The live-action remake of “Mulan” was released in September on Disney+; however, many changes have brought upon many negative reviews of one of our childhood’s most treasured movies.
Characters and plot
To make “Mulan” more historically accurate, Disney removed several characters, such as Mushu and Li Shang, which disappointed many fans. Mushu played the role of a fun-loving dragon who assisted Mulan on her missions to save her country. Li Shang was the love interest of Mulan and the general who led her and the rest of the soldiers to victory.
“The dragon is a sign of respect and of strength and power and sort of using it as a silly sidekick did not play well with a traditional Chinese audience,” Jason Reed, the producer of the “Mulan” live-action, said.
There were also many changes with existing characters, such as Chien Po, Ling and Yao. They played Mulan’s best friends and supporters who helped her get through her journey in both the live-action and the animated versions. Each character had a distinct personality revealed through their words and actions. Chien Po was the calm peacemaker while Yao was an overly confident but ultimately loyal friend. Ying was the funny, goofy one of the group.
Many, however, felt as though the characters in the live-action were too similar, making them less interesting and important compared to Mulan, the only character who stood out in the live-action remake.
New characters were also added to the movie, such as Mulan’s sister, Hua Xiu.
According to Reed, Hua Xiu’s character was meant to show the audience how different Mulan was compared to other women during that time period.
Another character that was added was Chen Honghui, who replaced Li Shang as Mulan’s love interest. He was more of a supporting character rather than a main lead. Honghui’s character symbolized support for feminism because he treated her as an equal.
Many fans felt that Disney missed their opportunity to represent the LGTBQ+ community as Honghui was attracted to Mulan before she revealed she was a woman.
The live-action “Mulan” also aims to be more historically accurate by removing the original scene where Mulan cuts her hair. Reed claims many Chinese people mocked this because many men had long hair at the time, but the removal of it received criticism from viewers.
“The live-action remake was trying too hard to resemble the animated film but also made it more realistic and got caught up in trying to do so without actually being able to bring out the meaning behind each scene,” Fountain Valley High School freshman Umaiza Asif said.
Mulan’s character development
Aside from the characters, fans criticized Mulan’s character dynamic and development.
The animated version revealed the struggles that Mulan had to endure to achieve her goals and how she dealt with obstacles was relatable to the audience. She broke social norms, took her father’s place in war and persevered for months to stay alive. Mulan represented a feminist icon who relied on her intelligence, her strength and dedication.
In the live-action remake, Mulan was already destined to become great. She was a mystical warrior who was gifted with a large amount of chi since birth. In traditional Chinese culture, chi is a mystical force that provides people with energy and force. Mulan’s chi made her more “masculine” in terms of strength, speed and wit.
Mulan’s original underdog journey inspired many young girls to work and reach new and different heights. On the other hand, the remake is less inspiring because Mulan didn’t have to persevere through the same challenges as the animated version. Of course, she struggled, but there was never a question of whether she would ever succeed.
Xiu, in contrast to Mulan, wasn’t born with chi, and her character showed how innate talent is required to compete with men instead of empowering women to put in effort to achieve their dreams. In the live-action remake, Disney refuted the idea that anyone can achieve anything if they set their mind to it.
There were also many changes with the movie setup. The main difference was the musicals from the original version, which were missing or replaced with slow instrumental songs, such as “Reflection,” to be more emotional.
The musicals were iconic and set a light and playful mood in the original animation. Many people have complained that the live-action remake is too dark, sinister and suspenseful.
Controversial filming and cast support
The biggest source of controversy was the cast’s support for the Chinese Communist Party. Several shots were filmed in East Turkestan, China, where Uighur Muslim concentration camps are located. The set of “Mulan” was near 10 camps and five prisons, which has made many fans upset and boycott the release of the movie.
In the closing credits, Disney thanked many CCP entities in Xinjiang, East Turkestan, such as the Turpan Municipal Bureau of Public Security. The United States placed Turpan Municipal Bureau on the Entity List, a list of license requirements for foreign people by the US Department of Commerce, for human rights violence and arbitrary detention.
“Committed to conducting business in an ethical and responsible manner. We respect and support international principles aimed at protecting and promoting human rights, as described in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work,” Walt Disney Company responded in its social responsibility report and human right policy statement.
In addition, the lead actress who plays Mulan, Liu Yifei, has publicly shown her support for police violence in Hong Kong. Actor Donnie Yen, who portrays Commander Tung, also supports the Chinese government’s control over Hong Kong.
Complaints about the movie’s release arose as people are required to pay $29.99 to have premier access and watch the live-action, even if they already have a subscription to Disney+, which is already $6.99 a month. “Mulan” has been added to its general streaming catalog since Dec. 4, 2020, and is now free to its subscribers.