Donnie Yen Might Save Disney’s “Mulan” Remake From Disaster

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Paramount)

Fantastic news, martial arts fans: Donnie Yen has signed on to join the cast of Disney’s live action “Mulan” remake!

This news suggests that maybe, if we’re very lucky, this film will actually be worth watching!

Obviously there are fans of Disney’s live-action movie remakes, but I can’t say I’m one of them. “Beauty and the Beast” with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens is by far the most commercially successful of this bunch, but it’s also wholly without original merit. The movie is a cash grab, pure and simple, and every new element that’s introduced over the original film feels awkward and out of place.

With “Mulan”, I’m particularly worried. It’s been reported that at one point, Disney was planning to invent a brand new character, a Caucasian Westerner a la Marco Polo, to play the lead role in the story in place of Mulan.

This may well have only ever been a rumor, but I’m just hoping that none of this ridiculous story remains in the final movie.

Donnie Yen in Ip Man
Source: Mandarin Films

Part of the reason why I’m hesitant about “Mulan” is that I’m such a big fan of Chinese cinema. The movies from this part of the world are filled with fantastic ideas and beautiful visuals, and I don’t necessarily think that a movie about China that’s being made by the incredibly American Walt Disney Studios will manage to live up to the kinds of films about Mulan that have been made locally.

Now, though, I’m a little more hopeful. Donnie Yen will apparently be playing a newly invented character, Commander Tung, who’ll help to train Mulan when she joins the army.

Yen is a rising star in the West, but he’s been around for decades in Hong Kong cinema, and he’s really delightful. As far as Hollywood movies go, he shines in both “Rogue One” and “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage”, so I’m confident that he’ll make “Mulan” worth watching.

In truth, I’m probably being a bit harsh on this movie regardless of Yen’s involvement. The lead role of Mulan will be played by Mainland Chinese star Crystal Liu Yifei, and the movie will be directed by Niki Caro of “Whale Rider” fame, so the story should be good.

Crystal Liu Yifei
Source: Lionsgate

I just really, really want the martial arts to be solid in this movie. Perhaps that’s the wrong thing to just a film on, but for this particular genre, I almost feel like the punches and kicks are the most important part of the piece.

If “The Greatest Showman” can win audience praise for its songs and dances despite its questionable story, then “Mulan” should be able to succeed, or fail, based solely on how cool Crystal Liu looks while beating up Donnie Yen.