Friday, November 22, 2013

Disney Sequelester - Mulan II

Well, this sure is a movie.
All the village girls are in love with Mulan because they want Mulan to teach them how to fight. I like this beginning. On the utterly crap side, Mulan immediately demurs that "but I'm still learning myself!" Mulan, you defeated the jaundiced Hun army single-handedly by blowing a firecracker up their leader's ass. I think you're experienced enough.

And then we have this incredibly bullshit song about how you have to be hard *and* soft, and it's okay to be afraid. Yeah, hear many Disney Princes singing about that, do you?

See that little girl to Mulan's left? That's the face of someone who knows
some bullshit when she sees it.
Then Shang shows up, Mulan fawns all over him shamelessly, and the girls cackle at his hilariously terrible attempts at proposing. He tries again, and Mulan has changed outfits because the animators are super lazy.

Mulan tells Mushu that he's her most trusted friend, and, um... why? He's awful. Canonically awful. He walks on people just because he can.

No, really.
Mushu will continue to be atrocious for the rest of the movie. Also, Sequel Mushu is not voiced by Eddie Murphy. He's voiced by a white guy pretending to be Eddie Murphy, which is probably the only thing worse than actual Eddie Murphy.

If Mulan and Shang are going to go on another pointless mission, they're gonna need they're team back. They're gonna need - OMG I MISSED YOU MATCHMAKER LADY!!!!!

Actual dialogue: "Come back to me when you get personalities!"
Watching the three bros get their asses handed to them for being annoying misogynists is extremely happy-making. Matchmaker Lady kicks them out and they fall right into Mulan's tender clutches.

Mulan and Shang talk to the Emperor, who has a plan to unite his kingdom with an ally through his daughters marriages.

The Emperor is doing might well to have daughters
those ages.
But it must happen in THREE DAYS ONLY THREE DAYS because plans and reasons and there's a map so it makes sense, okay?

Someone had to carve that goofy hair.
And then Mulan steps up all burdened and self-righteous with, "Your Highness, an arranged marriage?"

Hey Mulan, remember this?

"Ancestors, hear my plea
Help me not to make a fool of me
And to not uproot my family tree
Keep my father standing tall.
Scarier than the undertaker
We are meeting our matchmaker!"

Heh, yeah, oh right, you were not only willing but actively hoping to take part in an arranged marriage. It's almost like you're a hypocrite or something!

And see, this is where historical accuracy and pop culture princesshood collide in the worst of ways. Wouldn't it be so much more interesting and relevant to show arranged marriage in, if not a positive light, then at least an understanding one? That thing that 55% of the world's women participate in, according to UNICEF statistics?

Arranged marriage is not common among the ethnic groups that have populated America for the longest time (other than native populations possibly? IDK on that and it's not really relevant to this discussion anyway), and yes, Disney's content is targeted to satisfy the largest percentages possible. But America grows less homogenous by the day, and the world as a whole is shrinking as we come into contact with other cultures via plane, train, internet, and reality TV. Personally, I'm close to several people who either have had or will have arranged marriages. Do I agree with the practice personally? Well, does it matter? 

Arranged marriages happen among consenting adults. This is a thing. It would have been a much more interesting (not to mention more respectful and historically accurate) angle to address arranged marriage as a legitimate choice rather than just a vague bogeyman. We never even see the men that the princesses are supposed to be engaged to. The mere idea of an arranged marriage is meant to inspire horror in us.

This notion in turn causes a secondary problem; the Princess Problem, as I call it, where our culture is obsessed with the idea of being a princess but hates all of the actual things that princesses do.

See, if the girls don't follow through with these arranged marriages, this other king will declare war (for reasons, whatever). As princesses, their job is to do right by their kingdom in any way that they can. Which means that if these girls choose to marry random guys they've known for three days just because they feel like it, they're bad princesses. Maybe even bad people.

I will give the movie credit, at least they don't turn the Emperor into a huge douchecanoe. He just says that his daughters consider it an honor to serve their kingdom. So obviously they go outside and have a Cinderella moment and immediately fall in the love with the guards.

Pictured: Something that would be way less attractive with foot binding.
Mushu is the absolute worst, so he decides to break up Mulan and Shang in order to keep his job. Mushu is... challenged at plotting. He decides to mildly annoy Shang until he... something. Here is a list of Mushu's master plan, itemized.

1. Hook his fishing line in his shirt.

2. Undo his horse's girth.

3. Put worms down the back of his shirt.

4. Bees

5. Bear

6. Assorted leftover wildlife

And then the carriage falls off a cliff totally by accident, because 1 cliff per Disney movie is required by the cliff union.

Actual dialogue of the princess: "Keep paddling... look how good you're
doing. What a brave boy." I kind of love her.
Now everyone's all deep in love and the Princesses are unable to cope with their lot in life. And they sing about it, as ye do.

Let's have another analysis, shall we?

I wanna be like other girls 
Climb up a tree like other girls can (yes very accepted in ancient China)
Just to be free like other girls (hahahahahahhaha)
Get to be 

To slouch when i sit (and be judged by all the other noblewomen)
To eat a whole cake (if you were in the top 1% of the population)
Feel the sun on my feet (my feet that are in agony, oh God, oh God!)

Get dirty (in the fields planting rice all day)
Act silly (get locked away until the demons leave you)
Be anything i want to be (as long as you either want to be a mother or a mother)
To dance around
In my underwear (okay, or a whore)

To run really fast (a whopping 1/4 of a mile per hour top speed with bound feet)

Shang is very angry that everyone's in love and refusing to complete the mission, when CLIFF HAPPENS!!!! Mulan decides that Shang will not have died in vain, so she is going to marry all three of this dude's son's, I guess.

What is with dudes falling into rivers and getting sexually harassed
by their horses?
There is altogether too much horse love in this movie.
Hurray, the only Disney prince with nipples isn't dead! And he comes to rescue Mulan. Mushu gets the idea to do the exact same thing he did in the first movie, and pretends to be a big important dragon. Not As Cool Emperor whimpers and says it's fine if Mulan marries Shang instead... and the movie ends. Just like that. You greedy kids and your denouements.

The premise of Mulan II is flawed, simplistic, and kind of offensive. It lacks any sort of subtlety or depth. It's a paint-by-numbers plot that drives its points home like Wile E. Coyote.

But this is why execution is so, so important you guys, because I have to be honest, I don't hate this movie.

The characters do stupid things, but they do them in endearing ways. The new characters are engaging and, if not deeply complex, at least not hollow caricatures. The animation isn't half bad. More than a couple jokes are laugh out loud funny.

Shang: "Seems your family invited someone to help celebrate the
Mulan: "Really? Ugh. Who?"
Shang: "China."
On the other hand, it's based on preconceived notions that are inaccurate, poorly thought out, and objectionable. So yeah, you might actually enjoy this movie. But you'll feel a little dirty inside.

1 comment:

  1. I was so excited when I saw this post! But now I'm disappointed because it doesn't sound like there was some fancy grand Disney storybook wedding. Ah, poo.

    I have to say I agree about the arrange marriages. If it's their choice than I don't see what the big deal is. I like to try and figure out who my parents would have set me up with if we did arranged marriages in our family. I think I would have been okay with that. Lol!

    I love Shang. I would have loved to see a tradition Chinese wedding in a Disney movie, completely with traditional Chinese wedding clothes and a traditional ceremony. It would have been so awesome. Mulan deserved one. But it sounds like her "sequel" was treated better than some.