This is bothersome news. Now don’t get me wrong, my issue isn’t with the casting. Gong Li is an incredible actress — check out Curse of the Golden Flower and Coming Home — who deserves to be in a big-budgeted Hollywood blockbuster. But Gong Li playing the main villain indicates a huge departure from the 1998 animated version, which by the way, is a bloody awesome but relatively underrated movie. In the animated version, the primary antagonist was Shan Yu, the leader of the Huns.
I usually champion the idea that remakes should feel fresh and different from the original. Otherwise, what would be the point of remaking it? Why not just watch the original? That was my second biggest problem with 2017’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, which is a shot for shot translation of the original. It is a purposeless remake that brought nothing new to the table, not to mention it pales it comparison to the original. My first biggest problem was with the gay orgy scene. Oh wait…
That said, I’m not quite sure if director Niki Caro (along with the story group) made the right decision by gender swapping the villain in this Mulan remake. After all, Mulan is a story about a WOMAN who pretends to be a man to join the army and eventually overcomes the villain who is a MAN. Gender swapping the villain will most likely dampen the effects of that storyline.
But perhaps Disney is going for something more complex than the original 1998 version. After all, the social landscape has changed quite a fair bit since 1998 and gender dynamics aren’t the same as they used to be. While I am wary, I’m also excited to see where Disney takes this live-action remake. Niki Caro is a reliable director, having helmed good films like Whale Rider and North Country.
Besides Gong Li, The Hollywood Reporter has also confirmed that Jet Li (Lethal Weapon 4, Hero) is in final talks to play the emperor of China, who gives out the order that one male from each household must enlist in the army. Also joining the cast is New Zealand born Chinese-Vietnamese actress Xana Tang, who’s set to play Hua Mulan’s sister (another departure from the original). The stacked list of cast members also includes Donnie Yen — he’s one with the force and the force is with him — as Mulan’s mentor, Commander Tung as well as Liu YiFei (Once Upon a Time).
Mulan is set to be released in March 2020.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter