Disney has released the full trailer for Mulan, the studio’s live-action remake of its own 1998 animated film. When the first teaser dropped in July, I noted that, while I’m not a huge fan of Disney’s live-action remakes, “this is an effective, sumptuously eye-catching teaser for Mulan.” This latest trailer cements that assessment. It looks gorgeous, very much in the style of a period war drama, and its rumored $300 million production budget shows in every breathtaking shot.
Both films are based on the Chinese legend “The Ballad of Hua Mulan,” which tells the story of a young woman in the Northern Wei era (spanning 386-536 CE) who takes her father’s place when each family is required to provide one male to serve in the emperor’s army. In this version, Hua Mulan is already a well-trained fighter, and she serves for 12 years, with none of her fellow soldiers ever suspecting her true gender.
Disney’s animated film broadly followed the traditional storyline, except Mulan is not well-trained when she first runs away. The film also added a love interest, a goofy dragon representative of the family ancestors named Mushu (hilariously voiced by Eddie Murphy), and a catchy original soundtrack. Mulan was released to critical acclaim, grossing $304 million worldwide and earning Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. In other words, while it didn’t exactly set the box office on fire, it was popular enough to merit a spot on the roster of Disney’s ongoing live-action remakes.
This new live-action version, directed by Niki Caro, also preserves the traditional storyline and several elements of the original film. The matchmaker has just found the free-spirited Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) a suitable match, and Mulan dutifully tries to learn the arts associated with being the perfect Chinese wife—while secretly practicing martial arts. She’s far better at the latter.
When her famed war veteran father Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma), who has no sons, is conscripted into the Emperor’s army to help ward off Northern invaders led by Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee), she disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place. Mulan also has a younger sister, Hua Xiu (Xana Tang) in the live-action version, which also includes a new Khan ally: a witch named Xianniang (Gong Li) who can shapeshift into a hawk form.
This new trailer opens with Hua Zhou lecturing his daughter on the importance of being a good Chinese wife. “Do you know why the phoenix sits at the right hand of the emperor?” he says. “She is his guardian. His protector. She is both beautiful and strong. Your job is to bring honor to the family. Do you think you can do that?” We see Khan’s horde in action, leaping up walls and leaving no survivors, and several dramatic shots of the witch Xianniang, who is quite a formidable fighter herself. And we see Mulan running off in the middle of the night to take her father’s place: “It is my duty to protect my family.”
Listing image by YouTube/Disney