Apart from Avatar, this is the movie of 2009 that I would rate with over 90%.
The plot is closer to the original ancient Mulan tale compared to the Disney version. Most of all there is no speaking dragon!! There are some similarities though.
Plot: The northern Wei dynasty of China is under attack from the Rourans (a normadic people from Mongolia). The young woman Mulan enlists in the Wei army, disguised as a man to secretly replace her ailing father... no intention to spoil
The main difference from the Disney version is Mulan herself, who is in constant conflict with herself. The burden of responsibility, the terror of war, the danger of being disclosed as a woman and a forbidden romance is affecting her entire personality, forcing her to change and grow. Lead character Zhao Wei is really at her best in this movie. Red Cliff kind of wasted her talent. She can really display the inner struggle, the pain and the female qualities of Mulan. Although Mulan pretends to be a man, does a formidable "man job" and is regarded as a man by the other men, the audience can really feel during the entire movie that Mulan remains a woman at her core. It's really hard to describe. But Zhao Wei brings in this magical ... something ... I can't really pinpoint ...
Indeed, the entire movie is centered around its characters. Apart from Mulan, the villains are also nicely portrayed and actually not entirely evil. You can understand their motives. The battle scenes are well done but not breath taking. The movie is really not about an epic battle, but about the heroine and her inner struggle.
Oh...and there is not a real happy ending. Anyway this is no Disney cartoon. Actually, it gets really sad during the end. Made me feel miserable for several days...
Minor mistakes. Sometimes a little too theatrical. Too much crying, kind of scaling down the really sad moments. You cannot really believe that Mulan isn't disclosed by any of the male soldiers through all those years, because main actress Zhao Wei is way too good looking to pass as a man. Although, this didn't really bother me.
All in all:
Strong Mulan character ... one of the best movies of 2009 ...