Mulan (2020)

Jake Lipson

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Title: Mulan (2020)

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family

Director: Niki Caro

Cast: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Gong Li, Jet Li, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Ron Yuan, Susana Tang, Jason Scott Lee, Chum Ehelepola, Jimmy Wong, Doua Moua

Release: 2020-03-25

Plot: A young Chinese maiden disguises herself as a warrior in order to save her father. A live-action feature film based on Disney's 'Mulan'.



Disney has found their star for the upcoming live-action remake of Mulan:

http://deadline.com/2017/11/disney-live-action-mulan-movie-liu-yifei-1202216553/
 
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Jake Lipson

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Mulan was originally slated for November 2, 2018, but obviously they can't make that date now, so during the D23 Expo they announced The Nutcracker and the Four Realms will take that date. Mulan was shown on a release date calendar graphic at the expo with "2019" releases, but has not been officially given a new date. I agree with you that that's pushing it, and would not be surprised to see it end up in 2020.

I still have a problem believing they would actually release Aladdin and Lion King two months apart, so strongly suspect, as you noted in one of the other threads where this issue has come up, that they are keeping dates as placeholders and may overhaul the schedule as things get closer. That's also why I deliberately left a year out of the title of this thread and instead decided to identify the subject as only Disney's live-action remake.
 
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Sam Favate

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Out of all of Disney's animated classics, Mulan probably lends itself to a live-action interpretation more than any others. Here's hoping they find a role for Ming-Na Wen (who played Mulan in the animated version).
 
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Jake Lipson

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If they are going to go all ethnically correct with the human characters, as well they absolutely should, I suspect they'll at least get a big-name Western star to do the voiceover work for (presumably) CGI Mushu so they can have at least one famous name for American audiences above the title, as is the case with Will Smith as the Genie. Since he is a dragon, they can cast anyone they want without backlash on that one.

I'm not a huge fan of him, but I feel like Kevin Hart is probably the closest current equivalent to the star power of Eddie Murphy when he voiced the role in the animated version.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Disney has found their star for the upcoming live-action remake of Mulan:

http://deadline.com/2017/11/disney-live-action-mulan-movie-liu-yifei-1202216553/
She definitely looks the part, and she lived in the United States for four years as a kid so presumably acting in English isn't a problem. She's got the action background for the stunt sequences.

At 30, she's a bit old to be playing a teenager, but that's never stopped most TV shows.

Has anybody seen any of her movies?

I'm not a huge fan of him, but I feel like Kevin Hart is probably the closest current equivalent to the star power of Eddie Murphy when he voiced the role in the animated version.
This seems like a pretty good bet.
 
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Cameron Yee

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I've seen Forbidden Kingdom. I liked it at the time, and became a casual follower of Liu based on her supporting role as Golden Sparrow (which I saw as an homage to the main character in the kung fu classic Come Drink with Me, in part because of her "golden" name but there's also a point where she actually says, "come drink with me.").

I've seen Liu in a few Chinese films, but I admit I haven't really enjoyed them, not so much because of her performance, but by-and-large modern, mainstream Chinese films are all over the place in both action and story. I'm looking forward to seeing her in something that appeals more to my tastes in filmmaking and storytelling.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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At 30, she's a bit old to be playing a teenager
Sigh.... this, to me, is always disappointing.

I think it's generally better to have characters played by age-appropriate actors. Which isn't to say that there aren't exceptions. But it seems like that's the go-to thing to do with young adult roles, and it's disappointing. It doesn't really help with suspension of disbelief either.

I feel like some of the magic in the Mulan story is the idea that she's this young teenager, and you just see her in the cartoon and think that she's out of her depth, and then she manages to save the day anyway. When you have a 30 year old playing the part, most 30 year olds don't look that youthful - I think the danger is that with an older actor, the audiences don't see the youth of the character and immediately expect the older actor to triumph without needing to be swayed into believing in that character first.
 
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Jake Lipson

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I think the danger is that with an older actor, the audiences don't see the youth of the character and immediately expect the older actor to triumph without needing to be swayed into believing in that character first.
Very well said, Josh. I agree with your points.

However, here's the other side of the coin, just for the sake of playing devil's advocate: Mulan is a very complex leading role, requiring the actress to explore a wide range of emotions. It's also extremely physical and is likely to be incredibly demanding, especially because she's on screen for (not quite, but almost) the whole movie (at least in the animated one, where there are only a handful of brief scenes where it deviates from her.) Also, it may require singing, too, if they keep the songs. (Niki Caro first said they weren't going to and then backtracked to say that that decision has not been made yet.)

