Mulan dropped its final trailer yesterday, and it does not look like a Disney movie AT ALL. Mulan looks like a straight-up wuxia action fantasy, in the vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Forbidden Kingdom. I am a little worried Mulan will suffer for not appealing to fans of the Disney cartoon, but if you aren’t nostalgic for the cartoon, then Mulan should look great to you with no reservations. I have no nostalgia for the cartoon, so I don’t care that the new movie won’t have any songs, or Shang, or Mushu—who was not a good look, let’s be honest—and I think the new movie looks totally rad. The part where the camera flips up the scaffolding with Mulan? Awesome. The part where she lets down her hair and draws her sword? Chills.
But now there is a new worry for Mulan: the coronavirus. And it’s not just about people using the virus as an excuse to let their racism out, it’s also about China shuttering their 70,000 movie theaters to prevent the spread of infection. China has more movie theaters than any other market in the world, and they are the fastest growing market in the world. Hollywood has become dependent on Chinese box office dollars (even though research shows they don’t actually pay out nearly as much as studios expect). And Mulan, especially, is made for the Chinese market, more than it is made for Disney’s domestic North American audience—if it was made for America, Mulan would still be a musical and have a vaguely racist magic dragon character.
If China still has all, or even some, of their theaters closed by Mulan’s March release date, that could hurt this movie (for reference, The Lion King made $120 million in China). Mulan is Disney’s most expensive remake yet at $300 million, and it’s the first one where they have reworked a story to better serve a non-American audience. It’s also the first, and only, one directed by a woman. There is a lot riding on Mulan, and people will be scrutinizing it for several reasons. Hopefully, by March, we can take this one factor off the table. Now, I am going to watch Mulan kick a spear away while flipping off her horse’s back again because that sh-t is COOL.