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One of the first wide theatrical releases affected by the international lockdown in March was Disney’s highly anticipated live-action “Mulan,” but the remake of the studio’s 1998 animated classic has now received an innovative rollout on Disney+.
The film, directed by Niki Caro and starring Liu Yifei as the legendary warrior, was originally supposed to be released on March 27, then was pushed to July, and as finally available as of right now. It is only available for Disney+ subscribers to access via a premium tier of the streaming service. (It’ll also be released theatrically in markets where theaters are open and Disney+ is not available. That includes major box office territories like China, Russia, and Korea. In territories where Disney+ is available and theaters are open, like much of Europe, Disney+ Premier Access will be the only viewing option.)
The short story: If you subscribe to Disney+ you can then pay $29.99 for Premier Access to “Mulan” — but it’s not a one-time watch or a 48-hour rental like other VOD experiences. Instead, the film will be available in your account to watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available and as long as you are subscribed to the service.
Haven’t signed up for Disney+ yet? You can subscribe here for $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year. There’s also a bundle available that combines Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month, a significant savings from the cost of all three services separately. Once you’re signed up, you’ll be able to purchase Premier Access to “Mulan.”
The film is an updated, live-action version of Disney’s 1998 animated classic in which a young woman disguises herself as a man in order to fight in China’s Imperial Army and save her father, ultimately becoming one of the country’s greatest-ever warriors.
Caro’s film features an international cast including Liu Yifei as Mulan; Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Tzi Ma as Zhou, Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Honghui; Ron Yuan as Sergeant Qiang; with Gong Li as Xianniang and Jet Li as the Emperor. “Mulan” was written by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Lauren Hynek & Elizabeth Martin, and inspired by the narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.” It’s the most expensive live-action film helmed by a female director, with a budget of more than $200 million.
In her “B+” review of “Mulan,” IndieWire’s Kate Erbland said that the film is not without its flaws. She felt the two halves of the remake were a bit disjointed, noting that “Mulan and her family’s home feels a little too glossy for the rest of the world it’s thrust into” — “the film can’t quite kick all of its Disney-fied inclinations” and that then it becomes a full-on “wuxia-inflected” battle epic. She also said that the sequences involving Jason Scott Lee’s villain were overly “convoluted.” Erbland also said, “More successful is Caro’s ability to combine different tones, from the humorous whimsy of an ill-fated visit to a matchmaker to the grittier training montages that turn Mulan into a true warrior. Her motley crew of pals — who, of course, all believe their friend is a slightly strange boy, not a deeply skilled young woman — offer both humor and heart, gracefully building in yet another cadre of people Mulan is hellbent on fighting for.” The critic ultimately concluded that out of the “mixed bag” which are the Disney live-action remakes of the studio’s animated classics “‘Mulan’ is perhaps the best example of how to marry the original with something fresh.”
Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced the unique “Mulan” release plan on the company’s earnings call, where he also revealed that Disney+ now has 60 million subscribers worldwide (a majority of those users are in the U.S.). As IndieWire’s Tom Brueggemann noted in his analysis of the plan, “If 10 million of those subscribers buy ‘Mulan,’ that’s $300 million — and all revenue goes to Disney. The marketing model changes as well: This will be pushed on the streamer nonstop for the next month, at incremental cost. Disney also has ABC and other TV/cable networks as promotional partners, all of which burnishes the Disney+ brand. Disney has multiple businesses, many of which are battered. After the earnings call, it saw an immediate after-hours jump in its stock price. The stock market can be fickle, but this suggests that the entertainment giant is serious about adjusting to new realities. It’s not without significant risk, but all future bets are off if ‘Mulan’ does well.”
Labor Day weekend could be a milestone in cinema history: the showdown of “Mulan,” strictly on Disney+, and “Tenet,” in its first weekend of being rolled out more or less in wide release. Though Disney has no obligation to reveal exact streaming figures immediately following the weekend (though must tell the truth to its shareholders in quarterly reporting), Warner Bros.’ own reporting of the traditional box-office is unclear as well. They could report everything on Sunday per decades-long tradition, or the studio could wait until later.
“Mulan” was notably the last high-profile project to hold a red carpet premiere ahead of the worldwide shutdown. The event was held in Hollywood with beefed-up health and safety precautions on March 9, and the film’s international release was postponed just days later. Also delayed in March: “A Quiet Place 2,” now pushed to 2021, and the oft-delayed “New Mutants,” which moved from April 2018 to February 2019, then to August 2019, then to April 2020, and was finally moved to August 28, 2020. Other major films delayed in 2020 include “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Black Widow,” new James Bond installment “No Time to Die,” and the ninth “Fast and Furious” film, “F9.”