The original Mulan, released 22 summers ago, featured remarkable animation, well-defined characters and a memorable soundtrack. It became a runaway box-office success and raked in $300 million worldwide.
And now, Mulan is back. Disney’s long-anticipated live-action remake, starring Liu Yifel as the bolder-than-bold female warrior Hua Mulan, pays proper homage to the original 1998 classic but arrives now sans musical numbers and two favorite characters—the dragon Mushu, and Hua’s commanding officer—and love interest—Li Shang. (With Li Shang, Disney has split one character into two separate new ones: Commander Tung, Hua’s surrogate father and mentor, and Hongui, her fellow soldier and eventual lover.)
Tzi Ma, who plays Hua’s father, opines, “This is not a remake of the animation, so that would probably be disappointing for some people out there, because the animation was so well-received. [But] I believe this live-action film is superior… because of the leadership. Niki Caro is the director. She’s bringing in this woman’s point of view, which it needs to [have], because this movie is about a woman warrior.”
And what a warrior she is!
In this updated version of the story, the emperor of China decrees that one male member of each family must serve in the Imperial Chinese Army in order to ward off the invading Huns. Hua, who is the eldest daughter of an honored but elderly warrior, bravely steps in after disguising herself as a man called Hua Jum in order to take the place of her elderly father. While always focused, spirited and determined, Hua is constantly called upon to harness her innermost strength and utilize her maximum potential in the man’s world where she finds herself for a dozen angst-filled years.
The 2020 Mulan—a budget-busting $200 million epic—is less stereotypical than many traditional Chinese folk tales and is being hailed by many critics as the best Disney live-action remake since Cinderella. It is also an offering that enthusiastically celebrates female empowerment more than did the original. This movie is absorbing, richly textured, exciting, gorgeously vibrant and emotional, and the engaging story that unfolds also includes humor and heart as well as jaw-dropping action as Hua, besides being brave and strong, is a master of the martial arts.
The movie also co-stars Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An and Gong Li. While it’s not a musical this time around, there are subtle nods to many of the songs in the original.
The fierce battle and moderately “steamy” romance scenes no doubt contributed to the film’s PG-13 rating. Mulan releases in July.