So, whomever got it, they knew when they were casting it that it would be a huge acting challenge for anyone. And as goes Mulan the character, so goes Mulan the film; if the actress is anything less than terrific, the whole movie falls apart no matter what other elements they might get right.

So, given the enormity of the role, It's possible -- and I'm not saying this because I know anything about their search, just guessing and trying to give the benefit of the doubt here -- that they saw some younger actors and didn't think they had the chops to pull it off, so went with the older/more experienced actress because they believe she can do it based on that experience. A younger actress probably wouldn't have had quite as extensive a resume already.

*If* indeed that was the case -- and I know this is a big if and might not be true, but let's assume for the moment that it is for the sake of this argument -- I'd rather have a slightly older-looking Mulan who can take us on the journey that her full arc requires, rather than a younger person who isn't as skilled and won't be able to make me feel for the character as deeply as I should.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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I'd rather have a slightly older-looking Mulan who can take us on the journey that her full arc requires, rather than a younger person who isn't as skilled and won't be able to make me feel for the character as deeply as I should.
True, and no argument from me there.

It just seems a little unbelievable to me that the younger actor that can play all of those things doesn't exist. When I see movies like "It" or Netflix shows like "Stranger Things," those demonstrate extraordinary acting from very young actors. One actor appears in both of those projects, and the role in each is very different - watching "It" I realized that one of the kids wasn't just a good "child actor" but a good "actor", period.

I think Mulan is supposed to be 16 in the cartoon. Now, I totally get that their first choice wouldn't be a 16 year old. Too many limitations with shooting schedules and such; I'm not sure if the limit is still four hours a day, but it's not much. (Though "Harry Potter" can do it, disproving that it's impossibly hard.) But it would seem to me that you could find an 18-20 year old who registered onscreen as 16 in a way that felt more authentic than a 30 year old playing 16.

I get why these decisions are made, but at the same time, if we're gonna do all of these remakes and redos, why not do a version where the child protagonist is played by someone close to childhood? Spider-Man Homecoming instantly succeeded for me in a way the other Spider-Men movies never did, and a big part of that was looking at Peter Parker and seeing him as a kid, instead of seeing him as a kid being played by a 30 year old actor.
 
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Jake Lipson

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This is my ignorance of the Chinese market talking here, so I may be totally off base, and I don't intend to offend anyone with this remark. But it's not like they could go looking at the kids from It or Stranger Things because of the ethnic nature of the role. I get that you were just using them as examples to prove that really good young actors exist, and you'll get no argument from me on that point.

But, is it possible that China might have less of an industry of YOUNG actors than Hollywood does, who can pull off all the demands of the role, including possibly very singing, and do it all in fluent English without a problem? (You know Disney will not be subtitling any part of this film for American audiences.)

I legitimately do not know the answer to this question as I've only seen a handful of Chinese films. We know Disney had a difficult time finding the right actors for Aladdin and Jasmine, but they eventually did. Maybe they also had a similarly difficult time with this role.
 

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Flog that horse, Igor. Flog it hard. Whip it til it bleeds. Hopefully it dies in a gusher of Red Ink for you and the Di$ney shareholders.
 

Cameron Yee

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My wife, who is Malaysian Chinese, thought Liu was a predictable and "safe" choice since she is very popular. She also says there are a lot of teenage actors in the Chinese market, but agreed that they needed someone with experience to pull off the part for a Disney production. It doesn't hurt that Liu, like most Chinese actors, has also had a singing career, if there are indeed songs in this live action version.

This is my ignorance of the Chinese market talking here, so I may be totally off base, and I don't intend to offend anyone with this remark. But it's not like they could go looking at the kids from It or Stranger Things because of the ethnic nature of the role. I get that you were just using them as examples to prove that really good young actors exist, and you'll get no argument from me on that point.

But, is it possible that China might have less of an industry of YOUNG actors than Hollywood does, who can pull off all the demands of the role, including possibly very singing, and do it all in fluent English without a problem? (You know Disney will not be subtitling any part of this film for American audiences.)

I legitimately do not know the answer to this question as I've only seen a handful of Chinese films. We know Disney had a difficult time finding the right actors for Aladdin and Jasmine, but they eventually did. Maybe they also had a similarly difficult time with this role.
 

