Audience investment is an important part of the filmgoer experience, no doubt about it. With an animated movie, the magic of embellished events, expressions and actions can leap from the artist’s cels and onto the big screen to make viewers cry, cheer and laugh at the right time. Inversely, live-action flicks bet big on the escapades of fellow humans and the actors’ ability to generate sympathy, disdain or something in-between. For the last 10 years and counting, this is Disney’s version of Prince Charming’s quest to find the owner of the glass slipper. Will “Mulan” be a good fit?
This adaptation of Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft’s 1998 project—itself based on Guo Maoqian’s poem from nearly 1,000 years ago—is directed by Niki Caro (“Whale Rider” & “North Country”). Caro becomes just the second woman to direct a Disney project with a budget in excess of $100 million, the first being Ava DuVernay for “A Wrinkle in Time.” Also onboard for the movie is husband-and-wife screenwriting duo Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” & “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”).
Relative newcomer to American film Liu Yifei assumes the titular role. Donnie Yen—known to “Star Wars” diehards as Chirrut Imwe—plays a similarly wise guru in the project, while martial arts icon Jet Li slows down just a bit—at least—to portray the Chinese emperor. Tzi Ma (“The Farewell” & “Rush Hour”) also stars as Mulan’s father, and Gong Li (“Memoirs of a Geisha” & “Miami Vice”) and Yoson An (“Mortal Engines”) play one of Mulan’s enemies and her love interest, respectively. Rounding out the cast are Asian-American performers Jason Scott Lee (“Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) and Rosalind Chao (“The Joy Luck Club” & “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”).
Here’s the synopsis:
When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Chinese Army to defend the country from Huns, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. She is spirited, determined and quick on her feet. Disguised as a man by the name of Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her innermost strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.
“Mulan” is set to premiere in the U.S. on March 27. Watch her kick some in-the-flesh butt by checking out the trailer below.