In China, there has always been a general notion that Hollywood movies have fared better than domestic films. As China developed, Many Chinese moviegoers favored Hollywood films for their depiction of what life was like in a developed western society, and for their technical wizardry, that of which Chinese filmmakers currently can’t compete with.
However, with China’s rapid development and Chinese film production catching up with Hollywood there seems to be a change in which films are more popular with Chinese audiences. One film that is challenging this perception is the recent box office blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2. Last year, Wolf Warrior 2 exceeded box office expectations to become China’s highest grossing movie of all time raking in 5.68 Billion Yuan ($900 Million). Its success heralds the rise of a new style of mainstream Chinese cinema: one that reflects the country’s modernization and nationalism. With its success, many have been led to ask, what is next for China’s film industry?
Unexpected Success at Home and Abroad
Wolf Warrior’s plot follows a maverick Chinese army soldier who after being forced out of the Chinese army, travels to an unidentified African country to avenge the memory of a lost lover. There, he is caught in a civil war and risks his life to evacuate the Chinese nationals trapped in the country. In the end, he averts a coup, saves his compatriots, and finds new love along the way.
Lauded as a savior of the declining Chinese box office in 2017, Wolf Warrior 2 surpassed Stephen Chow’s Mermaid to become the highest grossing movie in China’s box office history only one month after it premiered on July 27th. Wolf Warrior 2 became the first Chinese film to break into the top 100 worldwide grosses ranking by taking the 55th slot. Wolf Warrior 2’s success came as a surprise compared to its prequel, which only earned $89.9 Million at the box office. Wolf Warrior 2’s unexpected success led it to be screened globally allowing international audiences to get a taste of the Chinese box office success. Many international audiences viewed the film favorably, leading industry observers to think that this could set a new plateau for Chinese films in the international market. In North America, the film was screened in IMAX where it went on to gross more than $2.3 million. A gross of $1 million is considered a hit for a Chinese film stateside (http://variety.com/2017/biz/news/china-wolf-warrior-ii-1202543266/).
A New Era in Chinese Film?
The critical reception of the film has been mixed. Many critics have criticized the film for its “unabashedly patriotic and nationalist overtones”. On the contrary, as foreign films struggle to capture Chinese audiences in recent years, many have suggested Wolf Warrior’s themes of patriotism and nationalism are what has captured the Chinese audience. Other industry observers have noted that Hollywood’s themes no longer resonate with the modern Chinese audience, and Chinese audiences’ are looking for content that reflects their modern China. The movie’s plotline in which, Chinese heroes take initiative, fight beyond the country’s border, and dish out justice to those who threaten innocent lives- depict China as a powerful nation on the rise. Counter-critics have welcomed Wolf Warrior’s themes of patriotism and nationalism and argue that it’s no different from what Rambo was to American audiences during the Reagan era. Wolf Warrior represents a new type of film that reflects how Chinese audiences see themselves and their developing country.
Now that Wolf Warrior has been a success, many observers are looking towards the future. With a tentative sequel in the works, industry observers are looking to see if it will replicate its success and also how other filmmakers build off of the storytelling in Wolf Warrior. With Chinese filmmakers continuing to develop their skills, observers are looking to see if the Chinese film industry can duplicate or maintain this success.