Among the many, many movies Disney talked about at their big panel at the D23 Expo on Saturday, few were as stunning as Mulan. Director Niki Caro took the stage and debuted an extended look at the film, which had action, humor, heartbreak, and more.
The scene began with Mulan (Liu Yifei) being made up. Lots of make-up, beautiful clothes, obviously the family is going somewhere important. As Mulan, her mom, and maybe her sister (that was unclear) walk to wherever they are going, the mother tells Mulan that she can’t eat because it would ruin her make up. Mulan replies that a winter storm couldn’t mess up her make-up they put so much on. She jokes with her sister that she’s wearing so much make-up you can’t tell if she’s excited, confused, scared, or anything. All her faces look the same.
Turns out the ladies are going to the town matchmaker, who explains that Mulan has good qualities to become a wife. She goes on and on about how a wife should be quiet and can make herself invisible, lots of very sexist, dated thoughts about marriage. A woman shouldn’t react to anything, she says, just as a large spider begins to come down from the ceiling. It drops right in front of Mulan’s sister and scurries across the table. Mulan takes the tea pot and quickly puts it on top of the spider, trapping it. The matchmaker asks Mulan if anything is wrong and she says no. The woman tells her the teapot should always be in the center of the table and to move it. And though Mulan at first hesitates, she moves it and out pops the spider. It runs away, spooking everyone, and the tea cups go everywhere. As they’re flying in the air, Mulan expertly catches them using balance and all her limbs simultaneously. It’s an impressive feat. However, she can’t hold it forever and eventually drops them. The matchmaker kicks the whole family out and screams to the townspeople that the family has not raised a good daughter and the family name has been shamed. (All this is, of course, inspired by a similar scene early in the animated film.)
As Mulan and her family leave the matchmakers in shambles, soldiers come into their town. They say they need one man from each family to help them fight a war. However, the only man in Mulan’s family is her father, who is old and crippled. And still, the soldiers accept his pledge. He trips and falls and Mulan tries to interfere. However, he mother begs her not to bring more shame on the family and to let her father help himself.
Cut to her father, in their home, trying to hold his sword but failing. Mulan feels terrible. And so, the montage begins. Mulan takes the same sword and wields it mightily. “I will bring honor to my family,” she says as she sneaks out of the house. We see her with short hair training with an army. She performs so well, in fact, the other soldiers get very impressed. For example, she kicks a spear out of the air and turns it into an arrow. Then things really pick up speed. There’s an evil queen, people riding on horses in slow motion, all kinds of epic shots of Mulan fighting and, eventually, her with her long hair flowing on the battlefield and the voiceover says, “I will bring honor to us all.”
The footage looked dazzling and lovely and a perfect balance of what fans remember from the animated film, but with the live-action drama and scope they’ve come to expect from Disney. It was sad and funny and exciting and we’re hoping the movie delivers all of that and more.
Mulan opens March 27, 2020.
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