Mulan Blu-ray Review
PictureMulan comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition video rendition, presented in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1. Well it's a bit of a mixed bag on the quality front, with detail levels generally quite good but sporadic softness and variable grain presenting itself as something of an issue occasionally. Some of the scenes look fine, exhibiting the kind of perfection that you would only expect from the format, whilst others take us back to that SD-DVD level where it's clear things could have been polished up. The colour scheme is quite dour and pale, the dusty desert setting represented authentically and only given an added edge with the blue tint that it is steeped in occasionally. Black levels are surprisingly good and, oddly enough, the darker scenes often showcase the video presentation at its absolute best. This is a bit of a mixed affair which, for the most part, does the medium-budget picture justice.
SoundThis new live-action interpretation of the Mulan legend comes presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio track that is solid if unexceptional. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, dominating the frontal array wherever appropriate, whether it be Mulan's attempts at rousing her troops or her soft ramblings to her friends and loved ones. The effects are a little tinny and fake for my liking - nothing brutal or authentic, despite the fact that some of the action can get quite violent. Still, the larger setpieces allow the surrounds, and the rears, some action, and we even get a hint of bass thrown into the mix. The score is quite suited to the material, largely dominated by a core theme which runs through most of the movie, and it also further fuels the surrounds somewhat. This is not exactly a masterclass in acoustics, but it is far from a bad track, and significantly better than the standard Dolby 5.1 track that is included here for comparison. The English subtitles are perfectly adequate, although appear to be just covering the bases.
ExtrasAll of the extras are pretty poor quality full-frame video but they do have optional English subtitles so at least they are not impossible to understand.
There's a 15 minute Making-Of Featurette which has interviews with the main cast (including Mulan herself) talking about the various characters and getting into the roles, the Director discussing how you shouldn't prepare too much for the role (I guess his is the opposite of the method acting mentality then) and the creators talking about the motivations in the story. I'm not sure what movie they were watching but it can't have been the same one. As we get all of these interviews we also have plenty of final film footage, as well as the merest hint of b-roll behind the scenes shots.
The Cast Interviews total a whopping 40 minutes, with the main cast members and the Director again talking about the characters and ideas behind the movie - only in more detail. These appear to be the longer versions of the segments culled for the Making-Of, although they are split into soundbites alternating between the various individuals.
The 30-minute Behind the Scenes Featurette appears to have been shot on location (using a strange, slightly spherical 4:3 framing) and has the various cast and crew members preparing for the movie, practising horseriding, costumes, choreographing fight scenes, fooling around on set and taking direction on what they should do. At least it is all behind the scenes footage (with no final film padding) but you'll probably get tired of the lack of direction pretty quickly as it all appears to have been thrown together in one big... montage.
There's nearly 25 minutes of Deleted Footage, further expanding on Mulan's childhood, her father's illness, her training within the Army and her relationship with her troops and her love interest. There's nothing wildly standout here (we even get some incomplete effects shots) although since it's almost all set within the first third of the movie, perhaps some of it could have been used to make the final film a little more fluid and a little less 'bitty'.
We also get the Theatrical Trailer and a 'Video' for the movie theme song which plays out over the end credits (and the theme of which can be heard throughout). There's nothing wrong with the theme, it works perfectly fine for the film, but I'm not sure the worth of the extra. As is, the song plays out almost in its entirety on the credits, and all we get here is the full version playing to a montage of clips from the movie. Redundant.
VerdictMulan is a bit of a missed opportunity to create a decent, authentic, live-action vision of China's most celebrated folklore heroine. Lacking direction, the decent cast simply bring nothing to the underdeveloped characters and, after an hour of set-up 'montage', you just don't care about them enough to care what happens to them in the end. And Vicki Zhao as Mulan? Bad choice. At least pick a girl who could pass for an effeminate boy, as it's a pretty big plot-hole when the story centres on her ability to convince a whole Army of men that she is not a woman. On Blu-ray we get decent but far from exceptional video and audio, as well as a nice - if poor quality - set of extra features that all sport English subs. Fans of the film should consider it a decent enough release, but those who are only familiar with the Disney interpretation might want to consider just a rental - or just watch Disney's own DTV sequel. Or wait for a decent live-action Mulan to be made.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.17
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