The $200 million live-action remake drew backlash before its official release after its main star Liu Yifei voiced her support for the brutal police crackdown in Hong Kong which targeted pro-democracy activists.
Disney’s latest remake is now playing on the Disney+ streaming service while it was given a lukewarm debut by Chinese cinemagoers.
This week it faced boycott calls globally for filming in Xinjiang — where rights abuses against the region's Muslim population have been widely documented — and for thanking authorities from the northwestern region in the end credits.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Friday dismissed the controversy, saying it was "very normal" to thank the Xinjiang government for their help and shrugging off criticism by "some so-called human rights organizations".
He went on to applaud Chinese-American star Liu as "the contemporary Mulan" and "a true child of China".
"Mulan" opened in China on Friday and sold around 41 million yuan ($5.99 million) worth of tickets by the afternoon, according to ticketing platform Maoyan.
But the movie, which many have seen online, has already attracted a torrent of poor reviews and a 4.7 out of 10 rating on popular user review site Douban.
Some disliked its deviation from the original tale and new storyline, while others blasted the action scenes.
"In my mind, Mulan was originally ladylike and not a martial artist as a child," one user wrote.
Another reviewer added: "The storyline is very poor and Mulan's hero complex was highlighted without logic. The martial arts sequences were also weak."
Others questioned why there were not more Chinese staff working on the film.
Amid the furor, the hashtag "Mulan" appeared to have been disabled on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, with the tag turning up no search results on Friday.
AFP understands that some state media have also been told to avoid covering the movie.
At cinemas in Beijing, however, several moviegoers were oblivious to the international outcry.
"Mulan is a household name. Different people may have different ways of understanding this story," said Hu Xia, 46, who saw the movie with her son. "This time, I think they were successful."
Another moviegoer, 30-year-old Alvin Ye, praised the movie for its portrayal of an extraordinary woman.
Nationalistic tabloid Global Times offered another defense against overseas critics, in typically unvarnished language, describing attacks on the film as "depravity".
(Writer & Editor: BYS/APJ/GLE, Agence France-Presse)
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