If you’re a fan of the 1998 Disney animated version of Mulan, you’re probably anticipating the live-action adaptation coming out later this year in excitement or nervousness. Disney has been upfront about how the live-action film directed by Niki Caro will be of a different flavour from the animated film (grittier, no musical numbers, no cute animal sidekicks, etc). That said, a lot of have wondered why Captain Li Shang isn’t in the film either. After all, a character like that can be easily adapted into a more grounded and realistic film with no fuss whatsoever.
As it turns out, some of it has to do with the #MeToo movement. In an interview with Collider, producer Jason Reed talked about how Li Shang’s character from the animated classic can be a little problematic when you actually think about it.
I think particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate.
However, this doesn’t mean that the spirit of Li Shang will be absent from the live-action film altogether. Reed said:
We split Li Shang into two characters. One became Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) who serves as her surrogate father and mentor in the course of the movie. The other is Honghui (Yoson An) who is [Mulan’s] equal in the squad.
Perhaps there very well could be a romantic angle in the live-action film as well, just between Mulan and Honghui, two equals, as opposed to between two individuals of differing powers and ranks.
New Zealand actor Yoson An who plays Honghui spoke a little bit to Collider on the character’s dynamic with Mulan.
They start off on the wrong foot, really. As they progress through the training together, they kind of have this unspoken bond about it because they recognize each other’s warrior spirit. That’s how they kind of build their friendship up to begin with, through the training and acknowledging each other.
Later, Yoson An added:
I see this film as a different variation from the animated version and the original story of The Ballad of Mulan. I kind of took a different angle from Li Shang’s character. I can’t really say to a lot of how that will come across but there is a multi-dimensional layer to him and the audience will be able to see that when they watch the movie.
Mulan hits Malaysian cinemas 26 March 2020.