Jake Lipson

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It doesn't hurt that Liu, like most Chinese actors, has also had a singing career, if there are indeed songs in this live action version.
Maybe this is me talking as a biased fan of the original, but I would think/hope that the fact that they chose someone who can sing would indicate that they intend to keep them. I think the songs are an iconic part of the original that people know, love and will expect to see retained (especially Reflection and I'll Make a Man Out of You), so they would be foolish to drop them.

Another interesting question: Disney retained Alan Menken to provide the instrumental score the remake of Beauty and the Beast, in which he did write new material but also heavily relied upon the basis of his 1991 score. The instrumental score for Mulan was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who unfortunately obviously cannot return because he is no longer with us (R.I.P.). But he did come up with several iconic passages, including especially the music for the otherwise silent section in which Mulan makes her decision to take her father's place, which is one of the best uses of musical underscore in any Disney film ever.

Obviously, the remake has to be new enough to justify its own existence, but also must respect (and to some extent recreate) iconic moments from the original. So, does whomever ens up composing the score for the new film have an obligation to use Goldsmith's theme for that section? Disney could allow this, since they own it, if they see fit to do so.

Do we have to do spoiler tags on a 19-year-old movie? (If you haven't seen the original movie, what are you doing in this thread instead of watching it?) Anyway, I'm about to discuss a spoiler for the original.

On another, non-music-related note, I hope Disney has the nerve to allow the remake to do what the original should have done. The natural fulfillment of her story arc is for Mulan to kill Shaun-Yu in battle. But the original, likely handicapped by Disney's desire to maintain a G rating, chickened out. (Ironically, it would almost certainly receive a PG if the exact same film were made today instead,but anyway...)

You can almost hear a studio executive whispering behind the scenes, "Oh, she can't do that. A Disney princess can't kill anybody," so they came up with the bowing him up/fireworks thing as a "nicer" alternative. But all of her training and her entire arc had really been leading towards her taking charge in that moment and actually doing what needed to be done and killing him (not to mention, he was trying to kill her!), so I really hope that the new movie actually lets her do it this time. I love Mulan, but that part felt off to me and extremely inauthentic.
 
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Cameron Yee

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Is that a Crime and Punishment reference? Or are you just talking about Bob Iger? Or both? :)

Flog that horse, Igor. Flog it hard. Whip it til it bleeds. Hopefully it dies in a gusher of Red Ink for you and the Di$ney shareholders.
 

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Jake Lipson

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Liu may be an Emma Watson equivalent if you're talking strictly about China, but Emma Watson has a large fan base worldwide due to the international popularity of Harry Potter and, recently, Beauty and the Beast. Before this announcement, I had no idea who Liu was, so I'm not sure that she is well-known outside of China. Her presence will absolutely help sell this film to Chinese audiences, but in America she is more of an unknown (unless, I suppose, you're a really passionate follower of Chinese cinema, which admittedly I am not.)

So, I think Disney will still need to surround her with big-name American stars where possible to help sell it here -- which in this case is probably exclusively Mushu, since all the other characters of course have to be Chinese.

I hope I'm wrong and thy go in a different direction than Kevin Hart. But if they do choose Kevin Hart, you read it here first. ;)
 

Edwin-S

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It is a story about Chinese,so it has to have a Chinese actor as the lead. The fact that there is a debate about the drawing power of a relatively unknown Chinese actor due to the lack of famous Chinese-American actors, who could do the job, says something about Hollywood and it isn't good. I suppose they could have used Lucy Lui, but she is probably too old for the part.
 

Jake Lipson

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Edwin, I was not saying that they should not have cast this woman. I 100% agree that all of the Chinese characters should be cast with actors who are either Chinese or Chinese descent.

But, the fact that they are doing it correctly does mean that the marketing job will be different than if they could throw in any Hollywood star they want in any role. That's all I'm saying.

The Beauty and the Beast remake had a line of famous names all across the top of its poster. This one will not have that, so they'll have to execute the marketing campaign in a slightly different way.

And I stand by what I said before: with Mushu, because he is a dragon he can be of any descent really, meaning they can have a Hollywood star, so they probably will take advantage of that to have at least one big name star's name on the poster. This does not mean that casting it ethnically is a bad thing.

It (and Aladdin) are just unique among Disney's upcoming properties in terms of requiring a specific ethnicity.
 
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