‘Mulan’ already has bad reviews in China ahead of its release

Sep 08, 2020

Disney’s new remake is set to hit theaters in China on Friday, but that hasn’t stopped people from pirating early copies—and the reviews are bad.

Disney pulled out all the stops to attract a Chinese audience with its latest Mulan remake—including casting actors well-known in China—but it seems the early goodwill is all for naught.

On the movie review site Douban, Mulan has a paltry rating of 4.8 out of 10. Nearly 90% of user-submitted reviews gave it three stars out of five or less.

Reviewers blasted the movie for its flat characters and bland story with details that don’t make sense. Many people also appeared dissatisfied with how the film handles certain Chinese cultural elements.

“A Western film with a Chinese backdrop.”

“It’s like that feeling when you go to a Western Chinese restaurant and have a pretty weird Chinese meal,” one user said on the discussion site Zhihu.

Some reviewers characterized Crystal Liu’s performance of Mulan as wooden. Others took issue with the film’s treatment of qi.

In traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts, qi is universal and refers to a person’s energy flow. But in Mulan, it’s described as a magical power akin to the Force in Star Wars.

“It’s a Western film with a Chinese backdrop,” one Zhihu user wrote.

(Read more: Why do Chinese people love drinking hot water? It has to do with qi)

Other Chinese viewers complained about some of the characters’ makeup, saying it reflects Western stereotypes of China rather than actual Chinese culture itself.

With a production budget of $200 million, Disney was hoping this version of Mulan would become a hit in China, where the original 1998 animated film was lambasted for being too “Western.”

(Read more: The shapeshifting politics of Mulan: How the tale has been retold to uphold the powers that be)

The company was also betting on Mulan becoming big in the box office before Covid-19 resulted in months of delays. It finally released the film on its Disney+ streaming service in some markets this past weekend.

But in China, where theaters started reopening in July and Disney+ isn’t available, the film is getting a proper theatrical release on Friday.

Still, people were able to get their hands on pirated copies ripped from the streaming service—and based on their reviews, Disney might be hoping there are still enough people who want to see it by then.

Adapted from an article first published in the South China Morning Post.

MulanFilmThe Chinese internet