'Mulan' Director Responds To Backlash: 'It Raises The Bar For Me'

Niki Caro on the completely new "Mulan" and its surprising "Game of Thrones" influence.

The quest for the new “Mulan” to reach movie theaters has been almost as epic as Mulan’s journey to save her people.

The movie, which was originally slated for 2018 before being pushed to 2020, has seemed to face fan criticism around every decision its filmmakers make, from the original’s songs being cut to characters being changed, let alone what its stars say on social media

Recently, director Niki Caro reflected on the fan unrest, telling HuffPost, “It reminds me of what a passionate audience the ‘Mulan’ audience is, and it raises the bar for me, my expectation of myself, that I can deliver to that audience with something they don’t necessarily expect, but something I hope that they will appreciate and maybe come to love in a new way, her story once again,” she said. “It’s a new and different way of experiencing something that they already love.”

One of the points of the fan backlash was the character Li Shang, Mulan’s commanding officer and love interest, being replaced by two different characters, Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) and fellow soldier Chen Honghui (Yoson An).

Caro told us when she signed on to the film around 2017, Shang’s replacements were already in the script.

However, she reiterated recent points made by “Mulan” producer Jason Reed, saying the heroine having a relationship with her commanding officer didn’t feel appropriate.

“It is the right decision, particularly in the Me Too era,” she said. “The idea that Mulan would have some kind of romance with a commanding officer felt very not right to me.”

Caro added that there was a benefit to having Shang’s role split up, as Yen’s Commander Tung “provides a crucial role in development” in Mulan “understanding her own power.”

Beyond fan chatter, the movie is also facing the unforeseen obstacle of the coronavirus outbreak, which has already delayed the Chinese release date for the film.

Though a film’s release date isn’t controlled by the director, Caro said, “I’m so
thrilled that we are right on the cusp of sharing the story with the world. As for the countries affected by the coronavirus, my heart goes out to everybody that’s suffering, and to China in particular. I look forward to the day when I can bring this story home to them.”

And that story is a “completely new” version of “Mulan,” explained Caro, that takes inspiration from the Chinese poem “The Ballad of Mulan,” which is said to have originated in the fifth or sixth century CE. You can also expect “iconic moments from the animation,” the director said.

Having not done an action movie or battle-heavy war movie before, Caro explained she heavily researched the architecture of those particular scenes and how the sequences are made. One of the inspirations?

“I examined battle sequences from ‘Game of Thrones’ a great deal,” she said.

As to what people can expect, the director added, “I hope that they are inspired by this girl — I hope they are moved, of course, and entertained — but that what she represents, the authenticity of understanding that your true power comes from when you are truly yourself, I think that is the big takeaway from this particular version.”

“Mulan” is scheduled to hit U.S. theaters March 27.