Since its release in 1998, Disney’s Mulan has remained beloved by a generation of fans who grew up with the company’s first Asian princess. The animated film’s take on a classical Chinese legend offered a blend of female empowerment and catchy, Disney-style musical numbers. And as great as those are — “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” remains a karaoke staple — it could be argued that the fantastic soundtrack distracted from the action-packed story itself.
Not so with 2020’s Mulan, one of Disney’s many upcoming live-action adaptations of its classic animated features. The first trailer for the film shows a very different side of the story from what many of us may remember. By which I mean, one completely devoid of singing (and of Eddie Murphy’s talking dragon, Mushu, another memorable quirk of the original). Instead, the decidedly non-musical, live-action Mulan will take the story back to its roots to focus on a young woman who joins the Chinese Imperial Army, taking her father’s place among the troops by posing as a man. In doing so, she takes a stand against her more traditional upbringing and all the expectations of marriage and homemaking that came with it.
Popular Chinese actress Liu Yifei will star as Mulan, and the trailer suggests she’ll look cool as hell in the process. Joining her in Mulan’s cast are action movie greats like Jet Li and Donnie Yen. But perhaps even more exciting is that Niki Caro, who wrote and directed the classic coming-of-age film Whale Rider, is at the helm. The film’s diverse cast and crew stands to help mitigate any chagrin over how much less fanciful and more serious this new Mulan appears to be.
That’s not to say there won’t be any music at all; the live-action Mulan’s score will feature instrumental versions of the animated film’s classic soundtrack. But moviegoers hoping for a full-fledged singalong will have to rely on the original for that, as the new Mulan promises to cut a different path.
Mulan will be released in theaters March 27, 2020.