I can understand this casting really. She’s gorgeous looking, extremely famous in sinophone countries, can kind-of sing, has dance background and she’s fluent in English. If they didn’t go all out with the open auditions, I’d have Liu Yifei at the top of my list as well (that is, if we disregard her acting).
I think Zhang Ziyi would have been a great choice if she were ten years younger. Unfortunately, she’s well into her thirties already, and is slightly less comfortable with the language as well. The Chinese media has been labelling Liu Yifei as Zhang Ziyi’s successor for several years already, but she hasn’t made any waves on the international scene at all. It’ll be interesting to see if Mulan will propel her career to new heights, or instead further solidify her reputation as a bland actress and box-office poison. If Mulan turns out great, Liu Yifei will most definitely have fulfilled her prophecy of being the next big thing in Chinese entertainment. Otherwise… well, I guess she’ll go back to starring in awful Chinese films again.
Honestly, I like this casting because Liu Yifei is a childhood favourite of mine, and I’m extremely sentimental. I will forever be fond of her simply because of her ethereal beauty and her portrayal of some of the most classic TV characters. That said, I haven’t watched any of her works since Chinese Paladin (I’m clearly not a dedicated fan) and I’m well aware that she lacks acting talent. But hey, it’s better than plucking a nobody from the streets (said person probably cannot act anyway) and better than getting Jing Tian.