After many months of waiting due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Disney’s highly anticipated remake of Mulan is now available on the streaming platform Disney+.
The live-action remake of the 1998 animated classic, which was made available Sept. 4, has drawn a lot of controversy for changes made to the original story, the price of streaming and various political reasons. All of these could affect the movie’s success.
Originally intended to be released in movie theaters on March 27, the film’s release was postponed due to the pandemic and then was pushed to an online — and costly — premiere. With a fee of $29.99, in addition to the monthly Disney+ subscription cost of $6.99, the debut seems inaccessible
to lower-income viewers, and many critics wonder: Is Mulan really worth it?
While not an exact mirror of the original plot, the new Mulan still follows the basic storyline: A woman leaves home to fight in a Chinese war in place of her father. While the original certainly showcased female empowerment, this film does so even more grandly, with a strong emphasis on values of honor and courage, rather than giving attention to sexist jokes and silly songs. In this way, the new Mulan isn’t as much a comedy as an action and adventure film.
One of the biggest differences between the original movie and its remake is that the live-action film erased the beloved cartoon dragon Mushu, a fiery red critter voiced by Eddie Murphy in the original, who helped Mulan through her journey. Instead, the remake uses a mythological phoenix to protect Mulan while in battle.
It’s also noticeable that the movie is not a musical like the original. While a few of the songs are used as instrumental background music, classics such as “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and “A Girl Worth Fighting For” aren’t present in the remake. Some critics believe the producers decided to remove these songs for their sexist connotations. “Reflection” is the only song that somewhat made it to the adaptation.
One criticism of the remake is that its use of Chinese names is culturally appropriating. Most of the characters’ names were changed to actual Chinese names — for example, Mulan’s family name was changed from Fa to Hua. More notably, the villain from the original, Shan Yu, was changed to Bori Khan to sound more Mongolian. The villains are also referred to as “northern invaders” rather than the Huns.
Much of the controversial uproar surrounding Mulan is not so much about the film itself but about the actors and actresses playing the characters.
The lead actress who plays Mulan, Liu Yifei, has made clear she stands with China in the current tensions between Hong Kong and mainland China. Because of the police brutality against protesters that’s taken place in Hong Kong, her stance is controversial. Many who are for Hong Kong’s liberation from China, including many viewers in the U.S., are boycotting the remake.
With so many factors persuading potential viewers to not watch the film, Mulan’s box office earnings as of Thursday were roughly $37.6 million.
While the remake is full of action and tons of girl power, I’m really not sure the new Mulan has any chance of living up to the hype of its predecessor.