Disney’s dominance of the box office continues with their latest live-action remake of a beloved animated classic. This time it’s the warrior princess Mulan who’s getting the cinematic treatment, with a remake set to hit cinemas in 2020. Based on 1998's animated musical of the same name, Mulan will retell the story of the titular character as she disguises herself as a man to join the Imperial Army as it defends China from an oncoming invasion.
Like Disney’s previous remakes, the new Mulan shares some similarities with its animated counterpart but is a wholly new retelling of the story. Some hints of what to expect were shown, but they may have gone unnoticed due to the trailer’s quick pacing. Here are 10 things you may have missed in the first trailer for the upcoming remake.
10 The Battle At The Mountain Pass
It seems that the big set-piece battle of the animated movie will be recreated for the upcoming remake, but now with the aid of modern-day CGI and filmmaking techniques. Even the avalanche that Mulan ignites will be recreated, only shown in a more realistic way.
The Northern invaders are shown to have more conventional weaponry than before, this time using catapults and infantry instead of being a massive horde of horseback fighters. Expect this battle to be more elaborate and action-packed than its animated counterpart.
9 The Final Battle
In the original movie, Mulan saves the Emperor (and China) by infiltrating the celebration at the royal palace. The unfolding brawl is a mix of hijinks and deadly duels, which ends with Shan Yu being killed by fireworks.
This climactic fight returns but with some changes. Near the trailer’s end, Mulan runs on the palace grounds’ roofs, chasing what could be the enemy’s pet falcon (refer to the next entry). Given its more serious tone and a new supernatural villain played by Gong Li, don’t expect the remake’s final duel to be an exact recreation of the original.
8 The New Huns
The main antagonistic force of Mulan was the invading Hun army, led by their leader, the fearsome Shan Yu. Known for their numbers and brutality, the Hun army almost makes it to the capital before Mulan outsmarts them in combat.
The Huns return in Disney’s remake, albeit a little different. In the trailer, a quick glimpse of the army simply referred to as the “Northern invaders” that rides under the command of Bori Khan is shown. Even what may be Shan Yu’s loyal falcon is teased near the end, where Mulan is shown chasing the bird on the palace’s rooftops.
7 The Matchmakers
Aside from her love for her family, Mulan is motivated by her rejection of the traditional gender roles that China expects of her. This patriarchal system was best embodied by the Matchmakers, whose job is to groom young women into perfect wives.
The Matchmakers return in the remake and are just as overbearing as ever. Once again, the Matchmakers list all of the acceptable yet submissive traits that a good bride must possess – qualities that Mulan will most probably reject before disguising as a man to join the Chinese army’s defense against the coming invasion.
6 Khan the Horse
Being a Disney animated feature, the original Mulan featured its fair share of animals with personalities. One of these important animal characters was Khan, Mulan’s loyal stallion that only Mushu the dragon could understand.
The opening shot of the trailer features Mulan riding across a field on a black horse with a familiar white streak on its face and later doing the same during the battle at the mountain pass. This may or may not be Khan but it doesn’t hurt to dream.
5 Yoson An as Chen Honghui
According to the provided synopsis, the remake will give Mulan a new romantic subplot. This time, Mulan’s love interest will be her fellow recruit and rival Chen Honghui instead of her commanding officer Li Shang.
This is a significant shift from the original movie, leading some fans to be concerned over what they fear could be a generic love subplot instead of the original’s distinct romance with theorized hints of bisexuality. The guy who could be Cheng doesn’t say anything in the trailer, so this may or may not have been addressed in the final cut.
4 Liu Yifei as Hua Mulan
For the upcoming remake, Disney has cast Liu Yifei as Mulan. What some fans may not know is who exactly Yifei is and why she was chosen for the titular role.
Named as one of the New Four Dan Actresses in China back in 2009, Yifei is a relatively new actress with experience in romantic films and historical fantasies. She’s also known for her martial arts skills, as shown by her sword mastery in the trailer. Mulan is her biggest role to date, with her most well-known performance previously being her time as Golden Sparrow in The Forbidden Kingdom.
3 Niki Caro’s First Blockbuster
What makes Mulan special – outside from being a remake of a beloved animated movie – is its director, Niki Caro. Best known for her award-winning Whale Rider and 2017’s The Zookeeper's Wife, Caro marks her entry into blockbuster filmmaking with Mulan.
The trailer may only show enough, but it still features some gorgeous landscape shots and what promises to be sprawling battle scenes. It should also be noted that Caro is only the fifth female filmmaker to helm a large-scale movie with a budget exceeding $100 million.
2 Disney’s First Wuxia Epic
One of the most noticeable changes the remake implements is its tone, where it feels more serious than what many remember. This is because Mulan changed its genre, going for a Wuxia epic instead of a Broadway-styled musical.
Wuxia – which literally means “martial heroes” – is a genre of Chinese fiction best known for focusing on martial arts. Because of this, the new Mulan will share more similarities with something like Red Cliff rather than this year’s Aladdin. Disney has promised that the iconic soundtrack will return in some capacity, but the trailer has yet to show how.
1 The Legend Of Hua Mulan
Another explanation for the remake’s tone is the filmmakers’ desire to adhere more to the actual source material instead of its more well-known animated retelling. For the remake, the filmmakers looked to the original legend of Hua Mulan.
The story’s the same, only it lasted 12 years and had fewer fantastical elements. The animated Mulan actually tanked in China thanks to poor reception and a bad release date, and the remake seems to have been made with this in mind. Disney hopes to secure the lucrative Chinese market by retelling the folk legend in as grounded of a tone as possible.