The trailer of the live-action version of Disney’s Mulan has been out for a couple of days and has already caught the attention of Disney fans and casual cinemagoers. But to the surprise of many, Disney has altered a lot of things in this version. This is quite unlike the route they took with the remakes of Lion King and Aladdin. These two movies have closely followed the Disney source material. Mulan, on the other hand, seems to be leaning a bit towards the original source material, that is, the Ballad of Hua Mulan. It is deriving heavily from the ancient Chinese folklore.
The most noticeable change is the absence of Mushu, the funny dragon. Also, most of the supernatural elements have been done away with. Perhaps this change of strategy is due to the cold reception received by the original animated version in China. It did not gain much popularity in the country because local audiences felt that it heavily deviated from the source material, and hence, was insulting to the Chinese culture.
The new Mulan seems to be much more in-tune with the culture of China. Actors like Yifei Liu, Jet Li and Donnie Yen will surely bring the required cultural flavours to the table. Nevertheless, these changes should not be considered negative. Some critics have supported these changes as it will prevent the movie from becoming a scene-by-scene rehash of the original. It will possess the gravitas to stand as its own piece of art.
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Coming to the trailer itself, the first look is undoubtedly, impressive. Cinematographically, each and every shot is gorgeous. It opens with Mulan riding her horse on the lush green plains of ancient China. Here she is free but solitary. Then, there’s a quick transition to civilization. We are introduced to Mulan’s family. Talks regarding Mulan’s marriage are ongoing. Here she seems to be surrounded by people. Inside, though, she seems lonely. Again, the sense of isolation is overpowering. But it also lacks the previous freedom which she had when she was riding her horse. Next, there is a shot-by-shot superimposition of Mulan in scenarios of martial arts training as well as training to be a proper bride. The words quiet, composed, graceful and disciplined astonishingly apply to both the sides of Mulan that are presented in the trailer.
The next scene in the trailer is perhaps inspired directly from the ballad. It closely resembles one of the final battles of Mulan where she opened her hair and emerged as a woman on the battlefield. She did this in order to encourage her forces and she eventually won the battle.
Those awaiting glorious reimagining of the classical scores will be a bit disappointed. The new Mulan is clearly not a musical. This is owing to its more serious and a bit grittier tone. Another positive change that can be found in the trailer is the revamping of the villains. The animated Mulan received a lot of flack from the Turkish side. That was due to their dehumanised portrayal of the Huns. They were given grey skin, yellow eyes, pointed fingernails and fangs. This time around, all the enemy soldiers can be confirmed as being humans.
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Despite all the effort that is being put in by Disney, some fans are still sceptical. It is no surprise that many have taken to Twitter in order to voice their opinions. Some are pretty excited to relive their childhood. Some are concerned about the cultural appropriateness of the movie. And some are questioning the value and quality of a remake. The fears of fans are not actually baseless. After all, most live-action adaptations of popular animations have been quite underwhelming.
Tragedies like Dragonball Evolution, Kite, Speed Racer, Devilman, etc. are fresh in the minds of fans who expected something wonderful. Even Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson was only average. Perhaps Atila: Battle Angel is still something to be proud of. But then again, this is a completely new route taken by Disney. After all, this is the first live-action Disney movie which doesn’t have talking animals or supernatural interventions. But it still seems that among all these uncertainties, fans are still holding on to the hope of a proper justification being given to the brave female warrior. Mulan might just become the best live-action Disney film for in the end, a flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful and rarest of all.
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Here’s the official synopsis that was released by the Walt Disney Studios:
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 honoured 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 honoured warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.
The cast is quite impressive as well. The celebrated international cast members include Yifei Liu as Mulan; Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Cheng Honghui; with Gong Li as Xianniang and Jet Li as the Emperor.
To get a full historical background regarding the Mulan movies, follow this thread on Twitter:
Watch the trailer here:
Mulan releases on March 27, 2020. The trailer gives us enough reason to be hyped about the movie as an independent unit, unlike other such Disney remakes. The plot is wonderful, the shots are gorgeous and the aesthetics are on point. It can be expected with quite a bit of certainty that the live-action version of Mulan will surely wow the audience when it hits the theatres.
By Deepjyoti Roy
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