In the final trailer for Disney’s live-action remake of the animated classic Mulan, our fearless heroine shares the spotlight with two new characters – both villains. While one of the biggest complaints about the original film was that Hun leader Shan Yu was a weak, underwritten antagonist, the same probably won’t be said of this new and (hopefully!) improved version, where the two villains standing in Mulan’s way both look to be fully fleshed-out, compelling, and absolutely terrifying characters.
Bori Khan is the black-scarfed leader of the attacking northerners who, in this film, stand in for the Huns from the 1998 film. Though I already sensed a parallel between Mulan and the Ang Lee classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this trailer makes that parallel even clearer by showing Khan leaping over the rooftops of the Imperial City with a host of cloaked henchmen behind him, some of them even flying or walking straight up walls – this is exactly the sort of action that I wanted to see from this movie, and I can’t believe we’re actually getting it. But thankfully, Mulan herself is equipped with the same high-flying fighting skills, which will allow her to take on Khan’s army as an equal.
But her fight for equality has made her another enemy: the ambitious sorceress Xian Lang, whose magical abilities (including the power to shape-shift) has made her Bori Khan’s greatest ally in his war against China. This new trailer hints that Bori Khan’s motivations are personal – he mentions vengeance against his father’s killers – but Xian Lang’s destiny seems a bit grander: she can briefly be seen ascending to the Emperor’s throne in a resplendent golden gown, and challenging Mulan in the Imperial Palace. Her relationship with the heroine looks to be pretty complex, and could be a strong thematic core for the film – at one point she scorns Mulan for “pretending to be something you’re not”, while later she seems to begrudgingly praise her, even smiling as she calls Mulan “a warrior”. Portrayed by Chinese screen queen Gong Li, the witch looks like a very cool new addition to the cast.
Jet Li, who plays the revered Emperor of China, also gets a single line in this trailer – the first time we’ve heard him speak in the role. Li, an iconic martial-arts star, hasn’t been seen doing any fighting in the film just yet, but I hope he gets to move from his golden throne at some point.
All in all, this movie still looks amazing – more so now than it ever has: it’s got intense action scenes, nuanced drama, high stakes, and beautiful cinematography. If you’re still upset that there’s no comedic relief dragon or songs, well, I don’t know what to say at this point. Are the orchestral arrangements for “Reflection” not good enough for you? Is that stunning phoenix a joke to you? I mean, come on, people! Mulan looks like the best Disney live-action remake to date, and I can’t wait to see it.
Trailer Rating: 9.5/10