Remaking a 1998 classic . . .
Five years and C$260 million in the making, Disney has released the much-anticipated live-action remake of its 1998 animated classic, Mulan. The film was released through the company’s digital streaming platform Disney+ (and theatrically in several countries) on September 4. The 2020 film combines elements of the original and its 6th-century source material, The Ballad of Hua Mulan. Chinese-born American actress Liu Yifei stars as the titular character alongside other Asian cinematic icons and many household names in Asian-American acting circles. Mulan was anticipated to provide Disney with a much-needed financial boost following its C$6.5 billion hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mulan will be released theatrically in China on Friday
Honour and dishonour in the film’s making . . .
Early reviews from Chinese online viewers indicate the movie has failed to resonate in China. The two movie leads’ public support for the Hong Kong police has also prompted Hong Kong pro-democracy activists such as Joshua Wong and Nathan Law to launch #boycottMulan and #banMulan campaigns on social media, which are trending widely. Revelations that Disney filmed scenes in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is engaged in a campaign of cultural and demographic genocide against indigenous minorities, has also sparked condemnation for the film. And Mulan’s credits thank an entity that was sanctioned by the United States in July for its part in the Xinjiang internment camps.
Representational joys and woes . . .
Mulan has elicited both excitement and criticism from Asian Canadian and Asian American communities. While praising its all-Asian cast, many commentators note that most of the key behind-the-scenes players are of non-Asian descent. Critics, including Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, have also expressed dismay over the reductionist portrayal of Chinese culture. Others have chastised the movie’s nationalist undertones and the eerie parallels between the film’s depiction of Mulan’s fight against the Mongol Rouran nomads in northwest China and current-day oppression of Mongols and Uyghurs in the same region. Commentators also highlighted feminist plot elements from the original film that were deleted in the remake.