Thank the Ancestors! Mulan Has a Teaser!

So little has been revealed about the production of Disney's live-action remake of Mulan since Chinese actress Liu Yifei was cast for the rule that I was surprised to see that they released the first teaser today. Riding on the coattails of The Little Mermaid controversy, the Disney hype train continues to chug along in the hopes that people will stop arguing over their last announcement. There have been a few rumors about Mulan before today, but this teaser was our first true sample of the look and feel of the film. Earlier this week, it was revealed that Mushu, everyone's favorite dragon sidekick, would be replaced by a phoenix. I loved that Mulan had a dragon in the original film, but the phoenix has had a personal meaning to me ever since I wrote the novella Rebirth: A Faery's Tale. It was also announced that the remake would not be a musical, eliminating the need to cast people who can sing as well as act. It looks like they learned their lesson from casting Emma Watson as Belle. I do have a few minor issues with the trailer, but the movie might end up being completely different from the way it looks in the video below like with Aladdin.

The first thing I noticed about this teaser was the pacing. I could watch the original Mulan a million times without ever getting bored because it didn't linger on any one scene. It jumped straight from Mulan failing her matchmaker interview to singing about how she didn't fit in with society's expectations to disguising herself and joining the army in her father's place. This teaser feels a lot more patient and focuses more on building up the atmosphere and emotion than moving the story along. A lot of time is spent on showing how disappointed Mulan is to become a bride and how hard she trains later to become a warrior. It is tonally similar to the 2005 movie Memoir of a Geisha. Of course, this is a teaser and not a trailer, so I understand that a lot of the movie probably hasn't been shot yet. Still, if this teaser is any representation of what we can expect from the movie, it seems like there might be a lot of bored children in the audience.

I had to watch this teaser a few times before I was able to catch the quick flashes of Mulan in disguise as a male soldier. I wish we could have seen some of the hilarious scenes from the original where she awkwardly pretends to be a boy, but I suppose they are saving all of that for the theater. There is also a lot more footage of her fighting as a girl in this teaser than I recall from the animated version. Her green robes have been replaced with the more culturally sound Chinese color of red, and we see her performing acrobatics, archery, and swordplay with her long hair swirling around her. This poses the question of whether or not this version will contain the iconic scene of her cutting off her hair with her father's sword in order to disguise herself as a man. It would be a tragic loss to forgo this beautifully crafted sequence from the animated classic. Losing that and the "Reflections" song sequence would eliminate the emotional core of the film. From what I've seen so far, I don't expect this version to hold a candle to the original.

In addition to seeing Mulan fight more as a woman than she did in the animated version, the dialogue in this teaser reveals that the matchmaker finds a suitor for her to marry. In the original, she never gets that far because her initial meeting with the matchmaker turns out to be such an epic disaster. This implies that one of the many new characters announced for this adaptation might be a "Gaston" type that expects to marry Mulan regardless of how she feels about him. This could be an interesting twist, but it overcomplicates the simple elegance of the story. It is also possible that we will never meet this potential suitor in the film and that he will merely be used as motivation for Mulan to run away and join the army as quickly as possible so she doesn't create false hopes for him to marry her.

All in all, we need to keep in mind that this is only a teaser and that the movie probably still has a long way to go before its release in March of 2020. Still, I found myself somewhat bored with the way that Disney chose to present it at this early stage. Even though the original Mulan only had four songs, they were beautifully composed and essential to expressing the themes of identity and growth, which is something that every woman struggles with at some point in her life. Lea Salonga's emotional performances will be sorely missed. Mulan is set for release on March 27, 2020. I plan to see it in theaters because she is one of my favorite Disney Princesses, but from what I've seen so far, I don't expect to enjoy it nearly as much as the original.


legogirl8 said…
Im actually quite hopeful for this one!
It seems that instead of making a straight up copy of the disney film, it seems like they decided to pay more homage to the old ballad while also adding something new to the story. And Im all for that! <3
Hope35 said…
I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie too (big fan of the original '98 one but I don't mind the changes to this one either).

But it now has 2 big strikes riding against it doing well:

1. Unlike us, there are a lot of people who don't like the changes and don't much care for the live action remakes in general.

2. The movie's star Crystal Liu recently posted very public support of the Chinese leader's brutal handling of protesters there, which ironically seems like the polar opposite of what her character Mulan would've have done in a similar situation.

I dislike that myself but don't plan to boycott this movie over that because I don't think it would make much difference either way though I wish she could've avoided posting on the 'net about taking a side in that situation because it's lose-lose either way.

My apologies in advance for discussing political stuff here but since this could have a big impact on this movie's potential for success or failure I figured I shouldn't avoid or sugarcoat it.
Lisa Dawn said…
I don't particularly like live-action remakes either, as I've expanded on here, but since there's nothing we can do to stop them, we might as well try to enjoy it. I did hear about the actress, and I think it's a terrible shame that feels that way. However, I also feel that it has nothing to do with the movie and should not be used to judge the project in any way.

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