MULAN DOESN’T SING “Reflection” anymore. In fact, no one sings in the new live-action remake of Mulan, which trades the 1998 film’s musical numbers for wuxia-inflected action scenes and only deploys its most famous ballad to underscore select pivotal moments for its heroine. The 2020 Mulan, played by Liu Yifei, is made of sterner stuff than her animated predecessor, a character from the tail end of the Disney Renaissance era who was adapted from a Chinese folktale about a young woman who disguises herself as a man to take her infirm father’s place when he is conscripted to serve in the emperor’s army. Mulan has become a princess without an “I wish” song, which feels, in some way, fitting—she was never a royal to begin with, and now she’s caught between the time-tested formulas of an American entertainment giant and what that entertainment giant believes will appeal to a Chinese audience. It’s impossible to articulate what, exactly, this iteration of Mulan is wishing for.
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