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Mulan
Mulan (2020 film) poster.jpg
Official release poster
Directed by Niki Caro
Produced by
  • Chris Bender
  • Jake Weiner
  • Jason T. Reed
Screenplay by
  • Rick Jaffa
    Amanda Silver
  • Lauren Hynek
  • Elizabeth Martin
Starring
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Mandy Walker
Editing by David Coulson
Studio
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date(s) March 9, 2020 (2020-03-09) (Hollywood)
September 4, 2020 (2020-09-04) (United States)
Running time 115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $200 million
Money made $70 million

Mulan is a 2020 American fantasy adventure drama film produced by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Niki Caro, with a screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek, and Elizabeth Martin, it is a live-action adaptation of Disney's 1998 animated film of the same name, itself based on the Chinese folklore story, "The Ballad of Mulan". The film stars Yifei Liu in the title role, alongside Donnie Yen, Tzi Ma, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Ron Yuan, Gong Li, and Jet Li in supporting roles. The plot takes place in Imperial China, where Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, masquerades as a man to take her ailing father's place during a general conscription to counter the Rouran army.

Plans for a live-action remake began in 2010 but the project stalled in "development hell" for most of the decade. Filming took place in New Zealand and China from August to November 2018. Over the course of production, the film was the subject of several controversies, including changes to the source material and filming in Xinjiang in light of the Uyghur genocide and Xinjiang internment camps. The film also received criticism for its production team largely consisting of white people, such as the hiring of Caro, rather than an Asian director.

Mulan held its world premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 9, 2020. The film was originally scheduled for a wide theatrical release later that month, but was cancelled in the United States after being delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, the film was released on September 4, 2020 by Disney+ for a premium fee in countries where the service had launched. The film had a traditional theatrical release in countries without Disney+ where theaters had re-opened. Due to its overall limited theatrical release as a result of the pandemic however, the film grossed just under $70 million against a production budget of $200 million, becoming a financial disappointment. The film received generally positive reviews from Western critics, who praised the action sequences, costumes, visuals, and performances, but the film was criticized for the screenplay and editing. It received unfavorable reviews from fans of the original and Chinese critics, who criticized the character development, and its cultural and historical inaccuracies. At the 93rd Academy Awards, the film received nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Visual Effects.

Plot

In Imperial China, Hua Mulan is an adventurous and active girl, to the disappointment of her parents Zhou and Li, who hope that one day she will be wed to a good husband. As a young woman, Mulan is arranged to meet with a matchmaker to demonstrate her fitness as a future wife. Mulan, flustered, attempts to pour tea in front of the matchmaker, but a spider scares the former's younger sister Xiu, accidentally causing a mishap that destroys the teapot, leading the matchmaker to call her a disgrace in front of her family.

To the north, an imperial outpost is invaded by Rouran warriors, under the leadership of Böri Khan. They are assisted by the witch Xian Lang, who uses her magic to pose as a surviving soldier and report the attack to the Emperor of China; he then issues a conscription decree ordering every family to contribute one man to fight Khan's forces.

Imperial soldiers arrive in Mulan's village to enlist recruits and Zhou is forced to pledge his service as he has no sons, immediately falling over in front of the soldiers due to his bad leg. Realizing that her father has no chance of survival, Mulan flees with his armor, horse, and sword to join in his place. Mulan arrives at the training camp, which is run by Commander Tung, an old comrade of Zhou. Alongside dozens of other inexperienced recruits, she ultimately becomes a trained soldier under his tutelage without exposing her true identity.

The Khan's army continues to advance, forcing Tung to end training early and send his battalion to fight. Mulan chases some troops on her own, but is confronted by Xian Lang, who mocks her for pretending to be a man. She attempts to kill Mulan, but her attacks are stopped by the leather with which Mulan's chest had been bound to hide her identity. Mulan removes her male disguise, returning to the battle just as the Rourans begin attacking her fellow troops with a trebuchet. Mulan uses discarded helmets and her archery skills to maneuver the trebuchet into firing on a snowy mountain, triggering an avalanche that buries the Rourans.

