Early Sunday Disney revealed their teaser trailer for the upcoming live action remake of Mulan. While the teaser was meet with mixed reviews and seemed to depart from the animated escapade of its late 90’s predecessor, the teaser showed potential debuting something more along the lines of a retelling than a live-action remake. The trailer (shown below) opens to our brave and independent heroine riding her horse across a field then cutting to her mother declaring, “The matchmaker has found you an auspicious match!”. Cue the classic matchmaker scene, followed by a glimpse at Mulan’s boot camp, and some incredible action sequences, here we sit afterwards pondering it all. Before we focus on the 2020 live action film however let’s take a moment to go back to 1998, Bill Clinton was on his way out of the Oval Office, Google was on its way into all of our lives, and Mulan and Mushu made their first appearance on the world stage via Disney’s Mulan. The animated film was the tale of a young woman who goes to war to protect her elderly father. The film was a coming of age tale in which Mulan, alongside her love interest Captain Li Shang as well as a ragtag group of Chinese soldiers take on the veteran forces of an invading Hun army. Mulan’s relentless bravery along with a lucky cricket and a lizar-I mean Dragon, (He doesn’t do that tongue thing) finds her defeating said Hun army and bringing the sword of China home to her father. The comedy of Eddie Murphy’s Mushu alongside Mulan’s inspiring heroism and bravery left audiences enthralled and the film, while a departure from the original Ballad written in Chinese lore, became an instant classic across the globe.
Take us to just over a decade later, Disney stands, relentlessly pushing out live-action remake after live-action remake, and among those upcoming movies? Mulan! The film, first announced in 2015, will be the 13th live action remake to join a long list of Disney classics brought back to the silver screen, and Disney spared no shortcuts with this treasure. Reports suggest that the stories heroine was chosen after a thorough audition process that saw over a thousand auditionees across the globe compete for the role. The final choice proved to be the world-renowned actress Liu Yifei. Yet Disney did not stop there, Li Shang will not be present, replaced by the rising star Yoson An. An will play Mulan’s love interest and fellow recruit, Chen Honghui. This go around will feature all new musical numbers as well, and redirect its plot to reflect the original legend, "The Ballad of Hua Mulan" more closely. In 2020 Mulan will take a different path to tell a similar tale. Invaders from the north have come to China’s doorsteps, a decree goes out from the emperor of China. Each family must send one man to defend their country. Mulan, the daughter of the elderly but respected warrior Hua Zhou, (played by Tzi Ma) masquerades as a man and takes her father’s place to ensure his survival. The synopsis remains identical, and yet the films seem worlds apart from each other, good or bad?
The two films will share many parallels as they are based off the same legend. That in mind, the films will feature entirely different musical numbers, and the appearance of the family guardian himself? Mushu has not been directly counted out by Disney just yet, but with no word during the films production of who would voice the iconic dragon, followed by his absence in the teaser trailer, leads audiences to the conclusion he will be absent in this retelling. Instead the comic relief of the 2020 rendition will be left to con-men Ramish (Chum Ehelepola) and Skath (Utkarsh Ambudkar) it would seem, and the villains? While the Huns will play a role in this story Shan Yu has gotten left behind, replaced by Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and a new villain in the powerful witch Xianniang (Gong Li). Originating in Chinese culture in the 6th century the Ballad that is Mulan has been retold countless times across China’s long history and yet its premise has always remained the same. The beginning of which both the 1998, and 2020 versions seem to adhere to. The end of the original Ballad however sees Mulan being promoted later in life to general, and shedding her masquerade, to walk the battlefield proudly as a woman. This act commanding both the respect and admiration of her soldiers. While the animated film loosely interprets this in its final scenes, the live action film seems to hold to this more closely if the action sequences within the movie’s teaser are any indication. The film is being described as a war, action, drama, so maybe this go around we should think of it as yet another rendition of an incredible tale. A tale of bravery, of female empowerment, and of Chinese culture and history. We’ll always have Mushu and Shang in animated glory, it’s high time for one more retelling of the heroine herself!