Out of all the Disney live-action remakes in recent years, “Mulan” is arguably one of the most controversial prior to the movie’s debut.
Not only has “Mulan” been threatened by boycotts (in relation to the Hong Kong protests), but many fans have been unhappy with the many changes made by director Niki Caro (particularly to some key characters).
1. Mushu replaced by a Phoenix
Mushu was a fan favourite character in the original animation thanks to his comic relief and iconic lines. In order to be more in line with traditional Chinese myths, the phoenix will serve as an important role (albeit more as a symbolic companion).
In Chinese mythology, the phoenix contains elements of gender fluidity. Fenghuang (鳳凰) – in Chinese – represents blurred gender distinction. Since Mulan disguises herself as a man to serve her country and the people, the phoenix’s inclusion makes sense here.
2. The live-action is closer to the original story
“Mulan” is actually based on a Chinese folk song titled “The Ballad Of Mulan”. In case you didn’t know, the animated version flopped in China because the characters had been Americanised. The 2020 version seeks to right that wrong by sticking close to the source material.
3. Mulan has a sister
While Mulan was an only child in the 1998 Disney film, the latest version gives her a younger sister played by Chinese-Vietnamese actress Xana Tang. It is still unclear how this new sibling addition will affect the narrative now that Mulan is no longer the family’s sole hope.
4. New male lead
Mulan’s main love interest will be replaced by Chen Honghui (played by Yoson An). Instead of being a high ranking solider, Chen Honghui is just another recruit. Rumour has it that, he develops feelings for Mulan before realising that she’s a woman. Does this mean he’s a bisexual?
5. A new mentor
Since Li Shang isn’t in this film, the Chinese army is being led by Commander Tung, played by Donnie Yen (甄子丹). According to reports, Commander Tung will take Mulan under his wing.
6. Shan Yu replaced by 2 new villains
Instead of going with leader of the Hun army, Shan Yu, the remake has chosen to go with Xian Lang – a powerful witch (portrayed by Gong Li) who can shape-shift into a bird of prey. She joins forces with Bori Khan (played by Jason Scott Lee), a Hun warrior from the north seeking to invade the southern lands.
7. The Emperor
While the emperor in the animation was kind, nurturing, and calm, the Jet Li version is said to be much more aggressive and commanding.
To get you hyped up for the movie, here are Christina Aguilera’s updated takes on “Reflection” and original track “Loyal Brave True”: