Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Play as you read for some thematic atmosphere ;)
The trailer for Disney's 2020 live action Mulan dropped today, an event that I have been excitedly waiting for ever since Disney announced they would be remaking the beloved 1998 film. While I loved the animated version, with its iconic songs such as "I'll Make a Man Out of You" and "Reflection" and characters such as the sassy dragon Mushu and Li Shang, I was perfectly fine with the live action film deviating from the original.
It's been two decades since the original Mulan was released, and as an adult I think it's more important than ever for my culture's stories to be told in a dedicated, truthful manner. Mulan, after all, is so much more than that one Asian Disney princess who is the sole badass fighter among the array of ballgowns. The tale of Hua Mulan, a Chinese legend originating from the Northern and Southern dynasties era (420-589 CE), has stood the test of time because it inspired women around the world, especially Asian women, to stand strong and embrace more masculine qualities in a society that forced them to be docile and subservient to men. Because the inherent message of Mulan is so valuable, especially in today's sociopolitical climate where we're still struggling with gender inequality, I believe 2020's Mulan should do its best to be a powerful testament to all the women who fought oppression throughout history, even if doing so requires sacrificing fun characters or musical sequences.
The fact that Disney is the studio to produce Mulan is incredibly important because the messages it delivers through its media shape people's ideologies all around the world. Growing up in the start of the 21st century, almost all of the media that I consumed when I was a child was from Disney, whether it be princess movies or Disney Channel shows such as Hannah Montana and The Suite Life on Deck. Most of the children my age at that time are now adults, and I believe that Disney is releasing so many live action remakes is to capitalize on our nostalgia for our childhoods. Mulan, however, is different from the Cinderella (2015) and the upcoming The Lion King remake because it is only the second time I will be seeing a Disney movie with Asian characters, and the first time they will be living, breathing people. With the release of Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and Netflix rom coms like To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018) and Always Be My Maybe (2019) in the last two years, I was so happy that I could finally see beautiful, diverse Asian actors and actresses with boatloads of personality on my screen, but a large portion of these films still incorporated elements of Western culture and focused on the stories of Asian Americans. The Mulan remake, however, will take place entirely in China, and the reverence for staying true to the land's history, culture, and traditions is evident just from watching the trailer.
After watching the trailer a few times in a row because it was too good, however, I scrolled through the Youtube comments and was shocked at the amount of negativity I saw. Many of the comments criticized the film for not staying true to the original, with hundreds of people asking the likes of "Where's Mushu?!!!" and "I'm so tired of Disney making live action remakes, this better be good." While I can understand the disappointment at cutting out certain elements of the original, the trailer was quite clearly AMAZING to me. In 90 seconds, I could immediately see how well the film was casted, with incredibly talented veteran actors such as Liu Yifei, Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha, Raise the Red Lantern) and Jet Li (The Forbidden Kingdom, The Expendables), the beautiful costumes and set design, and the epic cinematography, which reminded me of Chinese historical films with grand battles and sweeping palaces.
While the upcoming Mulan remake might not be perfect, and we may not be able to hear songs from its iconic soundtrack (crossing my fingers for instrumental versions), I have confidence that it will be a classic in its own right by showing the world how fascinating and rich Chinese culture is, and that there are still many beautiful stories in Asia and around the world left untold to the masses. Just like the year 2020, the beginning of my third decade of life, I hope Mulan will be a revolutionary step towards a brighter, more inclusive world.