Mulan is a 2020 American fantasy action drama film produced by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek, and Elizabeth Martin, it is a live-action adaptation of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 1998 film of the same name, itself based on the Chinese folklore story Ballad of Mulan. The film stars Yifei Liu in the title role, alongside Donnie Yen, Tzi Ma, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Ron Yuan, Gong Li, and Jet Li in supporting roles. The plot takes place in Imperial China, where Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, masquerades as a man to take her ailing father’s place during a general conscription to counter the Rouran army.
Plans for a live-action remake began in 2010 but the project stalled in “development hell” for most of the decade. Filming took place in New Zealand and China from August to November 2018. Over the course of production, the film was the subject of several controversies, including changes to the source material and filming in Xinjiang in light of the Uyghur genocide and Xinjiang internment camps. The film also received criticism for its production team largely consisting of white people, such as the hiring of Caro, rather than an Asian director.
In Imperial China, Hua Mulan is an adventurous and active girl, to the disappointment of her parents Zhou and Li, who hope that one day she will be wed to a good husband. As a young woman, Mulan is arranged to meet with a matchmaker to demonstrate her fitness as a future wife. Mulan, flustered, attempts to pour tea in front of the matchmaker, but a spider scares the former’s younger sister Xiu, accidentally causing a mishap that destroys the teapot, leading the matchmaker to call her a disgrace in front of her family.
To the north, an imperial outpost is invaded by Rouran warriors, under the leadership of Böri Khan. They are assisted by the witch Xianniang, who uses her magic to pose as a surviving soldier and report the attack to the Emperor of China; he then issues a conscription decree ordering every family to contribute one man to fight Khan’s forces.
Imperial soldiers arrive in Mulan’s village to enlist recruits and Zhou is forced to pledge his service as he has no sons, immediately falling over in front of the soldiers due to his bad leg. Realizing that her father has no chance of survival, Mulan flees with his armor, horse, and sword to join in his place. Mulan arrives at the training camp, which is run by Commander Tung, an old comrade of Zhou. Alongside dozens of other inexperienced recruits, she ultimately becomes a trained soldier under his tutelage without exposing her true identity.
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