SEOUL, South Korea — The remake of "Mulan" struck all the right chords to be a hit in the key Chinese market. Disney cast beloved actor Liu Yifei as Mulan and removed a dragon sidekick popular in the animated original to cater to Chinese tastes.
Still, the movie drew decidedly mixed reviews after its coronavirus-delayed release in China last week, with thousands panning it online.
The movie was rated 4.9 out of 10 by more than 165,000 people on Douban, a leading website for film, book and music ratings. Negative comments and jokes about the film outnumbered positive reactions on social media.
"Mulan" has earned an estimated 198 million yuan ($28.8 million) since its opening last week, and was the second most watched movie in China as of Thursday, according to ticketing platform Maoyan. It scored a higher 7.5 out of 10 on Maoyan, but also with mixed reviews.
"Poor artistic level, misunderstanding of Chinese culture lead to the film's failure in China," the state-run Global Times newspaper tweeted.
Chinese critics, both at home and abroad, said they were disappointed with the film's inaccurate and stereotypical portrayals of Chinese history and the main character, infused with nationalist tropes.
Others were not as bothered.
"It's fine that different screenwriters make up different stories," Zhang Qin, a military veteran, said after watching the film in Beijing last week. "They can play with imagination and it's a good thing."
IT engineer Zhang Fan also had positive things to say about the film. "What touched me is the humanity," he said.
The remake of Disney's popular 1998 animation is based on the ancient tale of Hua Mulan, a young woman who takes her father's place in the army by dressing as a man.
The animated version was a global hit but earned just $30 million in China, where viewers found the movie too Americanized, according to reports at the time.
Associated Press journalists Alice Fung in Hong Kong and Jaimie Ding in Seoul contributed to this report.