Movie review: Mulan
As the first Hollywood blockbuster featuring an all-Chinese cast and the most expensive movie ever made by a female director, spending some US$200 million ($273 million), it is a pity Mulan's trailblazing thunder has been stolen by Covid-19.
Despite opening in Singapore today, it will not get the wide international release it deserves, as the pandemic keeps cinemas shuttered and audiences away in major territories.
And even though it premieres on Disney+ in the US, watching it on a small screen just doesn't cut it.
Because Mulan rightfully takes its place as the best and most meaningful live-action adaptation of a Disney princess animation to date, reducing the likes of Maleficent, Cinderella, Beauty And The Beast and Aladdin to shallow confections.
The female empowerment angle is unleashed in all its glory, thanks to the twin forces behind this action war epic - a spirited, soulful performance by Liu Yifei and the sensitive direction of Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country, The Zookeeper's Wife).
Liu carries the film fearlessly - whether it's the quieter emotional moments or being badass on the battlefield.
The moment she decides to shed her armour and reveal her true identity to her comrades is not just moving but feels momentous, a "coming out" that can be interpreted in so many ways by a modern audience.
Once she connects with and commits to her authentic self, her "chi" knows no bounds.
This 21st-century Mulan improves vastly on the 1998 version. It is a realistic, serious drama, sans talking animals and singing soldiers.
A new character - another strong woman forging her own way in the patriarchy - is introduced, adding a deeper dimension to Mulan's journey.
Gong Li's exiled shape-shifting witch aiding the villain Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) is expanded from the antagonist's pet falcon in the original, and one wishes she had more scenes.
Don't expect any heart-fluttering romance either, because Mulan is simply not that kind of Disney princess.
In fact, her "love story" is that with her father (Tzi Ma), and the way the film portrays their bond will make you choke up.
You may also get major feels when a cameo from the original shows up, against the instrumental score of the beloved theme song Reflection.
Mulan is an inspirational family film with plenty of teachable moments and takeaways for children and parents alike.
There are future woman warriors, leaders and heroines among us, so nurture and never underestimate that young girl.
STARRING: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Gong Li, Jason Scott Lee, Jet Li, Tzi Ma
DIRECTOR: Niki Caro
THE SKINNY: When the Emperor of China (Jet Li) issues a decree that one man from each family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan (Liu) secretly enlists to take the place of her ailing father (Tzi). Masquerading as a man, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner strength and embrace her true potential.