Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with politics and such, Mulan 2 is trash. We need to address this. There are a lot of direct-to-DVD Disney sequels. Someday, I will recount all of them. Mulan 2 is one of the worst, but it’s par for the course. The animation is worse, the movie is forgettable and the plot is really bad.
1:00-10:00: Okay, the voiceover by George Takei is the only positive thing in the first ten minutes. The beginning of this movie is immediately marked by an Eddie Murphy voice double doing the voice of Mushu. Eddie Murphy is replaced by a white dude named Mark Moseley, who is essentially pretending to be black for over 90 minutes. However, this is…mostly okay because most 8-year-olds would never know that it’s not Eddie Murphy, right? Not really. It’s pretty clear that it’s not Eddie Murphy. Whatever, Mark Moseley gets paid by Disney to sound exactly like Eddie Murphy. He’s in Kingdom Hearts I and II (and Chain of Memories…screams). That’s his primary task on his Wikipedia article. He, presumably, spent all day trying to sound like Eddie Murphy. Myyyyy goodness.
It’s actually a pretty damn good impersonation, funnily enough. Good job Mark. There’s a joke about how Asians like to gamble too much. The first movie tried to avoid stereotypes half the time. This movie gave up entirely.
The first song, “Lesson Number One”, is awful. The tune they use is an instantly forgettable Chinese-tinged dirge. Mulan teaches a bunch of women in the village to fight. The message of the first song is seemingly quite feminist and empowering to women, which is a good moral even if the music is horrific. At least, that’s you think. Unfortunately, “Lesson Number One” contains the main problem of this movie; the whole song is actually about how “one alone is not enough”. Yes, despite showing a long fighting montage of women taking their lives into their own hands, the whole effing moral of the song is about finding a husband because you need “balance” in life. Oh yeah, and she stresses that the girls need to be “kind and gentle” in order to fight properly.
I think the point of this song is explained in the next scene where Mulan’s parents stress the importance of balance in marriage. Yin and yang, you know, because all Chinese people only care about that. Balance However, the rest of the movie is about how, actually, a woman really only needs a man to validate her existence. Shang, in the rest of the movie, is a total jerkwad. He is almost unwatchable. And yet, in the end, Mulan still marries him. This is fine, I guess, relationships go through struggles, but it’s clearly a completely imbalanced relationship for the entire time. So why bother even going with all this balance nonsense? It sounds like instead of balance, you’re saying that when women are alone (and yes, women, because you put the entire song to the backdrop of two dozen dancing girls trying to become powerful warriors like Mulan), they are, in fact, not supposed to be. That’s kinda strange. This is not balance, this is you telling women what they should be (GENTLE! KIND!) and calling it peace.
I mean, let’s forget my liberal Northwestern education and Googling about the wonders of gender theory for a second. Remember, the entirety of Mulan was about a woman taking matters into her own hands and becoming the savior of China, mostly without the interference of stupid and/or dull male characters. Yes, she dresses as a man to break the system, but then she actually breaks the system. The emperor honors her with a medallion at the end, as a woman, without any other considerations. The moral of the story, I think, is that women will save everybody, in the end, after they’ve shown that masculinity is also a complete myth. This isn’t even a particularly good “girl-power” moral and it’s a complete fantasy story with no real-world implications, (I should stop talking about gender right quick) but, I mean, that’s what the film is about.
Mulan 2 is about how, actually, women need a man. At all times. For everything. That’s the moral of the song. That’s “LESSON NUMBER ONE” about being a good Chinese woman.
“One, alone is not enough
You need both together
Moon and sun
Lesson number one”
This just doesn’t fit with the first movie at all! It’s not a sequel, it’s just an awful interpretation of what the first movie stands for. I’m not the first person to make this point.
Actually, the song does do a good job of metaphorically describing the difference between first wave and second wave feminism. First wave feminism, as espoused by Mulan (ugh), is rooted in tradition and lessons and traditional education. However, the young girls represent the second wave of feminism, trying to suggest a different way of fighting for women’s rights. Mulan ignores them. Disney and the three white men who wrote this film wouldn’t let that happen (note, Mulan 1 was written by a team of three guys and two women). The producer was a woman though, I think she just threw up her hands and hoped for the best.
I think the first movie is heavily inspired by Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, if not intentionally, at least in structure. The direct-to-video sequel is inspired by the women in Charles Dickens novels.
