Disney has been turning their classic animated movies into live-action remakes since the success of “Maleficent” in 2014. There have been some very entertaining and creative remakes (“The Jungle Book” in 2016). There have also been some unoriginal remakes that felt more like money-grabs (ahem, “Lion King” 2019).
It was only a matter of time before they attempted to remake the beloved “Mulan” from 1998. But when the first trailer was released in mid-2019, it received non-stop criticism. Western audiences just could not stomach the changes. From the removal of the songs to a brand new villain, Western fans aren’t pleased that the new “Mulan” is not a copy-paste of the animated version. The movie has a one star review on IMDb and it hasn’t even been officially released yet!
And it won’t be for a while. With the global coronavirus outbreak, Disney has pushed back the release date from March 27, 2020 to TBD. In fact, many movies originally slated to come out this spring have been postponed.
But once the movie is available in theaters, the changes to the live-action “Mulan” should not deter you from watching it.
Many of the changes were made to pay homage to the original poem and respect Chinese culture. “Mulan” is not a remake of the animated version. Rather, it is a re-imagining of an amazing story about a girl’s courage to protect her family. When you think about it like this, it becomes obvious why many aspects of the animated version don't fit.
Let's address the most disappointing aspect for people: there is no singing.
Now many of us, regardless of age, have memories of belting out “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” in our living rooms. And yes, those songs will be missed. However, it is important to recognize that Mulan is not just a Disney icon, she is a cherished cultural figure. While these songs are entertaining and propelled "Mulan" to Disney classic status, it is not authentic to Chinese culture and films. Since the story of Mulan is from a Chinese poem, the movie should represent Chinese culture.
But don’t be disheartened! The director assures that the iconic songs will still be incorporated into the soundtrack.
Other similar grievances include outrage that there is no Mushu character. Eddie Murphy’s Mushu was hilarious and iconic, but in a live-action war movie, a comedic dragon is quite tone-deaf. Not only that, in Chinese culture, dragons are seen as mythical creatures that can control weather and bring good fortune to those who deserve it. They are meant to be respected, not just used for a comedic effect.
Finally, the alteration that shook people to their core: Li Shang, the heart-throb, will not be in the film. "Mulan" producer, Jason Reed, explained that the power dynamic between a high-ranking commander and a soldier no longer seemed appropriate for a romantic relationship.But rest assured, Mulan has a new love interest of equal ranking. And if the LA premiere reactions are anything to go by, the two characters have quite the chemistry.
The animated “Mulan” (while a smidge problematic) is amazing in its own right, and therefore any remake is going to fall short. That’s why the new “Mulan” isn’t a copy-paste version of the animated version. It is telling the story of Mulan in a new refreshing way. Although fans of the animated version will miss many of the changes, both versions maintain the heart of the story. Even without singing, a comedic dragon or a high-ranking commander boyfriend, Mulan is still a warrior. She is brave and loyal. She went above and beyond to protect her family. The Mulan you know and love is there, and worth supporting in theaters.