On September 4th, 2020, Disney’s long-awaited film Mulan finally greeted its audience through Disney Plus. After six months of anticipation and heated controversies, three delays of the big-screen rollout, and turbulence within the film industry, the live action remake finally made its debut this week.
The remake is arguably one of the most anticipated films of the year, starring some of the greatest action stars of the international film industry. These include Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Gong Li and Liu Yifei. Based on the epic tale of China’s legendary warrior, the film portrays a young, fearless woman- Hua Mulan- who dresses as a man to represent her family in the Chinese imperial army. Hua Mulan is undoubtedly a symbol of courage, honour and empowerment for many women.
While the film was lauded for its stunning choreography and visuals, it concurrently faced a myriad of setbacks, even prior to its premiere. In a post released on Weibo last year at the height of the Hong Kong Protest Movement, Liu Yifei who plays Mulan publicly expressed that “[she] also supports the Hong Kong police”, whom anti-government protestors accuse of using excessive force to quell unrest. The written statement was accompanied with a heart and strong-arm emojis. This post immediately incited anger amongst pro-democracy activists, erupting the #BoycottMulan trend on Twitter and forcing Disney into a precarious dilemma.
Despite the outpour of support Liu’s sentiment received, the actress was soon faced with backlash from many in favour of the international protests. “She could be a powerful voice for justice but instead, supports this brutality,” one Tweet critiqued. The boycott not only brought massive criticism online towards Liu Yifei herself, but also significantly ensnarled the rollout of Mulan.
As calls to boycott ‘Mulan’ continue across Thailand and Taiwan, accumulated support unites more protestors vowing to shun the film. Prior to Mulan’s premiere on Friday, prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong tweeted “This film is released today. But because Disney kowtows to Beijing, and because Liu Yifei openly and proudly endorses police brutality in Hong Kong, I urge everyone who believes in human rights to #BoycottMulan.”
In response to renewed calls for the boycott over Liu, Mulan’s producer and former Disney executive Jason T. Reed expressed his support for the actress in an interview with Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round on Friday. “I’m not qualified to discuss that in depth. I’m here to represent the film. But will say from a very personal place, no one worked harder and gave more of themselves than Yifei did.”
Not only has the film been impacted by lingering effects of the boycott, it has also been plagued by COVID-19. With this pandemic striking the entertainment industry, Mulan’s big-screen rollout has been delayed three times from its proposed, initial in-theatres release on March 27th. Mandatory closure of theatres and forced lockdowns led many fans to express their disappointment over the pushbacks of their anticipated film.
As we finally arrive at Mulan’s rescheduled premiere, it has regrettably been arranged to skip theatres and instead, stream directly on Disney Plus. Although Mulan undoubtedly unfolds strikingly on our devices with its blazing colour palette, we are still sorry to miss its spectacular shots of beautiful landscapes across the silver screen.
Yet theatrical delays and boycotts aside, Mulan is ultimately here. Despite the myriads of backlashes surrounding this live-action remake, Mulan flourishes in its unique storyline and production, blossoming in its own corner of Disney’s vast collection.