Article by Regiena Siy
Edited by Aaron S. Medina
Most of us are already familiar with the story of Mulan, although it’s safe to assume that we were introduced to her through the animated Disney film rather than any of the Chinese-produced movies. Although there are some non-Disney retellings of Mulan, such as Jingle Ma’s Mulan: Rise of a Warrior, that have gained international popularity over the years, most of the Chinese versions end up falling through the cracks. The most recent example of which is Matchless Mulan, which coincided with the release of Disney’s live-action remake. Directed by Chen Cheng, Matchless Mulan is a film that focuses more on the grim realities of war. It doesn’t feature any of the song numbers, training montages, or animal companions that we have all grown to love, but one will easily become invested in the plot and the characters nonetheless.
The story starts the same as all the other remakes, with Mulan disguising herself as a man to take the place of her ailing father in the army. In this version, however, Mulan was not the underdog; she was the most proficient fighter in her unit. Her skills allowed her to rise through the ranks, and she was eventually recruited to rescue the Crowned Prince, who had been taken captive by the Rourans. The second act diverges significantly from the versions we’re familiar with, but we still get to see Mulan’s emotional journey as she transitions from joining the army out of filial piety to becoming a leader who inspires soldiers to lay down their lives for their country. Matchless Mulan also excels in developing the supporting characters, as most of them were endearing and interesting in their own right. The only downsides to this movie were the awkward special effects, cliché scenes, and an abrupt ending, but those are things that can easily be overlooked in favor of the story.
Hu Xue’er stars as the titular role, while Wu Jianfei, Wei Wei, Jarvis Wu, and Shang Tielong play supporting roles. Despite not having a blockbuster budget or a star-studded cast, Matchless Mulan delivered in terms of a realistic plot, engaging action sequences, and emotionally impactful performances. It might not be the best version of Mulan out there, but it’s definitely worth a watch.