If we play a little fast and loose with the definition, then Disney has released 16 live-action remakes of animated classics. Some of these have been varying levels of enjoyable while others have been downright laughable. While nearly all of these releases have proven to be massive moneymakers for Disney, they rarely measure up to their original predecessors in terms of quality.
The average Rotten Tomatoes score for a Disney live-action remake is a hair under 60 percent, hardly an ideal outcome for a content-first conglomerate like the Mouse House. Last year, Disney released four live-action remakes theatrically and while they generated more than $3 billion at the global box office combined, not a single one was certified fresh. Ouch.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that the pressure is on Mulan. The upcoming blockbuster, directed by Niki Caro and starring Yifei Liu, is less a direct remake of the 1998 animated original and more of a retelling of the Chinese folk legend of Hua Mulan. With the coronavirus outbreak still locking down Chinese cinemas, Mulan will need to be a genuine crowd-pleaser to help make up lost ground. At $200 million, it’s also Disney’s most expensive remake to date.
Can the film become Disney’s first live-action theatrical remake to score a fresh Rotten Tomatoes score since 2018’s Christopher Robin (73 percent)? If the first reactions from critics are anything to go by, it’s off to a strong start.
#Mulan is exciting, vibrant, emotional, and different from the animated version. It's definitely its own thing, which I dug – a more mature Disney film, featuring stunning production design & fight choreography. Director Niki Caro & star Liu Yifei are the big stand-outs, imo pic.twitter.com/p6IEQUDNBu
— Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) March 10, 2020
#Mulan is absolutely fantastic. Different enough with great action scenes, but with the heart of the original film. It doesn't even matter that it's not a musical. If you're a fan of the animated, there are subtle nods to many of the songs. Can’t wait to see this again.
— Kirsten (@KirstenAcuna) March 10, 2020
#Mulan is the best of the Disney live-action remakes since Cinderella — I didn’t even miss the songs. Finds new notes in a story we already know while delivering gorgeous action, heart, and humor. Liu Yifei is 🌟💥🔥
— Angie J. Han (@ajhan) March 10, 2020
Disney’s Mulan remake leaves a lot behind, but offers much more in its absence. Plenty of 1998 throwbacks pepper a story full of incredible action, humor, and heart.
— Alison Foreman (@alfaforeman) March 10, 2020
Wow! @DisneysMulan was everything I hoped it would be and more! They were able to bring new elements to life while maintaining the classic nostalgia we all know & love. Wow. Just incredible! 😭 Thanks @DolbyCinema for inviting me. #Mulan pic.twitter.com/BwPVV1m1LP
— Katie Wilson (@thekatiewilson) March 10, 2020
I’m very surprised at how much I liked the live action #Mulan movie. It’s so majestic, the action is thrilling, it aims for a level of sophistication and beauty you don’t expect.
(I was never a huge fan of the animated film, I think I’ve only seen it once. So no attachments)
— Peter Sciretta loves Star Wars (@PeterSciretta) March 10, 2020
#Mulan is about a warrior. And that warrior is a legend. Thank you, from all the female warriors that needed this kick-A movie. It’s different from the animated version, and I’ll be proud to show my daughters this film!
— Tania Lamb (@LolaLambchops) March 10, 2020
Just got out of seeing #Mulan with @thatgrltrish, LOVED this film. Costumes & fighting/stunts were incredible, sexual chemistry eat your heart out, and our buddy @jfwong CRUSHED IT as Ling!! @DisneyAUNZ pic.twitter.com/YTRETySZyF
— Maude Garrett (@maudegarrett) March 10, 2020
The cast of Mulan is fantastic in the film. There are lots of little moments that nods to the animated that’ll make the fans happy. Very beautiful & epic cinematography. It had more fantastical elements than I expected. Overall, a great re-telling of the animated and very fun 🙌🏼
— Wendy Lee Szany (@WendyLeeSzany) March 10, 2020
Mulan makes bold choices in adapting the ballad over the animation and everything with #Mulan herself is terrific. It’s the rest of it that doesn’t fit. It’s 2 movies in 1 and it needed to decide which direction to take; not take both.
— Mansoor Mithaiwala (@MansoorAYM) March 10, 2020
However, not all media and critics who screened the film were as enthusiastic. As with every film, some had specific qualms. It’s been reported that Mulan was heavily tested and edited in order to ensure that it appeals to Chinese audiences, which may have played a role in the more negative reactions. General audiences are surely going to miss the classic songs as well.
There’s a great film yearning to break out in #Mulan, but it’s surprisingly bogged down by adapting the animation. It has its moments, but the poor villains and inconsistent action quality results in a mediocre movie. pic.twitter.com/2iZ3wZYOts
— Mansoor Mithaiwala (@MansoorAYM) March 10, 2020
#Mulan is good, polished and absolutely worth seeing. Alas, it's also respectful to a fault. It doesn't truly cut loose until the climax. Jason Scott Lee is great, but everyone else seems afraid to offend. Lacks the gonzo energy of THE GREAT WALL or MALEFICENT MISTRESS OF EVIL. pic.twitter.com/FOEBhwJphO
— Scott Mendelson (@ScottMendelson) March 10, 2020
It’s worth noting that social media reactions are often more positive than the eventual reviews for a film. But with multiple critics claiming that Mulan is the best live-action remake from Disney in years, it’s a safe bet to expect it to earn a fresh Rotten Tomatoes score overall. Anything above 75 percent should be considered a win.