Disney’s mission to transform its catalog of classic animated films into live-action epics continued this year with adapting its 1998 hit cartoon about the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan.
Now available on ultra-high definition, Mulan: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 115 minutes, $29.99) presents families with a rousing coming-of-age adventure starring a powerful female hero.
In the story, China’s emperor (Jet Li) dictates that every family will supply one male as a soldier to save the kingdom from an army of ruthless Rouran warriors led by Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and assisted by a shape-shifting witch Xianniang (Gong Li).
Mulan (Yifei Liu), the free-thinking, troublemaking daughter of Zhou (Tzi Ma), disguises herself as a man to fight in the war instead of her father, a war veteran beyond his prime, who is unable to supply a son for battle.
The result is some major sword action, sweeping locations, intense close-quarter combat and the chance to watch Mulan’s acrobatic martial arts style highlighted by her ability to kick an arrow midflight into an enemy.
Suffice it to report, either version of the film offers younger females a chance to appreciate an empowering heroine pure of heart, filled with courage and honoring a reverential devotion to family.
Speaking of the other version of the film, Disney has also rereleased the animated classic in UHD ultimate collector’s edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Rated G, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 90 minutes, $29.99) to offer the best-looking, most colorful version of the original Mulan ever seen.
And, the included Blu-ray version of the animated film contains all of the bonus extras from the 2013 high definition release.
4K in action:
The movie was digitally shot in resolutions up to 6.5K but downsized to 2K for screens. This disc offers an upscale but with plenty of room to enhance clarity as well as color saturation resulting in an impressive visual experience.
Moments abound taking advantage of the high dynamic range including the depth of oranges and reds in a powder revealing the witch or the variety of robes of the local townsfolk bursting with primary color choices as bold as the cartoon.
Complex visuals lead to equally impressive results such as red-robed soldiers training in front of a snow-covered mountain range; the eerie clarity of dead soldiers scattered on the battlefield and lit by smoldering fires, or a poisonous volcanic spring peppered with florescent green rocks highlight a fainting glimpse of a vivid red-and-orange phoenix.
One of my favorite scenes boasting super clarity and color is watching the emperor, wearing ornate robes, seated on his throne and surrounded by a yellow glow given off by two massive gold dragons behind him.
The included Blu-ray version of the film first offers a standard collection of five featurettes (roughly 30 minutes in total) covering the production, the casting of Yifei Liu, the bad guys, the music and, best of all, words from Ming-Na Wen who makes a cameo in the movie and was the voice of Mulan in the 1998 cartoon.
Viewers also get six deleted scenes with welcomed, optional commentary by director Niki Caro. The best is Mulan’s first meeting with the witch and a dazzling underwater rescue of Mulan by the phoenix that was cut due to the audience’s confusion on the mythical bird’s abilities.
And, for fans of the soundtrack, the disc offers four music video versions of the song “Reflection (split between Christina Aguilera and Miss Liu) and four versions of the tune “Loyal Brave True” all sung by Miss Aguilera.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.