Official 'Mulan' trailer wins positive reviews, but doesn't erase controversy for Disney's live-action remake

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Over the past year, Walt Disney’s live-action remakes of classic Mouse House cartoons have taken multiplex audiences on a global tour from 1930s America (Dumbo), to the ancient Middle East (Aladdin) to the African savannah (The Lion King). The studio is kicking 2020 off with a trip to medieval China courtesy of Mulan, a new adaptation of their 1998 animated hit, which starred Ming-Na Wen as the titular warrior and Eddie Murphy as her wisecracking dragon sidekick, Mushu. Murphy’s character is nowhere to be found in the new trailer for the live-action version, directed by Niki Caro and starring Liu Yifei. Instead, this Mulan emphasizes the story’s mix of familial drama and action spectacle, with Mulan representing her family on the battlefield against a pair of formidable foes: warlord Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and shape-shifting witch Xian Lang (Gong Li). (Watch the trailer above.)

Also absent from this sneak peek are any of the original film’s musical numbers, including “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” (Although the latter is referenced in a piece of dialogue included in the trailer.) The apparent decision to omit the songs and the comic relief from the previous Mulan, squares with what Caro told Yahoo Entertainment about her plans for the film in 2017. “My intention is for it to stand alongside these amazing reboots of classic animations like Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella,” the New Zealand-born director said at the time. “The princess movies have a new relevance, and of all the princesses, Mulan is the best one. She’s kick-ass, and I love her.”

Yifei gets a number of opportunities to show off her kick-assery in the two-and-a-half minute trailer. When her ailing father (Tzi Ma) is unable to join an army organized by the Emperor (Jet Li) to combat Bori Khan, Mulan picks up his sword and disguises herself as a man so she can fight in his place. “I will bring honor to us all,” she says determinedly. That oath is put to the test when she comes face-to-face with Xian Lang, who taunts the young warrior about her double identity: “When they find out who you are, they will show you no mercy.”

Disney fans are showing Mulan plenty of love on Twitter, even if the new version leaves out music and Murphy.

On the other hand, there are still signs that the film’s release on March 27 will be met with controversy. In August, Yifei wrote a post on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo that voiced support for the Hong Kong police force in their ongoing conflict with protestors who have regularly taken to the streets to denounce police brutality and Chinese policies that they feel encroach on Hong Kong sovereignty. (Yifei was born in China, but moved to the U.S. as a child and became an American citizen before moving back to Asia to pursue her acting career.) When that post was picked up by the wider internet, the actress skipped Disney’s D23 presentation and a #BoycottMulan hashtag was born, with fresh Tweets posted after the release of the trailer, several of which feature a mocked-up version of the film’s latest poster revised to say “Hong Kong Murderer.”

Mulan opens on March 27.

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