Essays

Waiting for Mulan

Reflecting on the original legend before the upcoming Disney movie – Anne Zlatow

Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan is off to a rough start, and it hasn’t even hit theaters yet. Directed by Niki Caro, the film was initially set to be released in 2018, following the anniversary of the 1998 animated original. Its world premiere has since been postponed three times, the second time just over two weeks before its release date. Ironically, the greatest challenge to the film’s release has been the pandemic that spread from the same city as the birthplace of Mulan’s star actress, Crystal Liu Yifei. As we look toward the current release date of August 21, it seems that as with many other recent Disney remakes, the treasured predecessor proves tough to beat – this time due to social and political influences beyond the screen. And while the remake’s stunning visuals will likely satisfy most viewers, supporters of Hong Kong’s protests against Beijing last year are already less inclined to give the film a chance.

During the 2019 protests, Crystal Liu Yifei – a Chinese national and patriot – was vocal about throwing support behind the Hong Kong police. This created a backlash from Hong Kongers against the film, and circulation of propaganda using her image (see right). Although Liu was chosen for the title role with consideration for her martial arts acting experience in Chinese films, her views of China and its politics have made her a polarizing figure. Along with her fighting and acrobatic skills, Liu brings a great deal of contemporary Chinese patriotism to the legend of Mulan – adding political complexity to a legend twisted and stretched into many forms for over a thousand years.