On this website I have been very open about the fact that I am no longer a huge supporter of Disney’s recent trend of remaking their beloved animated features. The remake of Beauty and the Beast was my favourite film of 2017, and honestly, very little has lived up to it since. I was not a fan of the recent Aladdin remake, which I found suffered from a rookie director, lack of talent and some poor vocal work. But even I, in my cynicism and negativity, cannot explain how excited I have been, and still am, for the new live-action Mulan.
Mulan has always been my favourite Disney film, and it’s the film that not only inspired by obsession with Eastern Asian, but also with strong female characters and the roles that they can play (of course watching Buffy also helped there). So when I learned that my favourite piece of Disney media was getting the live-action treatment I was ready, and after viewing the trailer – I still am.
The trailer follows in the same footsteps as a majority of the Disney live-action fare, with the screen being dominated by lush visuals and a vivid palette of colour. Liu Yifei looks simply perfect in the lead role, and the trailer’s ability to cut between her female beauty and her masculine harshness is outstanding, assuring that this film will be able to portray the iconic gender-swap with style and grace. Also can we just take a moment to appreciate this new poster? That is truly stunning work.
The trailer also seems to already be showcasing Disney’s attention to cultural detail. Although I love the original film, it does sometimes suffer from merging various Asian cultures under one title in the hope to convey a westernised perception of the oriental aesthetic. For example, Mulan’s bridal wear has more in common with the Japanese practice of Geisha, than it does with traditional Chinese marital preparation. But now Mulan can be seen to don traditional Chinese emblems of beauty, such as the flowers being painted so delicately upon her forehead. Let’s hope Disney can keep this authenticity running throughout the film.
So far we have not seen this movie’s iteration of the Shang character (who is now called Chen Honghui) played by Yoson An. But I’m sure a second, and longer, trailer will give us a first glimpse at the beloved character. I also think we will see more of the film’s magical elements as the marketing continues, with Gong Li’s new witch character hopefully getting some screen time in future advertising. But what we get is Yifei looking both beautiful and intimidating in equal measure, allowing us to see why Disney chose her for such a prominent role.
This film will also follow Cinderella’s example, in that there will be no singing or musical numbers, which I believe will actually help the film to convey it’s gritty action-fantasy aesthetic. I would hate for this film to force in poorly constructed musical numbers, especially when the director is not comfortable with them. Basically I don’t want another Aladdin on our hands here, I want this film to be everything that that film wasn’t. And so far, it’s giving me that. So all we can do now is wait and see for what the film will deliver when it premiers next year. Let’s just hope that this film will bring honour to us all.