Images courtesy Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios.
2/10 $30. This ugly, fascy movie costs $30.
China has been on track for several decades to become the dominant economy in the world. This has affected the film industry like any other, as China’s burgeoning theatrical distribution system has made its cinematic industry almost comparable to Hollywood, and many large-scale, globally oriented Hollywood productions are focusing their efforts on appealing to Chinese viewers just as much as American ones.
Disney has been particularly eager to make this transition, and while many of its recent films have clearly had China in mind, the crown jewel of its effort has been the live-action adaptation of Mulan, which was made as a distinct tribute to Chinese cinema and delayed for several years so it could feature Chinese megastar Liu Yifei. Several Hollywood productions, particularly ones set in East Asia, had been accused of whitewashing while this movie was being developed, and since the original 1998 cartoon was met with apathy in the Middle Kingdom, it was both an opportunity and an imperative to make a Mulan that was more consistent with the Chinese folklore.
And so, after a five year production process and months of pandemic-related delay, Disney releases its celebration of Chinese folklore and send-up of its historic cinema while the Chinese government is actively suppressing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which have been making international headlines for more than a year now, and on an entirely separate note, is engaged in a genocide against the Uyghurs, a religious and ethnic minority native to the deserts in the country’s northwest. These are in addition to the nation’s decades-long imperialist streak in Tibet and Taiwan.