The story of the legendary warrior from the Northern and Southern dynasties of China is returning to the screen next month in a live-action adaptation that looks like a warrior epic with large scale battles, magic, amazing costumes, and a protagonist fueled by internal conflict.
Disney is officially in the live-action remake business with various levels of box office and critical success. I’m not a huge fan of this trend, but it does give the family entertainment giant the chance to correct the shortcomings of the old animated films and modernize them for a new generation of kids. Mulan is directed by Niki Caro (who won a BAFTA for Whale Rider), with a story based on the narrative poem The Ballad of Mulan. This adaptation looks like it takes the poem into more consideration than the 1998 animated feature did.
You can see the animated movie here, it hasn’t been erased. What’s been added with live-action is the look and feel of the big Chinese made movie epics – complete with wirework, beautiful period costumes, and sweeping shots of battles of all scales. It’s unlike the other live-action remakes Disney has put out – it doesn’t appear to have any musical numbers, it has no obvious CG characters, and it’s not centered around a romance. We’ll see how audiences respond.
The cast is led by Yifei Liu as Mulan and includes Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan, Yoson An as Cheng Honghui, Gong Li as Xianniang, and Jet Li as the Emperor. We’re all likely familiar with story Disney told 22 years ago, but here’s the official synopsis for the live-action anyway because it does show a change in tone…
When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation… and a proud father.