Disney's Mulan 1998: Does it hold up in 2020?

Let’s get down to business, to defeat the Huns. Did they send my daughters, when I asked for sons? If you can name those lyrics you know it came from the Disney 1998 classic, Mulan. The Disney animated movie follows Mulan in her quest to bring honor to her family and prove to the world the greatness she is capable of. The film stars Ming-Na Wen as Mulan, BD Wong as Shang, Eddie Murphy as Mushu and other notable actors such as Miguel Ferrer and George Takei. YouTubers PlayCONtent, The Fangirl and Chris Stuckmann share their retrospective reviews on this beloved Disney classic.

For a film that tackled warfare in a Disney movie and that had a message that was important, Mulan succeeded for me.

At the tender age of 10 years old when the film first released, Mulan was an enjoyable experience for YouTuber Chris Stuckmann. After rewatching it as an adult, the film still holds up today. Stuckmann points out that Mulan was the first of its kind to be a different type of Disney film where they dabbled into dark and more serious subjects of warfare and real-life tragedies.

He notes Mulan was the first Disney “princess” to “fight” in battles and showcase a different type of strength not usually given to a stereotypical princess character. YouTuber PlayCONtent also feels the film did a great job in creating Mulan as a strong sympathetic lead in her journey of self-discovery.

The film masterfully succeeds at encouraging viewer approval for Mulan, she’s shown to be determined, formidable and resourceful throughout, though also flawed and unfortunate.

Both YouTubers gave credit to the film score created by Jerry Goldsmith in which they claim is still amazing and to the songs which are fun, well performed, purposeful and still hold up today.

However, not every great film is without flaws. One issue PlayCONtent has with the film is the villain Shan Yu, played by Miguel Ferrer. He believes the character to be quite generic and uninteresting. The character is given no background context and is just evil for the sake of being evil:

The one obvious negative is that the villain Shan Yu, leader of the Huns … is extremely generic, being given no characterization beyond being inherently evil.

Another aspect Stuckmann feels undermines the powerful message of the film is the fact that some of the more serious scenes are undercut by more comical lighthearted “Disney-type” moments. The YouTuber uses the first part of the movie as an example when it starts off really dark, Mulan cuts off her hair and runs off into the night stealing her father’s armor and sword and the scene is then followed by a funny looking dragon chatting with a headless ghost character:

There’s some really really dark stuff in the film, but to have these jokey scenes and her cute little animal pals, sometimes takes away from what could have been a much more serious movie.

When it comes to the relationship between Mulan and Shang, YouTuber Fangirl claims they are one of the worst couples Disney has created. The YouTuber goes on to explain throughout the film, there were very little signs of actual romantic interest from Mulan to Shang, yet the entire Disney universe and fandom continue to label them and a prince and princess couple.

None of it was romantic for Mulan and once she was outed as a woman, her interactions with Shang were more like I can’t believe my gender is what dictates to you whether or not I’m a competent soldier.

Fangirl really feels this coupling in the film really undermines the message of inner female strength and confidence that Mulan’s character embodies. She also mentions that some of Shang’s actions would definitely not be acceptable in 2020.

Suddenly Shang shows up at Mulan’s house to start a courtship…FYI do not do that, I don’t care how cute you think you are, showing up at somebody’s house unexpected is just jarring. Maybe that was ok back in the 1990s but it's 2020 now and there are serial killers out there.

In a somewhat similar argument, PlayCONtent feels the romantic subplot of the movie took a backseat to the bigger storylines and is definitely a new take on the traditional Disney “princess” theme.

Yet another admirable feature of Mulan is the fact that the romantic subplot is refreshingly minimized … Mulan and Captain Shang never officially enter a relationship with the idea only being implied once the primary conflict has been resolved.

Despite a few downfalls of film, YouTuber PlayCONtent puts Mulan in his top 10 favorite films of all time. Also enjoying the film just as much as he did in his youth, YouTuber Chris Stuckmann reflects on a scene in the movie that produced one of the most powerful Disney moments he’s ever seen describing it as one of those heart stopping moments:

Everyone’s singing. It’s like this montage trek sequence where they’re just marching across the mountain, it's really upbeat and really fun and then everyone just stops because they come across a ravaged village with tons of dead bodies…I completely forgot about that moment rewatching the film and it was really powerful.

Mulan, which was released during Disney’s renaissance era of movies, for the most part, is still a beloved film by many. In true Disney fashion, the new Mulan live action film is set to release through streaming on Disney+ on September 4.

YouTubers PlayCONtent, Fangirl and Chris Stuckmann regularly review movies on their channels weekly.