Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“Mulan” Received Well at the Box Office But Not Critically

This movie has been hyped. Hyped because of the theme songs (Stefanie Sun trumps all in terms of popularity in China), hyped because it was Mulan, one of the most famous heroines in Chinese culture, and hyped because it was Vicky Zhao Wei, who is just loved and unlike most Chinese celebs, not just within China’s boundaries.

And the sales reflected that. In six days the movie earned 50 million yuan its first six days, not the highest China’s seen, but a solid success and theChen Kun-Zhao Wei pairing was proclaimed a box office guarantee since their first on-screen pairing Painted Skin, also was a hit. But all those factors doesn’t mean good movie. Because while this movie has drummed up more overseas interest than other Chinese films this year, simply because of the name “Mulan” (thanks Disney!) this is not even close to being one of the better Chinese films of this year, or even of the holiday season. Expectations should have been low from the start since the director is Jingle Ma.

The general reviews have indicated that this film was “lacking”. At the rating is 6.4 which equates to “not really good but watchable”. If you want to read an English review Twitch has one, so does a A Nutshell Review. Consensus: acting’s pretty good – the directing is weird.

It’s was strange in the first place that A-list stars Chen Kun and Zhao Wei would choose to work with the director who butchered the other most famous cross-dressing feminist story in Chinese culture – Butterfly Lovers. That was panned critically AND was a box office bomb. It’s like Jingle Ma got rewarded for failure with a bigger cast, a bigger budget, and really good theme songs and singers, and an even more famous,at least internationally, Chinese classic to screw up.

It’s not to say Jingle Ma hasn’t had his share of good movies. He’s a rather famous Hong Kong director with a long career, and I really enjoyed one or two of his films like Fly Me to Polaris and Tokyo Raiders. But he’s no John Woo. He’s not consistent and his movies are a hit and miss, and frankly, more misses. He seems to make fun films better than serious ones, but serious was the direction he took Mulan, or at least tried to take it. There’s nothing in his resume that indicated he would make a good historical, culturally-significant epic and I just don’t understand why he was chosen for this film at all. Again, refer back to Butterfly Lovers.

So one should be perplexed at all the news and interest about this movie. It should've been assumed that this movie would be really average if not terrible a long time ago. It’s an wonderful story and likable enough cast. But…there’s just so many other, better Chinese movies to watch, and tons more films to look forward to.

In the meantime, it’s not an entire loss – promotions of the cast are always fun like Behind the Story interviews. In the first part below- the little girl sings the Henan Opera version of Mulan (cut for those who don’t want to watch the whole show).

source: cfensi


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