In a normal year, senior Jay Kurtz visits a movie theatre multiple times per month, watching new releases on the big screen and sharing an experience with fellow movie-goers. However, in the pandemic, he’s reduced to watching new movies while hunched over his laptop or on his TV.
With most movie theatres closed due to social distance guidelines, the movie industry is turning to releasing movies online, using streaming sites like Disney+ and Netflix.
“Mulan”, a live action remake of the 1998 film by the same name, drew criticism because of the quality of the film, its price and its politics.
Watching requires a Disney+ membership ($6.99/month) and an extra $30 fee. It will be available to Disney+ subscribers at no additional cost after December 4. These hurdles could prevent people like Kurtz from viewing newly released films
“Mulan” also drew political criticism because it was filmed in Xinjiang province, the site of China’s reeducation camps, where millions of Uighur Muslims are held captive. In the movie’s end credits, producers thank government officials in the region, a police force in the region and several Chinese propaganda departments.
This perceived warmth towards Beijing’s human rights abuses only increased because lead actress Liu Yifei posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo in support of Hong Kong police.
“I support Honk Kong police, you can beat me up for it,” Yifei said in her post. “What a shame for Hong Kong.”
For all these reasons, junior Phoebe Berghout said she was frustrated by Disney’s actions.
“I heard about it being filmed in Xinjiang where the abuse against the Uighurs was happening,” Berghout said. “I probably wasn’t going to watch it anyways, but now I definitely won’t.”
The hashtag “#BoycottMulan” has been used on over 20,000 tweets since the movie’s release.
Beyond the controversies over production and release, “Mulan” has also received some poor reviews, both from critics and students. Senior Cody Hmelar, who saw the film at an outdoor viewing party, heavily criticized the cinematography.
“They used elements such as barrel rolls or dolly zooms for no reason other than it being flashy,” Hmelar said. “A lot of the effects they used were distorting in a non purposeful way which made the viewer confused and detracted from the scene’s quality.”
Hmelar also took issue with the plot.
“There were so many subplots that were started but never completed or explored,” Hmelar said.
Professional critics similarly disliked it, causing many, like junior Neil Rathi, to pass on it.
“It got really bad reviews and I didn’t want to pay 30$ for that,” Rathi said.
While “Mulan” received significant criticism, the Netflix original “Enola Holmes”, a mystery about the sister of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, received a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was the most-watched film on Netflix for several days after its Sept. 23 release.
Kurtz, who says he’s a big Sherlock Holmes fan, particularly enjoyed the movie and appreciated the new twist on a legendary series. .
“It is a really fun time that pays homage to the stories and adaptations that came before it while telling its own unique mystery with a fun new lead,” Kurtz said.
While most recent movies have been released directly to streaming, theatres are beginning to reopen. Cinemark opened its doors Sept. 25, while AMC Entertainment opened two of its Bay Area locations Oct. 2. Both companies are operating at 25% capacity and are requiring masks for all customers.
Although streaming platforms have done their best to emulate a typical movie-viewing experience, Kurtz said he misses the excitement of going to a movie theatre.
“The sheer joy of being with hundreds of other individuals who are there to escape their lives is what ultimately sets the theatre experience apart from watching at home,” Kurtz said. “They’re there to sit down for two hours and follow these characters in their journey, and being united with these strangers and sharing their emotions is a truly special experience.”