By: Justin Kresse
On Friday, September 4, Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” hit Disney-Plus, but with a price of $29.99, as well as a great deal of outrage. Specifically, the media was perturbed by a “thank you” note in the credits of the film referencing the province, Xinjiang, where a great number of Muslims have been forced into mass detention centers. The film also received backlash last year when the lead actress publicly supported the Hong Kong police. Some viewers are now asking: Should Disney have been more careful in the production process of “Mulan 2020”?
In 2019, the lead actress of “Mulan 2020,” Liu Yifei, made a social media post on the Chinese site, Weibo, in which she reposted an image “expressing support for the police there,” according to the “New York Times.” Alan F. Horn, the co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios, had stated that the people at Disney are not politicians, so getting dragged into political controversy was “inherently unfair.” However, it is a fact of life today that one must be careful what they say. Disney should have been more careful with their star, but Liu Yifei should also have considered the impact of her social media post.
The cries of #BoycottMulan had mostly died down by the film’s release at the beginning of September. Unfortunately for Disney, however, in the credits was yet another problem for the film. Nine minutes into them, the film thanked the Chinese province of Xinjiang, the region where a mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking group had been forced into mass internment camps.
An uproar resulted and Disney was slow to respond. Facing possible problems from either China or the media, the chief financial officer, Christine M. McCarthy, only said that they shot scenes in China “to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography.” This response shows how difficult it can be for a national company to walk the line of being supported by China and the media. One can hope that Disney will publicly apologize for the credit fiasco, but that would mean losing support from the Chinese government, and as Horn put it, “If ‘Mulan’ doesn’t work in China, we have a problem.”
Barring all political controversy, I think the live-action adaptation lacks an interesting variation from the original story. With all the recent Disney remakes, they usually try to alter the story to make it more interesting. Take, for instance, “Maleficent,” which tells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of Maleficent. Don’t get me wrong – “Mulan 2020” tries to differentiate itself with the new ch’i concept, but it only takes away from the story.
Reader warning, mild spoiler alerts ahead. In the live-action film, Mulan has control of this ch’i power from the beginning, so she doesn’t really need training like in the original. Her only struggle is hiding and then later embracing this power. The ending of the film is problematic, too. In the original, the ending is all about her father accepting her. However, in the remake, he accepts her, and then she receives the gift of a beautiful sword with the Chinese values on it – now including family. By making this gift the big “wow” moment of the resolution, the live-action film takes away from the theme of the story: Mulan finding her place in her society and her family.
In the end, the new “Mulan” film just has too many problems, so if you’re looking for a movie to watch, I would highly recommend the original over this remake.