Coming to terms with the global outbreak of COVID-19 is hard, as it restricts us in many everyday activities. For movie fans, this includes seeing the newest, highly anticipated movies. We’re starting a new series, where for each major 2020 release (covering the entire year as the possible extent of the outbreak is unknown) we will give out alternative film choices. Thankfully, due to the rich 100+ year old history we have multiple options that help with shortening our time waiting for the new films, as well as making the quarantine a bit more bearable.
Today we focus on the remake of Mulan, which was supposed to hit theatres on the 27th of March. The film actually had its world premiere, but the epidemic stopped it from being released in cinemas everywhere.
Starting with the obvious, we have to talk about the original animated version of Mulan. It’s one of Disney’s most ambitious films of the era, not only thanks to the incredibly vibrant, stylised animation. Exploring the themes of honour, family and loyalty, as well as an early attempt at feminism (which unfortunately feels outdated by now), paired with a fantastic Eddie Murphy as Mushu, Mulan remains a great family film for all ages.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Another animated hit from the late 90s, Princess Mononoke stands as a unique piece of storytelling. Focusing on the theme of nature and man’s place in it, the film is as timely as it is timeless. It’s hard not to feel bad, reflecting on our actions, upon seeing Lady Eboshi destroy everything in her path in the name of progress. Almost all of the main characters are outcasts who either have to find their place in the world or are having it challenged. Princess Mononoke is a film of epic proportions, with one of the most fascinating worlds ever put to screen.
Lady Snowblood (1973)
Although more famous for inspiring Kill Bill rather that the film itself, Lady Snowblood aged like fine wine. This Japanese story of vengeance follows a young woman Yuki, who has been training for the past 20 years in order to avenge the death of her family. It more than lives up to its name with the heavy use of both snow and blood.
Red Cliff (2008)
There is a lot of movie in this movie. I mean there’s enough movie that there are two versions of it. You can either go for an edited 148 minute version, or (go absolutely crazy, because it’s quarantine) and watch the two-part, almost five hour long version. Red Cliff marks directors John Woo’s return to Chinese cinema after 16 years in the most glorious fashion, taking a large-scale historic battle and really playing with the medium. The plot is thick with politics and intrigue while also comprehensible, and the action is brutally over-the-top in the best way possible.
The Great Wall (2016)
Shortly before Zhang Yimou’s film saw the light of day in 2016, it got called a white saviour film as the two leads are played by Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal respectively. However, as anyone who has seen the film can tell you, in reality it’s anything but. Although he does some impressive fighting, Damon’s character is more of a white burden than a saviour. The Great Wall tells the fictional story of why The Great Wall of China was built – to defend against monsters. With this bizarre plot, the film joins the ranks of historical fanfics such as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, a similarly entertaining yet overlooked film. By no means is this a great film, but with some decent action and a few funny lines, it’s certainly not a bad way to spend one long afternoon in quarantine.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
What many people rightfully call Ang Lee’s masterpiece, this 20 year old film continues to show the world what action cinema should aspire to be. The story is pretty thin and basic if we’re being honest, but the choreography present in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is nothing less than impressive. Even though Li Mu Bai is technically the main character, this is Michelle Yeoh’s film and she completely owns it. And since you’re indefinitely quarantined, don’t hesitate to also go for the sequel. It’s not that bad.
Blade of the Immortal (2017)
Blade of the Immortal is by far one of the best manga and anime adaptations, in no small part thanks to it being a Japanese-South Korean co-production. It marks the 100th (!!) film of the legendary filmmaker Takashi Miike, who’s responsible for the horror Audition, the action-comedy/satire Ichi the Killer and the historical epic 13 Samurai. The latter one being the most similar to his retelling of Hiroaki Samura’s manga. Blade of the Immortal tells the story of a Manji, a man cursed with immortality, roaming around feudal Japan. He crosses paths with young girl Rin, whose family was violently killed and together, they go on a path of bloody revenge. This isn’t your typical revenge story, as Blade of the Immortal boasts thrilling large-scale action sequences like few modern action films and an equally impressive body count to match.