Although you can’t judge a film by its trailer, the muted, unhumorous tone of this teaser hints at the film’s objective. Mulan is no longer the self-conscious teenager who disappoints her parents by failing to become the ideal wife, before her fierce and beautiful transformation into the woman she wants to be. Instead, she appears solemn and resolute: Mulan is a now robotic warrior. The removal of the songs is a big mistake: it eliminates the joy and emotional heart that Disney do so well. I can’t help wonder why Disney are remaking Mulan at all if they are simply going to pander to the nationalistic values espoused by the mainland Chinese government – especially as it looks exactly like the kind of “Imperial dramas” that the state media are currently taking aim at.
No doubt Disney have in mind the commercial failure in China of 1998’s Mulan; it was caught up in the controversy over the Disney-funded film Kundun about the Dalai Lama, which led to the Chinese government effectively banning Disney films. The timing of this trailer release is awful, with recent events in Hong Kong culminating in police brutality against anti-extradition bill protesters, and the ongoing oppression of ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. It feels like Disney is waving a big red flag in everyone’s faces in its desperation to secure success at the Chinese box office. For those who believe in democracy and freedom, this leaves a sour taste.