A Visual Guide to What I Hate About Mulan’s Aesthetics

I’ll still watch the movie for the nostalgia and Liu Yifei/Gong Li, but I just don’t understand why some of the visual choices are so hideous in Disney’s Mulan.

You would think the biggest film company in the world with such a big budget would be able to build on years of development in the Chinese entertainment industry, yet it’s uglier than TV series made decades ago. How do they get a German costume designer, a New Zealand production designer and make-up artist, an Australian cinematographer, a British stunt coordinator, but not a single person who’s worked on a few Chinese movies or dramas in the past decade to be in the production crew?

Here’s a scene-by-scene comparison of one of the most expensive films ever by the biggest film company in the world versus Chinese TV series.

Just off the top of my head, there’s another great opening cavalry fight sequence from last year’s Ever Night here. And most of the examples here aren’t even from the height of wuxia dramas, not to mention from classic wuxia films. How low-effort is Disney to make a Chinese fight film without a good stunt coordinator and action director?

Finally, this is a minor detail, but if you’re going to use a calligraphy font for your title, please get a calligrapher instead of using what looks like a computer font. This is the least thing a film set in ancient China could do. That Hua Mulan and the carving on the sword are both hideous.

4 thoughts on “A Visual Guide to What I Hate About Mulan’s Aesthetics

  1. The movie trailer looks like a bizarre orientalist fantasy of ancient China. Completely different from how it’s depicted in Chinese media. Looking at the production crew I’m not surprised at all by this.

    TBH, I would consider it a blessing in disguise that there’s no big name Cdrama staff working on this production. That way when/if this movie flops, the reputation of Cdrama productions can stay intact. All the blame will get shifted onto Hollywood staff members instead lol..
    China already made a great Mulan movie back in 2009 so not really seeing what’s so special about this movie other than it being produced by Disney…

  2. “Chivalry fight” should be “cavalry fight”?

    There doesn’t seem to be an Asian in the senior level of the production team. I checked up on the screenwriters resumes a while back. The lead 2 wrote blockbuster films not known for great scripts. The other 2 focus on women’s issues and have little experience in film and TV. None of the 4 seemed to have studied much about this movie’s time period, historical background and customs.

    The movie’s costume and makeup are bad. C- dramas do often emphasize beauty – This is #1 from “Journey of the Flower” (?) producer’s drama production template: Draw the audience in with beautiful set, costume, cinematography (mostly green screens now), cast… Movie might be going for authenticity? Or at least the ladies makeup do look like those in Tang Dynasty art.

    The bland colors and lighting might be IMAX 3D related. I can’t wear 3D glasses so c-film “L.O.R.D.” was khaki-scale (like grayscale but in khaki).

    Based on this and the previously released preview, maybe a lack of vision and grandeur. Director Niki Caro probably is not suitable for large-scale action-adventure genre. The production team doesn’t seem to know what they really want this movie to be.

  3. Wasteful production from the look of it … but they will probably still make profit and reach 1b with the huge Chinese mkt

  4. The slideshow feature thing you have for the roof-top running gifs isn’t working… But I agree. The new trailer makes the movie look incredibly cartoonish. I hate the costumes most of all.

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