Cinema: An Ode to Martial Smarts

Disney's Mulan is part traditional war saga, part modern-day feminist fable, and a total delight

The great wall of China snakes like a stern dragon through the opening shots of Mulan, a strange and beguiling new breed of Disney animated feature. This is, in part, a war movie that understands loss, desolation, death. Power and discipline are the motifs here: bending your will and others', bending the system while working within it. The villain, a crazed, WWF-style hulkster named Shan-Yu, has no comic irony softening his brute trapezoidal lines. He's just an evil machine with vampire teeth. The Wall, the vast plains and hills, the Forbidden City itself, all cringe at his shadow.

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