Can Disney Stop With the Live Action Remakes Now?

Monday, September 7, 2020
So, Mulan is finally out in the world, and it is not the last of the live action remakes that have been taking over Disney's production slate, unfortunately.

Mulan has fallen into the same pitfalls as the majority of the these live action remakes. Same story beats without the substance. It gets points for changing the story to fit the actual legend of Mulan and the cool battles and fights, and looks great with all of the colors popping, especially the red of Mulan's outfit compared to those worn by her enemies, but the emotional journey of the characters never feels earned. And the introduction of the witch, which I found to be the most compelling addition to the story, wasn't fully utilized. That's true of Aladdin, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast. All flash and nostalgia, with interesting elements here and there.

The only movies in this trend that benefitted from this trend were Pete's Dragon and Cinderella.

The original Pete's Dragon was one of those live action/animation hybrids that was a thing in the 60s and 70s. And this one by all accounts, did not work. But David Lowery's 2016 adaptation found the emotion in the material and decided to focus the story on that, and was more successful for it. And all the advancement in technology that makes creatures look real was used to great effect.

But the crown jewel of the trend is Kenneth Branagh's 2015 remake of Cinderella. The original was a landmark for animated films, but its story is lacking. Jaq and Gus Gus got more to do than Cinderella and Prince Charming. The prince didn't even get a real name. And since a live action film is typically longer than an 80 minute animated film, you have more time to give to the characters. One of the best decisions they made was having Cinderella and Kit meet before the ball and show them having conversations and falling for each other. And another good decision was explaining why Cinderella put up with Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters, and why she ultimately decides to leave them behind.

What those two got right that everything since has gotten wrong is that they didn't do a beat for beat retelling of the story. They found a new emotional through line and developed it, not simply doing the same movie with people. Or in Lion King's case, realistic CGI animals that don't look right when they're supposed to emote.

Now that there have been several films that have failed, the next few that have been put into production or development have learned those lessons we don't have to have our nostalgia and love for the originals continue to be used to fuel these mediocre remakes.
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