Anybody knows that siblings rarely agree on anything if they can help it. In my family it’s a question of whether eggplant tastes good or not, whether movies with kissing are worth the trouble and whether rapping is a legitimate form of singing. But there is one subject that unites us all, and that is Mulan II. You can mention it wherever you are, and within seconds one of our clan will pop their head round the door and offer an unsolicited rant about how much they hate that movie.
All of us – even the boys – agree that the first Mulan movie is great. The story, characters, music and humour are what make it one of my favourite movies. Obviously, I would be one of those people naive enough to actually watch any sequels. Disney knows this. Disney sees a chance to make some quick bucks. Thus Mulan II came into existence. Following on the first movie, Mulan and Shang are a couple. Once Shang proposes to Mulan, they soon find out they are not exactly compatible: they have opposite opinions on almost everything. Not only that, but Mushu learns that, once Mulan marries, he will no longer be the family’s guardian dragon and will have to start listening to all the other ancestors again. Not having made himself very popular with them, he decides to break Mulan and Shang up. Besides all this relationship drama, there is a threat of war and three princesses must be delivered safe and sound to their future husbands.
You heard right: only weeks after defeating the Huns, China is being threatened by Mongols. This time, the Emperor tries to stop them not by force, but by forging an alliance with a neighbouring kingdom. To do this, his three daughters have to marry their three princes. It is Shang and Mulan’s job to deliver them there safely. They are helped by the three soldiers from the last movie. All three have exactly one definable character trait – traits they share with the princesses. Meanwhile, Mulan and the princesses prove to be Chinese girls in ancient Chinese culture in possession of a Western mindset when they oppose the marriages because: “You have to be true to your heart.” Well, just let China be invaded then, I guess. It is interesting that when a woman gives up her life literally for her country, she is a hero, but when she gives up her life by marrying someone she’d rather not in order to save her country, it suddenly is deplorable.
There were three songs in Mulan II. I’d completely forgotten one; the one I remembered slightly was a reprise from the first movie; and I only remembered that the other one existed – I’d forgotten the text and melody. I think that says enough about the musical merits. The plot wasn’t much better: there were exactly two action scenes. Both were very short, but they did have plot relevance. Both are very random, however, included for no other reason than to add some action. In between, there is a lot of drama. Mushu sets Shang and Mulan up against each other, although it wouldn’t have worked if they had just had a normal conversation, like adults. Either way, eventually they decide to break up. At the end of the second action scene, Shang plunges into a ravine and “dies”. Obviously this is cause for much distress, and Mulan decides to take the three princesses’ place and marry a prince. Not to worry, though: Shang turns up again within 5 minutes of dying.
After all this comes the climax. It is a wreck. Shang storms in to save Mulan from marriage. When she asks what his plan his, he replies that he doesn’t have one: he is following her advice and “winging it”. It soon turns out that advice was very bad, and we might actually get a good action scene. But not to worry: Mushu comes to the rescue! Impersonating the Great Dragon of love, he dictates that Mulan gets to marry Shang, and that the three princesses get to marry whoever they want. It’s over within 5 minutes. I honestly would not be surprised to find out that the ending was a joke that accidentally got taken seriously and incorporated in the movie. The threat of invading Mongols or the possibility of an alliance isn’t even mentioned. Like I said: who cares about all of China when your feelings are on the line? This selfishness blatantly contradicts the movie’s condemnation of Mushu’s actions.
That’s not the only bad message: at the beginning of the movie, Mulan’s parents give her and Shang ying-yang necklaces, saying opposites go well together. The thing is: that’s just not true. Opposites may complement each other, but they also break each other down. And beneath it is a darker meaning: the opposites Mulan mentions as belonging to each other include light and dark. It is a belief in China that good and evil are both necessary to keep the world in balance: without evil, there can be no good. This in stark contrast with the Bible: evil and good are two contradictory values – where there is one, the other must either destroy or be destroyed. As Christians, we long for the day God – who is Good – will come to this Earth and destroy evil forever. Anybody who believes evil is necessary to keep the world in working order has very little hope for a brighter future.
Beginning this movie, I was excited but also slightly worried, remembering Disney’s penchant for ruining sequels. I was right to worry. The plot and music are not anything near the quality of the first movie. More importantly, the movie advocates for following your heart, directly contradicting itself. Nobody communicated in an adult way, resorting instead to ugly shouting matches. Lastly, Mulan and Shang’s relationship is unhealthy even before Mushu ruins it, but they still end up together. Because of all this, Mulan II goes straight into the vault labelled “It Never Happened.”