Hua Mulan (2009): Retelling the Lady General’s story
Zhao Wei takes the lead role of the 2009 costume epic Hua Mulan (Other name: MULAN). Mulan, tomboyish and trained in martial arts against her father’s will, leaves in the night to save her sick father from taking part in the army against the nomadic Rourans.
Disguise as a guy, with her childhood friend Tiger (Jaycee Chan) as accomplice, Mulan (Vicki Zhao) trains in the camp and learns to fight. While supposedly bathing alone in a spring, she is discover by Wentai (Aloys Chen), another warrior-in-training. Admitting to stealing the jade bracelet to avoid being strip down for searching, Mulan is held for execution. Wentai, however, frees her in the middle of a surprise attack from the Rourans. She kills the enemy general and was duly reward a position in the army. Together with Wentai, she advances through the army ranks. She becomes a general at the same time developing mutual and forbidden romantic feelings with Wentai.
Through the course of 12 years, Mulan leads the Wei army in their battle against the Rourans. She earns reputation but kept an ambivalent attitude towards fighting, killing and war. In a misjudgment against the large battalion of Rouran, now head by the ambitious and power-hungry Mendu (Hu Jun). Who had kill his Danyu father and stole the throne, Mulan almost offers herself to the enemy to save her troop after suffering terrible losses, including the death of Tiger.
However, Wentai steps up and introduces himself as a son of the Emperor as gave himself in exchange of supplies, medications, and freedom of the Wei army.
Mulan, after recovering from a fatal wound, goes after the enemy and disguis as a Rouran soldier. In the enemy’s camp, she confronts the Rouran princess who dreams of bringing peace between the Rourans and the Wei nation. They succeed in assassinating Mendu and Mulan’s troop heads back home, with the general acknowledg for the success in the battle. Wentai is then bound to marry the Rouran princess to achieve peace between the warring nations.
Mulan, admitting to the Emperor that she’s a woman, was reward nonetheless. However, she did not accept the position offer to her and instead ask to return home to take care of his ailing father. Wentai visits her and asks her to elope. She refuses and lets Wentai go and marry the princess so “there would be no more Tigers in the future.”
The film is an action infuse with drama and Confucian values. However, this interpretation of the legend is closer to Chinese values with its epic scale and big-budgete production shown. That in expansive battle scenes, impressive armors and costumes. Critics have note that while Zhao Wei as Mulan is the films biggest asset. That with her effective portrayal of the heroine’s inner and outer struggles in the army. The central premise of disguising as a male and not being found out in the span of 12 years is hardly conceivable.
Rather than allowing Mulan to develop her personal feelings, Wentai feigns death to harden the lady general’s feelings and be able to lead the troop more effectively.
Furthermore, the idea of filial piety never waver in the film, which was not the case in the Disney film. Ma’s Mulan was never portray as individualistic. That except during the trouble period when she thought that Wentai die. The song that was sung in the film mirrors the sentiment of communality over individualism.
In the middle of the massacre of the Wei soldiers by the Rourans, the warriors stand up and await their death while singing. “A century of human life / is like a dream / Protect my homeland, / show off my nation’s pride.” Furthermore, her being a woman was not for a moment disdain upon, with the statement of the Emperor that. “It is the honor of our nation to have a woman like you. I have long since forgiven you.” And probably, the biggest difference with the 1998 animate film was Mulan and Wentai’s sacrifice for the greater good. Letting go of their personal feelings for the sake of peace between the nations. Mulan and Wentai have accept that they cannot be together. And that loyalty to the nation bears more weight than personal happiness.
While Mulan generally lacks effective cinematic techniques, the message gets through. The interpretation and discourse are different from how the Chinese actually view Mulan compare to how outsiders. Disney’s 1998 Mulan movie for example do. Because of the global reach of these films, Mulan has seem to be a representative of the Chinese femme fatale: View in the West as the heroine who assert her worth. That in a man’s world, and seen in the East as a role model of the culture’s inherent values.