Wuxia movies, hm. I never knew I’d get into these. :P
I watched the 2009 live-action movie Hua Mulan last Monday and while there were quite a lot of things the film lacked, or I would much rather have seen (but perhaps only a TV series would have had time to explore, such as Mulan’s relationship with her “brothers” and, in the case of the movie, with Wentai), it was quite okay. It seemed to have touched upon too many things but didn’t get to fully explore any of them. It didn’t focus on martial arts but neither did it exploit the potential for character development, which really was a pity. You “know” the characters at a glance but not their motivations, save for Mulan’s filial piety. A more character-driven plot would have saved it.
So while it was good, I was not that impressed. It feels such a waste that what could have been a great movie with so much potential missed the mark because of weak direction and a mediocre script. I want a better adaptation of this because I loved the Disney Mulan movie (which I know is very Westernized and all, but what would you expect from a Disney film anyway? It doesn’t make it any less fun to watch, especially when I was a kid) and, like I’ve said, the story itself has so much possibilities when translated into film. They’re planning to make a new movie, featuring Zhang Ziyi (which I don’t get at all, only because this last one was released just last year), and I hope it doesn’t waste this opportunity and does a better job. :|
The only thing that I possibly like about it though are the actors. Okay, you’d end up suspending disbelief at Wei Zhao’s portrayal because she’s still too womanly for the role (the voice not even sufficiently deep enough) but she and Kun Chen had this whole hopeless, tragic tension in between them and there were moments that their acting had me gripped by the moment.
SPOILERS. Discussion on details about the film under the cut.
In this part of the movie, their movements and expressions were emanating with both despair and restraint, it was painful to watch.
At this point you know that Wentai WILL blame himself if Mulan had died in that battle. The look on his face…I didn’t cry, but it shot an arrow through my heart.
While I was hoping for a happy ending, it seemed impossible for them to find happiness together. I understand why the film ended that way and I don’t think these two characters would have done otherwise. In Philo class we’re discussing Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals and Mulan and Wentai are two perfect examples of people who stay true to duty even if their personal happiness had to be sacrificed. I would have been happy if both of them remained single and generals forever though, hahaha.
I believe I would rewatch this just to see more screen-time with these two actors. This was actually the reason why I went off and watched Painted Skin after, once I found out that they were both acting in it too (and funnily, it could have been the alternate what-if scenario, if the two of them were husband-and-wife, hahaha).
I enjoy watching period drama (British/English, Korean) and I might be getting into these Chinese/Hong Kong movies as well. :P