The Disney live-action train is going full-steam ahead: this March, Mulan storms onto Cineworld screens, but things are a little different this time around.
The live-action Mulan remake represents the biggest departure from a Disney animation so far, ditching the musical numbers and dragon sidekick Mushu in favour of a sweeping blend of martial arts and fantasy. Liu Yifei portrays the eponymous Mulan, the young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a male warrior in order to help defend her kingdom.
The movie is one of the most expensive ever made, with a budget nearing $300 million, shot by Whale Rider Niki Caro with a dazzling sense of scale (at least, if the trailer is anything to go by). The film’s starry supporting cast includes martial arts icon Donnie Yen. One of films most exciting actors working today, Yen will feature as Commander Tung, leader of the Imperial Army and Mulan’s mentor.
Yen has made a name for himself as a martial arts great, mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Before we see him in Mulan, here’s a quick recap of his greatest fight scenes.
1. Donnie Yen vs Jackie Chan (Shanghai Knights)
Shanghai Knights is the sequel to Western-themed buddy comedy Shanghai Noon, which paired action legend Jackie Chan and the reliably laconic Owen Wilson together for the first time. Shanghai Knights relocates the action to fog-bound 19th-century London, and Yen features in the cast.
Okay, so he is the bad guy in this one, and technically he does lose the battle, but just hear us out. Yen plays Wu Chow, who is in league with the movie’s big bad Lord Rathbone – and, of course, that means he fights none other than Chan himself… of course he’s going to lose! But, it’s still an awesome scene, the two of them matching each other move for move (while trying to avoid a huge Gatling gun), before they battle on a boat moving down the Thames. Two martial arts experts for the price of one? Little wonder we love this scene.
2. Donnie Yen vs The Masters (Ip Man 2)
The Ip Man martial arts series is one of the greatest ever made. The movies are a loosely biographical account of Ip Man, the grandmaster of a style called Wing Chun (and also the teacher of the late, revered Bruce Lee), who’s played in the movie by Donnie Yen. Ip Man’s defining qualities are his kindness, his humility and, most of all, his kick-ass fighting skills.
In Ip Man 2 he moves to a new town and opens up a dojo to teach kids his style, but not everyone is happy about it. Long story short: he is told he must fight the other masters in the village to gain be allowed to continue. The fight is a delicate ballet, that takes place on a wobbly table, the rules being the first one to fall, or concede, loses. While the opponents are compelled to battle in a very confined space, they are both graceful and captivating; it shows Yen can do not only big grand battles but also smaller more intricate work as well.
3. Donnie Yen vs Mike Tyson (Ip Man 3)
Back to the Ip Man series for this one (we did tell you it’s very good!) This time, it’s the age-old test of skill vs strength. If you were to name all of the people you would never want to punch you, boxer Mike Tyson would be pretty much at the top of anyone’s list.
In Ip Man 3, Yen comes up against Tyson’s character Frank, an American property developer who gives Ip Man an ultimatum: last three minutes in a fight, and he’ll leave him alone. Franks is a brutal power puncher who overwhelms Ip Man with his sheer strength, but in the end, skill wins out the day, and the title character comes out on top.
4. Donnie Yen vs Stormtroopers (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)
Being part of the Star Wars universe is cool, but playing a blind spiritual warrior who is one with the Force is doubly so. In Rogue One (arguably the jewel in the crown of the Disney Star Wars movies), Yen plays Chirrut Îmwe, a mysterious individual who hangs around with a mercenary named Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen).
When stormtroopers apprehend insurgent rebels Jyn (Felicity Jones) and Cassian (Diego Luna), who are planning to destroy the Death Star, Chirrut steps up to help. Of course, the blind martial artist isn’t taken seriously. What follows is a massive beat down of probably the worst henchmen in film history (seriously, when will the Stormtroopers hit a target?) Chirrut’s sacrifice later in the film is also a bittersweet moment – in fact, it’s probably one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the entire Star Wars saga.
Marvyn Wilson is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.