Mulan (2020) Analysis – A Phoenix Rising from Ashes


From the Ashes of Shattered Dreams Phoenix will Rise Again!

Disney stories are famous for having Protagonist – Antagonist Combo, where both often feel like two sides of the same coin, the only difference is in the choices they make. For every Beauty, there is a beast, for every Snow White, there is Black Queen, and the same pattern is followed in Mulan.

Mulan, based on the Disney animated films, is a live action film, directly released over the internet on Disney+, that is more relevant, important and alive.

Directed by Niki Caro, Mulan takes its audience on a ride to meet the young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man to become a warrior and save her kingdom. The film packs some really mind blowing special effects and thrilling action sequences, and still packs Disney signature A Story with a Message formula that is going to send you in your childhood.

Spoiler Free Analysis

Not going to spoil your experience by revealing much about the story but surely gonna hit some notes on the layers it portrays.

Mulan’s Message

Mulan (2020) Analysis - Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes
Disney’s MULAN..Mulan (Yifei Liu)..Photo: Film Frame..© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Disney’s characters are often driven by a pursuit to overcome their fears and their obsessions, be it Rapunzel taking the leap from the tower, or Cinderella going against her mother’s wish. Mulan takes the lead character, Liu Yifei (playing Mulan) on a journey necessary to overcome her fears.

There is no Courage without Fear.

Though to pursue her journey, Mulan takes the support of lies and deception which goes against the morals of human virtues. This flaw creates a rift in the character’s soul (often termed as Chi in the film).

Your deceit weakness you. It poisons your Chi.

Aid of lies and deceits in one’s struggle ruins the integrity of efforts. It is the support of these negative practices that dilutes the shades between the antagonist and protagonist and makes them alike, and more importantly weakens the hero.

You will die pretending to be something you are not.

In comic book and Disney films, Hero and the Villain are often alter ego of each other, the only difference is the choices they make. And when the Hero makes the choice that Villain never thought of, it is the moment where every person sitting on the row, shouts. This is the exact Cinematic Moment that exhilarate Cinephiles. Mulan sure does have, lots of these.

When finally, Mulan accepts her true identity, her shattered dreams become whole again. She radiates an aura of Self-Acceptance. She is born again.

Her Fake Identity died , for a lie that lived long, but Mulan did live because she is true.

This is the real theme of the film, “Even your soul doesn’t work if you are not true to your former self.” This particular moral really hit me hard and I suppose will deliver the same emotions to all it’s viewers.  

Mulan – A Misfit in a Male World

Mulan is about a girl who became a soldier. The soldier who became a leader and the leader who is destined to become a legend. To be termed as a legend, one has to go through a lot of hardships, to do something, no one ever thought of, and a girl joining the army in the medieval period, to click the right bait.

Nike Caro’s take on the tale carries the unmistakable spirit of the #MeToo movement: women standing up for themselves and each other and demanding that men hear and believe them.

Braver than any man in the King’s Army.

She is a misfit but she is courageous enough to follow her dreams. That is what makes her brighter than anyone out there. Mulan is a tale about pledging people to accept her, but it only comes true when she finally accepts herself. When Mulan finally reveals her long hair, it’s a declaration of independence, a happy moment indicating self-love.  This acceptance of her identity, elevates Mulan from a misfit to an extraordinary legend, and this choice is given to every misfit out there, only if they are courageous enough to pursue self acceptance.

The Phoenix and The Eagle

Mulan includes some really engrossing literary metaphors, most highlighted being the Phoenix, featured by the protagonist and the Eagle, attended by the Antagonist. These two birds, having different sets of characteristics, are portrayed very beautifully in both the characters. More importantly, the essence of a Phoenix and it’s arc from ashes to becoming a flame, have been integrated in the protagonist’s own journey of deceit and finally a road to self acceptance. The film also binds the same aspect for Antagonist but with a different metaphor, which is an eagle, who thinks highly of himself and dies in belief that people will never accept it, no matter how hard it tries. The clash of positive and negative perception towards sell acceptance is what Mulan tries to pursue.

Mulan has a truly impressive array of veteran actors that helps to keep the emotions grounded, including Tzi Ma, Donnie Yen, Jet Li and the goddess Gong Li. Mulan is, as the film quotes often, Loyal, Brave and True, that too on her own terms.

Mulan is available on Disney+ Hotstar.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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