Mulan rides back to camp and rescues Chen Honghui, a soldier she befriended in camp. Unable to hide her true gender any longer, she is expelled from the army and begins her return home. On her way, she is confronted by Xian Lang, who reveals that she was also shunned by her people and fights for Böri Khan only because he treats her as an equal and that no one else does. Additionally, she reveals that the attacks on the outposts have been a diversion, as Khan's true plan is to capture and execute the Emperor for having his father killed. Risking execution, Mulan returns to her battalion to warn them of the impending capture. The soldiers she befriended stand up for her, and Tung decides to believe her, and allows her to lead a unit to the Emperor's palace.

Xian Lang uses her magic to be in the image of the Imperial Chancellor and persuades the Emperor to accept Böri Khan's challenge to single combat, while removing the city guards from their posts. The guards are murdered, and the Rourans prepare to burn the Emperor alive. Mulan's unit distracts the Rourans while Mulan goes to save the Emperor. Khan tries to snipe her with an arrow, but Xian Lang, sympathetic to Mulan and disenchanted from Khan, transforms into an eagle and sacrifices herself by intercepting the arrow. Mulan kills Khan, but not before he disarms her and destroys her father's sword. She frees the Emperor, who offers to let her join his personal guard. She declines the offer and returns to her village.

Mulan is reunited with her family. An emissary from the Emperor, under the leadership of Commander Tung, arrives to present Mulan with a new sword, while making a personal request that she join the Imperial Army as an officer.

Cast

  • Yifei Liu as Mulan, the eldest daughter of Hua Zhou, who defies both tradition and the law by disguising herself as a man by the name of "Hua Jun", in order to enlist herself in the Imperial Army in place of her ailing father.
    • Liu reprised her role in the Mandarin-language dubbing of the movie.
    • Crystal Rao as young Mulan.
  • Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, the high ranking leader of the Imperial Army and mentor to Mulan. Both Tung and Chen are based on Li Shang from the animated film.
  • Gong Li as Xian Lang, a powerful witch with shapeshifting abilities and an ally of Böri Khan.
    • Li reprised her role in the Mandarin-language dubbing of the movie.
  • Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan, a Rouran warrior-leader intent on avenging his father's death. Khan is based on Shan Yu from the animated film.
  • Yoson An as Chen Honghui, a confident and ambitious recruit who joins Commander Tung's unit, and becomes Mulan's ally and love interest. Both Chen and Tung are based on Li Shang from the animated film.
  • Jet Li as The Emperor of China, a wise benevolent ruler, who orders the mobilization of troops via the conscription of one man from each household, to fight the invading Rouran army.
    • Li reprised his role in the Mandarin-language dubbing of the movie.
  • Tzi Ma as Hua Zhou, Mulan's father and a famed war veteran, who is now recalled to the Imperial Army despite his bad leg.
  • Rosalind Chao as Hua Li, Mulan's mother and Zhou's wife.
  • Xana Tang as Hua Xiu, Mulan's younger sister, who suffers from arachnophobia. The character was created for the film's plot because the filmmakers felt that "this added a broader emotional context and added more motivation for [Mulan's] character."
    • Elena Askin as young Xiu.
  • Ron Yuan as Sergeant Qiang, the fiercely loyal second in command of the Imperial Regiment.
  • Jun Yu as Cricket, a hapless recruit who joins Commander Tung's unit. Cricket is based on Cri-Kee, a cricket from the animated film.
  • Jimmy Wong as Ling, a recruit who joins Commander Tung's unit.
  • Chen Tang as Yao, a gruff recruit who joins Commander Tung's unit.
  • Doua Moua as Chien-Po, a chubby recruit who joins Commander Tung's unit.
  • Nelson Lee as The Chancellor, a member of the Emperor's council in charge of conscripting new recruits to join the Imperial army. The Chancellor is based on Chi-Fu from the animated film.
  • Cheng Pei-pei as the Matchmaker
    • Cheng reprised her role in the Mandarin-language dubbing of the movie.
  • Arka Das as Red Fez, who is possessed by Xianniang to enter a palace which she and Böri Khan conquer

Additionally, Ming-Na Wen, the original voice of Mulan in the animated film, its sequel, and other projects, cameos as an esteemed guest who introduces Mulan to the Emperor. Utkarsh Ambudkar and Chum Ehelepola were cast as Skatch and Ramtish, con artists, but their roles were cut from the final film.

Sequel

In April 2020, it was reported that a Mulan sequel is in development with Chris Bender, Jason T. Reed, and Jake Weiner returning as producers.

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