HORDES OF INVADERS gallop into China, armed with sinister, supernatural powers. As they thunder towards the capital, it falls to a simple country girl to foil the attack. Over mountains and across deserts, dodging arrows and unleashing batteries of fireworks, in 115 action-packed minutes plucky Hua Mulan sees off the dastardly foreigners and brings honour to China.
“Mulan”, which opens on September 4th, is a tale of invasion in more ways than one. Disney, Hollywood’s biggest film studio, has spent five years and $200m on the live-action remake of its 22-year-old animation, in the hope of conquering the Chinese box office. The film is calibrated to appeal to Asian as well as American audiences, from its plot (Mulan’s sidekick, a wisecracking dragon who irritated the Chinese, was written out of the story) to its promotional campaign (Disney touted its release in the form of a classical Chinese poem). “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”, Disney’s first Chinese-themed superhero movie, is due next year. There is already talk of a “Mulan” sequel.
Hollywood has reason to look across the Pacific. In the past 15 years China’s box-office takings have risen 35-fold, to $9.7bn. That is not far off America’s $11.1bn. This year receipts have sunk as covid-19 forced cinemas to shut. But they may fall a bit less precipitously...
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