor] They tell me this palace is being built in honor of your father. And in honor of my father, this is where you will die. Or should I say burn? Who will come to save you, Son of Heaven? Where are the sons of the empire? I will tell you. Fallen to our swords. Pierced by our arrows. Who will save you?
Xianniang: The attack has met a fierce resistance. Böri Khan: From who? Xianniang: A young woman, from a small village. Böri Khan: A girl? Xianniang: A woman. A warrior. A woman leads the army. And she’s no scorned dog. Böri Khan: You led her here. [Khan fires an arrow at Mulan but Xianniang flies in and takes the arrow]
[as she is dying in Mulan’s arms] Xianniang: Take your place, Mulan.
Böri Khan: [to Mulan] The girl who has come to save the dynasty.
[after her sword is destroyed during her battle with Böri Khan] Emperor: Rise up. You are a mighty warrior. Rise up like a phoenix. Fight for the kingdom and its people.
[after she’s saved the emperor and killed Böri Khan] Emperor: Stand up, soldier. Tell me your name.
Emperor: Hua Mulan, the people owe you a debt of thanks. I owe you my life. In gratitude for your service and dedication, I invite you to take your place, with our greatest decorated warriors, as an officer in the Emperor’s Guard. Mulan: Your Majesty, I’m deeply honored by this immeasurable invitation. But with humble apologies, I cannot accept it.
Mulan: I left home under cover of darkness, and betrayed my family’s trust. I made choices I knew would risk their dishonor. Since then, I have pledged an oath, to be loyal, brave, and true. In order to fulfill this oath, I must return home and make amends to my family. Emperor: Very well, Hua Mulan. Devotion to family is an essential virtue.
Honghui: You can’t leave. Mulan: The emperor gives his permission, but you do not? Honghui: We’ve not yet said goodbye. Mulan: Goodbye, Honghui. [Honghui offers his hand] Honghui: You still won’t take my hand? [she touches his hand and then turns to leave] Honghui: I will see you again, Hua Mulan.
[after Mulan returns home] Xiu: There is so much I have to ask you. Mulan: Tell me about you first. Xiu: I am matched! Mulan: What’s he like? Xiu: He’s handsome. A little shy, but he’s not afraid of spiders.
Mulan: Forgive me, Father. I stole your horse. I stole your sword. I stole your armor. And the sword, I lost it. The sword is gone. Now I understand how much that sword means to you. Zhou: It is my daughter that means everything to me. And it is I should apologize. My foolish pride drove you away. One warrior knows another. You were always there, yet I see you for the first time. [he embraces Mulan]
Zhou: I am honored to receive you and the Emperor’s Guard. But if you are here to discipline Mulan, you have to get past me. Commander Tung: I do not believe that will be necessary. Sergeant Qiang: Under order of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor, we present this gift to Hua Mulan. She has saved the dynasty. The entire kingdom is in her debt. [she’s presented with a new sword]
Commander Tung: She has brought honor to her ancestors, to her family, to her village, and to her country. Sergeant Qiang: As befits a great warrior, the sword is marked with the pillars of virtue. Zhou: Loyal, brave, true. [referring to the new inscription on the sword] Zhou: And what is this fourth virtue I see? Commander Tung: Read it aloud, Mulan. Mulan: “Devotion to family.”
Zhou: [to Mulan] You have brought honor to us all. Sergeant Qiang: The emperor urges you to reconsider his invitation to join our greatest decorated warriors as an officer in the Emperor’s Guard. Commander Tung: He awaits your decision.
[last lines] Zhou: The green shoot has grown up to the sky, and her ancestors celebrate her in the vault of the heavens. The girl became a soldier. The soldier became a leader. And the leader became a legend.
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