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Mulan reviews roundup: Is it worth the $30 price on Disney Plus?

Mulan reviews
(Image credit: Disney)

Mulan reviews are in, which will be helpful for anyone still deciding whether it's worth it to pay $30 for Disney Plus Premier Access to watch it. 

Mulan's release on Disney Plus is an interesting experiment. It's the biggest movie originally intended for theatrical release to drop exclusively on a streaming platform instead. Mulan was originally scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on March 27, 2020 and even held a world premiere in Los Angeles before the pandemic lockdown went into effect.

The release was delayed to August 21, but then Disney made the surprising decision to put the film on its streaming service — but at a cost. Mulan will only be available to Disney Plus subscribers who pay an additional $30 for Premier Access, on top of the $7 monthly fee.

This marks the first time any subscription streaming service has added a premium on demand tier for movies. ESPN+ does it with UFC fights, and Disney Plus clearly took a page from its corporate sibling's playbook. 

Mulan 2020 is the latest live-action remake of an animated Disney classic, following the model of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. 

The 1998 movie chronicled the adventure of a young Chinese woman, Hua Mulan. To fight off a horde of invaders, the emperor decrees that one man per household must join the army. To prevent her ailing father from being conscripted, Mulan disguises herself as a man. She learns to fight and ends up helping to save the entire country with her skills.

The live-action version follows the same story, with a few tweaks to the characters. For one, there's no equivalent to the dragon Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy in the animated film). For another, the new Mulan is not a musical, so characters don't burst into song.

Mulan reviews: What the critics are saying

Currently, Mulan has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 79%. The first reactions, after the March world premiere, were glowing. The full-length movie reviews are just as positive, particularly calling out the sumptuous cinematography, action scenes and the representation of Asians on screen.

Here's a round-up of Mulan reviews.

Entertainment Weekly: "Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider, The Zookeeper's Wife), at least, does her best to justify that sticker shock: Mulan is a classic hero(ine)'s tale, exhilarating in its elaborate set pieces and large-scale ambitions even when the smaller human story within it sometimes falls short."

New York Times: "It’s lightly funny and a little sad, filled with ravishing landscapes and juiced up with kinetic fights (if not enough of them). It has antiseptic violence, emotional uplift and the kind of protagonist that movie people like to call relatable ...."

CNN: "Like the song said, let's get down to business: Mulan is big, sumptuous entertainment. It's good, but not great, transforming the story associated with the 1998 animated musical into a song-free, live-action movie that's more adequate than transcendent -- a perfectly reasonable family-viewing investment that's worth seeing, but not necessarily a must-buy."

Hollywood Reporter: "From its opening scenes, which take place in a multi-story walled town filled with dozens of colorfully dressed extras in traditional garb, Mulan is never not a delight for the eyes — it wouldn’t even occur to the film to stop stunning. "

NPR: "I'm glad to have seen Mulan in a theater months ago; having rewatched it recently at home from a digital screener, I can say that it isn't remotely the same experience."

IndieWire: "While Caro’s vision of Mulan has done away with many of the traditional trappings of the beloved 1998 animated tale — no, no one ever breaks out into song, and while some purists might rankle at that exclusion, the film really does work without it — the film can’t quite kick all of its Disney-fied inclinations."

Collider: "Mulan is gorgeous to behold, and I hope that once the pandemic is over, Disney will re-release Caro’s movie into theaters because she absolutely made this film with a big screen in mind. You can tell from the soaring vistas and intricate costumes that even though you’ll be able to watch Mulan on your phone, you’d be better served watching the Disney+ release on the nicest TV available."

IGN: "... it feels far more impressive for this version of Mulan to take some big swings and differentiate itself from its predecessor than to attempt a beat for beat remake of a story we already love. For that alone, Mulan feels like a breath of fresh air."

Polygon: "Mulan handily clears the bar set by live-action duds like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, but it still fails to recapture the magic of the movie it’s adapting. It forgoes the strongest ideas in the animated film (the songs and the humble origins of heroism) in order to try to tell a more conventional story. "