We were supposed to see the live-action version of Mulan back in April, but a little thing about movies theaters closing down almost completely around the world put a bit of a delay in that. However, the movie has been reset to be released in July, and from all appearances at this moment, it looks like that date is going to stick, making one of the first new releases we'll see since March. This is great news for those looking forward to the movie as the trailers that were previously released made the remake look exciting. The remake appears to be the Disney movie that we know, but with a handful of changes that also make Mulan look like something new and different.
A lot of the focus leading up to the release of Mulan has actually been over the characters that we won't see in the movie. Mushu the talking dragon won't appear in the film, something which has been a major point against the movie for many fans. Other characters have changed so much from their animated counterparts that they're really not the same roles. This is reflected in the fact that many character names have been changed, In fact, Mulan herself is one of the few characters that doesn't have some sort of significant change from Disney version.
Here's a rundown of all the key characters from the live action Mulan, the actors playing them, and how they fit in the story.
Liu Yifei as Mulan
Liu Yifei is going to be a new face for American audiences, but she's already got a strong following as both an actress and a singer in China. Mulan will mark her western debut. While the actress stirred up some controversy in recent months, she certainly looks the part of the character Disney fans know and she has the endorsement of the voice actress who created the role for the animated film.
Donnie Yen as Commander Tung
While Mulan appears to be largely unchanged from the animated classic, one character that was not so lucky was Li Shang. The character was both leader and love interest in the animated film but for the remake the role will be split in two. For the role of the commander of the soldiers that Mulan becomes a part of, Donnie Yen will take the role of Commander Tung. He's older than Li Shang was in the animated film and so he'll play a role closer to that of a second father and mentor to the young Mulan.
Yoson An as Chen Honghui
The other half of "the character formerly known as Li Shang" will be a new character named Chen Honghui played by Yoson An. Honghui will be the love interest character in the live action remake, but instead of being Mulan's commander, he'll be another recruit in the army. This way, there's no complicated power dynamic between the two characters.
Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan
Much like the film's main heroic male lead, the villain of the animated Mulan has also gone through changes. The animated film had a villainous Hun leader named Shan Yu. The live-action remake will replace Shan Yu with a slightly different character named Bori Khan played by Jason Scott Lee. Khan is a member of the Rouran tribe, which is a more historically accurate name for the people fighting against China at the time Mulan is set. However, he won't be the only villain Mulan needs to defeat.
Gong Li as Xian Lang
The first villain character revealed for the new Mulan was one who never appeared in the previous movie. Xian Lang is a shapeshifting witch who will be a supporter of Bori Khan. We've seen her shapeshift into a bird in the trailer, which shows one of the character's inspirations, as Shan Yu had a pet in the animated film. The addition of this character might be the biggest single change to the remake. We see in trailers that she becomes aware of Mulan's true identity before others, though how that will play into the story is not clear yet.
Jet Li as The Emperor
The Emperor in the original Mulan has an important role, if not a particularly large one. That last part might be changing in the remake considering that one of the biggest names in the cast, Jet Li, will be playing the part. Will we see the Emperor of China throw down with some awesome martial arts of his own to defend his nation? We can only hope.
In addition to the main cast, there are a few other cast members to make note of. The accomplished actors Tzi Ma and Rosalind Chao will play Mulan's father and mother respectively. We'll also see Xana Tang in the role of Mulan's sister, a role which did not exist in the animated film. Another family member from the original movie, Mulan's grandmother, will not be found in the remake.
Cheng Pei-pei will appear as the Matchmaker. this could end up being a more significant role in the remake as well. The trailer makes reference to the Matchmaker actually finding a romantic match for Mulan, so a potential relationship at home could be part of the story, something we did not see previously.
Some of the most memorable characters in the original Mulan were Mulan's fellow soldiers, the trio of Ling, Chien-Po and Yao. All three will be back for the remake with Jimmy Wong as Ling, Doua Moua as Chien-Po and Chen Tang as Yao.
Disney's most successful remakes have been those that remained closer to the source material. If nothing else, the new movie won't be a musical. Still, all indications have been that there's a lot of interest in the new Mulan. The movie could be taking something of a risk by changing things up so much, but it could also result in a very interesting movie. Maybe it's exactly the film people will need to bring them back into theaters. We'll find out July 24.