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Thanks to Disney basically everyone already knows the story of Mulan. It's actually amazing how much better that movie is still, when compared to this one. It does a superior job at basically every department, most notably with its storytelling.

This movie has absolutely got some of the worst pacing I have ever seen in any type of film. I just couldn't believe how bad it was! The pacing is totally off and there is absolutely no build up to anything! Not to its romance, not to its drama, not to any of characters, not to any of its action. Things just happen and often way too fast of each other. The one moment they are sitting in a tent, 20 seconds later they are training, 10 second later again their bathing and 15 seconds after that they are fighting an epic battle suddenly. And no, I'm not even making this up. How are you ever supposed to feel or care for anything that is happening in this movie, or for any of its characters. To be frank, I liked- and was interested far more in the movie its cartoonish villain.

But you just can't simply blame only the pacing for this movie its failure. Credit for that also needs to go to Jingle Ma & Wei Dong very lifeless and unimaginative directing and the script, written by Ting Zhang. Just when you think that the movie is starting to get interesting and somewhat remotely epic, it has to make room for some soap-opera developments. This becomes especially disturbing at its end, which is just such a big anti-climax and totally not something that you would want and expect from a movie that presents itself as an epic.

But it's already very distracting to begin with how flawed its main premise is. It of course builds on the fact that the main character is a woman, who tries to pass herself off as a man, in order to serve in the Chinese army, instead of her fragile, old father. Problem is that at no time Wei Zhao ever looks or even acts like a guy. She talks, walks and behaves like a woman, as if she isn't even doing an attempt to hide her gender. highly annoying, unlikely and distracting that no one in this movie seems to notice that 'he' is actually a she.

The story has some soap opera type of developments to it but also has the look of it. This movie looks like it was a got made for TV production, while the movie still tries to present itself like its a grand, expensive movie of epic proportions. Granted that some of the battles are pretty good looking but the movie really doesn't put enough focus on them.

Also annoying how patriotic this movie tried to be. It's a Chinse movie about a well known and inspirational Chinese figure, so it's understandable that they are proud of it and want to show this but the script is totally not suitable for a patriotic and nationalistic approach. It just isn't solid enough and has some really poor dialog, which lets the patriotic moments come across as weak, as well as misplaced.

No, this never looked like a solid movie to me but I was at least expecting some entertainment and a good story to follow, since the tale of Hua Mulan in itself is of course a really great and fascinating one. This movie however just never surpasses the level of a straight to DVD or made for TV drama-production, with cardboard characters and bad dialog, disappointing acting and soap like developments with its story.

4/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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