The live-action Mulan had some extra special abilities. So is she basically a Jedi?
Warning! This story contains spoilers for Mulan (2020).
Since watching the new, live-action version of Disney’s Mulan, a question has been in my head all week: was Mulan really like that? If you’ve seen the live-action movie that just premiered on Disney+, you’ll get what I mean: she’s practically a Jedi.
In the beginning, the new adaptation shows Mulan as a little girl in her village. Not only is she incredibly fast and strong, but she’s also able to leap and bound great distances — for instance, she finds a way to get up two stories high on the roofs of her village home to chase a chicken. And she dismounts in an acrobatic, flippy way that even prequels-Yoda would be astounded in her.
Then, at one point during the mountain battle scene, Mulan used her “powers” to shake the ground below her and cause an avalanche, trapping her enemies. I was immediately taken aback, wondering if this happened in the original movie. It couldn’t have, right? As my memory served, I was correct. Re-watching the scene in the animated movie, Mulan used her wit to find a solution to take out the enemies: she used a rocket to aim it at a mountain top, thus creating an avalanche that way.
As her father explained, her gift is that she has a lot of “chi,” or energy. This is a very real thing in Chinese culture, but a completely new concept in the Mulan movies. Her father explained that her “chi is strong — but chi is for warriors, not daughters.” Hmm, have we heard of another chi-like energy in a certain franchise from Disney that’s all about this kind of thing? It very much sounds like the Force, and Disney is setting up Mulan to be the “chosen one” by the way of Luke Skywalker and Rey… also Skywalker.
In this, we don’t always see Mulan acting like a Force-sensitive person. She isn’t able to pull objects closer to her or perform Jedi mind tricks. But when it comes to her strength and stamina, she certainly is one with the Jedi. This, as comedian Ryan George jokes about in his Mulan Pitch Meeting video, is what basically demerits all the hard work Mulan went through in the animated movie to show her strength. We cheered Mulan on because she was just a normal young woman who wanted to honor her family and fight for her country. She did so by not only building her strength during training, but by using her wit as well.
In the training scenes in the live-action movie, we can now simply brush off her accomplishments because the innate power in her allows that to happen. Just like the Force, it isn’t necessarily a bad trait to have. But the way to effectively use superpowers in a movie (which is essentially what this is — a superpower) is to allow the hero time to play with that power. Let them learn from it. Let them be fallible and grow from their mistakes. Jedi Mulan doesn’t really learn from her powers in this film. It’s just used as a device to show why she’s better than everyone else.
Mulan’s underlying message is one of girl power — and an important message at that. But where the movie misses the mark is that it doesn’t allow Mulan the opportunity for character growth. She’s not quite a struggling Jedi, nor is she your everyday-girl like she was in the animated film.
It’s rumored that a live-action Mulan sequel is already in development. If this were to happen, I’d love to see more of Mulan grappling with what it means to have strong chi. How can she use it to benefit the ones she loves, and how can she avoid becoming dark like the Witch? On the other hand, with the Witch character being so underused, a movie showing her struggle to use her chi and joining “the Dark Side” would also make for an excellent, exciting spinoff.
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