New Mulan Trailer Reaction

Disney released the new trailer for their live-action remake of Mulan today, and it's... fine, I guess. The trailer confirmed many of the rumors that were flying around since the movie began production such as how Mushu will be replaced with a silent phoenix and Shan Yu would be replaced with a new villain. We hear an instrumental track of "Reflections" throughout the trailer, but none of the actors drop their serious expressions to break into song at any point. That's because this movie is not going to be a musical. Even though the original movie had only four songs in it, they took place at four of the most memorable points in the story and carried the story in a fun and entertaining manner. Without Mulan singing her heart out about how her reflection doesn't show who she is inside or Shang belting out "I'll Make a Man Out of You" as he trains his troops, the movie loses many of the elements that made it so nostalgic, and without Mushu's antics, most of the humor is gone as well. As a result, we are left with a run-of-the-mill girl power action movie, which, I suppose, fits right in with the times.

I enjoyed this trailer more than the teaser because it revealed more about the movie. We learn that Mulan is no longer an only child and now has a sister, which is a change from the original folk tale where Mulan had a brother who was too young to be conscripted as a solider. The animated Disney movie changed his character to a dog named Little Brother. This movie has more focus on humans than animals, so it makes sense that Mulan now has another person in her family. Even the new phoenix character doesn't do much in the trailer besides fly overhead in a symbolic gesture that she is always watching over the emperor as his guardian. She is more of a spirit here than an actual sidekick like Mushu, so it looks like her presence in the film will likely be minimal and only take place during key scenes to restore hope to the protagonists.

Just as the new Aladdin added a female empowerment ballad for Jasmine, this version of Mulan is taking its strong girl power theme to the next level by adding a female villain alongside Shan Yu's replacement. The emperor's narration in the trailer states that their new enemy fights alongside a witch, who is revealed in a pretty epic way. Her gold crown and claws make her appear truly menacing as she knocks down soldiers with a mere flick of her hand. The white paint on her face is reminiscent of Adira from Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure. Her magical prowess raises the stakes for Mulan by giving her an even more elusive foe than sheer brawn. Even though I don't know much about this new witch character yet, she is my favorite addition to the story so far. She demonstrates that a woman can be just as threatening to China's well-being as a man, solidifying the themes of the original movie. The animated version may have had a talking dragon, but this is the first time we've seen a character in Mulan's world with the ability to actually manipulate magic.

The thing that bothers me the most about the new trailer is how obvious it was that Mulan is a woman when she pretended to be a male soldier. She looks like a girl, talks like a girl, and moves like a girl. I suppose that's the point, but I'm not sure how she manages to stay in the army for as long as she does without getting found out. The animated movie used angular lines on her face during the scenes when she disguised herself, but that's obviously impossible for live-action. It also seemed like Ming-Na tried a little harder to disguise her voice when she introduced herself to the captain than Yifei Liu did here. The scenes in the animated movie where Mushu tried to help Mulan practice her "man walk" and fit in with the others were some of the funniest parts of the movie as well as crucial to the plot. Since the phoenix is female here and doesn't appear to interact much with Mulan, I'm not sure this part of the movie can be represented without a second replacement character for Mushu.

Overall, this trailer is way too serious for me as a remake of such a comical and light-hearted film. I understand what they are trying to do because it is a war movie, and war is not something that should be taken lightly. I am also aware that Disney is using this remake as an attempt to make up for offending the Chinese with the original film. That's all well and good, but I'm generally not a fan of war movies. Mulan was an exception due to the singing and magic, which are the very elements that helped her to fit in with the Disney Princesses despite not being a princess. I also don't have a very strong opinion about cultural appropriation. After seeing this trailer, I believe that this movie is not being made for people like me, and there's nothing wrong with that. I hope it finds a place in the hearts of the ones it is made for while I continue to enjoy the animated masterpiece.


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