Mulan – the legend of a girl who disguises as a man to fight for China in her ailing father’s place – is the latest Disney animated classic to receive the live-action treatment. The remake’s first trailer just dropped, leaving fans and newcomers alike either surprised or excited.
Still, older fans can’t help but be nostalgic for the movie they grew up with. Unlike the other Disney remakes, Mulan seems to have diverged significantly from its animated counterpart, promising viewers a different experience in 2020. Because of this, elements of the original Mulan will be left on the cutting floor while others are incorporated in some form. Here are 5 such things that we want to see in the new Mulan and 5 that we don’t.
10 Don’t Want: The Huns’ Defeat
Despite being the most intimidating force in the movie, Shan Yu’s fearsome Hun army is wiped out by luck. Sure, Shan Yu and a few soldiers survive the avalanche but after being built-up for more than half the runtime, the Huns are quickly defeated with one well-aimed firework.
Since the remake is a Wuxia epic, this doesn’t seem like the case because the genre is well-known for staging massive battles. By the look of things, the new Mulan will maximize the Northern invaders and give them ample time to show how terrifying they can be.
9 Want: The Ancestors
When Mulan goes to defend China in her father’s place, her ghostly ancestors help her out by sending the guardian dragon Mushu to assist and guide her. The ancestors don’t just provide spiritual assistance but also some of the movie’s memorably humorous moments.
Since China actually has a mandate against ghosts in movies and also has direct involvement in the remake, it’s unlikely that this version of the ancestors will return. There’s still a supernatural presence in Mulan, thought it’ll most probably be less comedic. Hopefully it isn’t a modernized version of the stereotypical sagely Asian mentor.
8 Don’t Want: Cross-Dressing To Save China
Before the original’s final fight, Mulan enlists three of her male compatriots to infiltrate the palace by cross-dressing. With the power of female stereotypes, Mulan and friends bamboozle the Huns and save the day.
While the cross-dressing isn’t the most offensive gender-related joke to come from the 90s, it’s still an outdated bit that should stay in the past. This is the kind of plot device that movies should’ve outgrown by now. Admittedly this is somewhat trivial compared to the other issues, but this is something easily avoidable.
7 Want: Mushu
Mulan is remembered for a lot of things, one of which is Mushu: the dragon voiced by Eddie Murphy. As a supporting character and comic relief, Mushu delivered some of the movie’s best jokes and quotes while also helping Mulan when she most needed it. Too bad the remake will remove him from the story.
It’s been rumored that the fast-talking dragon will be replaced with a phoenix, though the trailer shows no hints of this. Whatever the new Mushu will be, he or she has a lot to live up to.
6 Don’t Want: A Risk-Free Romantic Subplot
Whether Disney planned it or not, Mulan became a rallying point for the LGBTQ community when the relationship between Mulan aka Fa Ping and Captain Li Shang was seen as progressive following some retrospective analysis.
Given how conservative China is, it’s highly likely that a romantic subplot with hints of bisexuality would be removed. The inclusion of Mulan’s new romantic interest Chen Honghui – a fellow recruit and rival to Mulan – has fueled this concern, with many fearing that the subtly bisexual romance will now be a safely generic love story about two former rivals.
5 Want: The Music
The animated Mulan wouldn’t be complete without its soundtrack that includes iconic songs such as “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You.” Like any good musical, Mulan’s songs drove the narrative forward – which is why their omission from the remake shocked a lot of older fans.
The filmmakers promised that while Mulan isn’t going to be a musical, the original songs will be incorporated in some capacity. A short instrumental rendition of “Reflections” could be heard in the first trailer and this may be the approach that the remake will take. Mulan simply needs its music, even in a cameo.
4 Don’t Want: Another Dark Disney Remake
A common complaint about Disney’s live-action remakes is how dark and self-serious they are when compared to their family-friendly animated counterparts. The problem here isn’t the inclusion of more mature themes but how they’re implemented.
In a bid to be taken seriously, the remakes tend to overcomplicate their respective originals’ simple stories by implying the surface levels of larger ideas such as Jafar’s nationalism in Aladdin or societal sexism in Beauty and the Beast without delving deeper. Mulan is recognized as one of Disney’ more progressive princesses, and she and what she represents deserve more than just lip-service.
3 Want: Female Empowerment
If there’s one theme that Mulan should emphasize above all else, it’s that of female empowerment. Through her actions, Mulan didn’t just reject a patriarchal system’s constraining expectations of women but she also saved an entire country in the process.
With today’s political climate, there’s no better time than now for this kind of message to be heard from the next big Disney-funded blockbuster. The remake should uphold this strong message and even double down on what the original started to honor the feminist icon Mulan has become with the passage of time.
2 Don’t Want: A Sanitized Movie For China
Believe it or not, the original Mulan fared poorly in China due to audiences’ negative response to the loose adaption of Hua Mulan’s legend. As a result, Disney has gone out of its way to please the Chinese but this may paradoxically prove detrimental to the remake.
Due to how lucrative the Chinese box office is, studios have been doing everything to appease Chinese censors, resulting in watered-down blockbusters (The Meg) and thinly-veiled propaganda videos (The Great Wall). While Mulan has a great opportunity to spotlight Chinese culture, it shouldn’t do so by cynically abiding to a focus groups’ demands.
1 Want: A Sense Of Fun
For old-school fans, the most concerning thing about the new Mulan is its seeming lack of joy. This is understandable given the movie’s shift from musical to Wuxia but this diminishes the original’s enduring charm.
As mentioned earlier, the Disney live-action remakes take themselves too seriously, seen in how they overcompensate and distance themselves from the goofy yet enjoyable animated originals. Case in point, Tim Burton’s blandly bleak Dumbo. Our fingers are crossed that Mulan doesn’t follow this lead, instead, respecting the beloved original while carving a new path for itself.