As soon as General Shang (who is the worst person ever in this film), arrives, the actually-not-feminist-whatsoever song ends as all the girls and Mulan flock to him, even though he’s terrible. My sister, who had been trying not to laugh as I made all these points, finally cracked and started laughing. It’s bad. It’s so bad. Mulan and Shang get engaged.
10:00-20:00: So, the main plot of this movie involves the heroes from the first movie escorting the Emperor’s three daughters to seal an alliance against the Mongols (at least they picked a more historically accurate villainous barbarian tribe…THE HUNS ARE THE XIONGNU DAMMIT, NOT HUNS YOU APPROPRIATORS). Mulan is like: “hey, aren’t arranged marriages bad?” and everyone is like, “nah Mulan, you’re going to take them anyway”. Mulan, of course, proceeds to get completely screwed over for the rest of the movie. Instead of bringing an army, Shang stupidly decides to bring the three lovable musketeers from the first film, who sing the same “Girl Worth Fighting For” song from the first movie with different lyrics. Low effort. Mushu decides to break up Shang and Mulan for attention.
20:00-?????: It’s getting really bad out here, folks. Now they’re on this journey, and obviously the three princesses are falling in love with the three idiots from the first movie. Also, one of the princesses is named TING-TING. Mei, Su, and TING-TING. That’s…a name. That’s quite a name. Meanwhile, Shang is becoming a total controlling douchebag. He blames Mulan for everything. He yells at her for things that weren’t her fault. He yells at her for things that are actually his fault. He becomes about as masculine as a cardboard cutout of Carl Weathers.
Okay, so everybody gets that Shang is wrong and bad. But, here’s the thing, he’s entirely forgiven for it at the end (SPOILERS!). Mulan just accepts him and his douchebaggery as if nothing happened! None of the awful verbal abuse he hurled at Mulan ever happened! They just kiss and get married at the end. THIS IS VALIDATION OF HIS BEHAVIOR!
Let’s talk about the princesses.
You know how the Schuyler Sisters in Hamilton are supposed to be intersectional, feminist icons of a new era of American popular culture? The three sisters in Mulan II are the complete opposite of the Schuyler Sisters. They are supposed to be Chinese, but played by three white women. OK. They do nothing but get rescued by the soldiers. OK. They cannot even pick fruit from trees without being picked up by men. All they want to do is be free from their burdens and marry who they want, which they explain in a pseudo-girl punk rock song. That’s all they want to do. They have a song about it. It’s not good. Also they make a joke about foot binding. Cooooooooool.
Next, the three princesses are mysteriously whisked away into the forest by three shady-looking men for no reason.
This is fine!
Turns out, thankfully, the men are not awful and are just taking them out on dates in town. This is the best part of the film, mostly because it actually seems semi-interesting and genuine. It also has one of the worst jokes I’ve ever heard in a Disney movie.
“What did Attila say when he came through the door?”
Yeah, it was something like that, I’m probably misquoting the movie, but this movie series has misquoted 4534583945 Chinese sages so…
However, Shang comes back to ruin all the fun! He yells at everyone for expressing themselves, yells at Mulan, and break their engagement. Then, they are attacked by a bunch of Mongols. After re-enacting the bridge scene from Shrek, Shang falls off a cliff.
This cliff is probably about 17 stories high. You would die if you hit the water. The water is essentially a hard slab of concrete when falling from a bridge that high. Shang survives, obviously. Meanwhile, in a shocking twist for this movie, Mulan abandons all the “girl-power” feminist rhetoric she’s been professing at the first possible opportunity in order to satiate some alliance made by a bunch of powerful men.
Also, in the rather racist stereotype department, the prince is obsessed with Chinese finger traps. Does anyone know if Chinese finger traps are at all related to ancient China? No??? COOOOOOOOLLLL!
In the end, Mulan marries Shang despite him being an abusive jerk. In the end, we learned that Mulan told Shang about Mushu because she hides no secrets from her husband, of course. Also, they “unite the ancestors houses”. Is this allowed in Chinese culture? Mulan, no joke, acknowledges that the writers didn’t bother checking by asking “can we do that?”. Great.
I’m done with this remarkably awful 80 minute experience. In the end, Mulan 2 says this. Women should stay with abusive and controlling husbands, women need husbands and specifically men to do anything in life, there is only one form of Disney-approved sexuality, feminism is only good for selling toys, Chinese finger traps are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, and ultimately, it’s all the stereotypically black character’s fault (played by Mark Moseley).
I wish to expire.