Cum­ber­batch magic boosts su­per­hero movie in China

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By XU­FAN

Ev­ery time a Marvel su­per­hero movie hits the the­aters, it dom­i­nates the box of­fice. And Doc­tor Strange is fol­low­ing this tra­di­tion. Since the 14th su­per­hero film from the Marvel uni­verse opened in China on Nov 4, it has taken over the box of­fice by rak­ing in 300 mil­lion yuan ($45 mil­lion) in three days.

This is de­spite the fact that China’s lack­lus­ter mar­ket has been see­ing a slow­down for al­most five months now.

From now through De­cem­ber, nearly a dozen im­ported movies are to be screened in China, and it is widely be­lieved they will boost the mar­ket. But with the re­cent Tom Cruise-star­rer Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Tom Hanks’ In­ferno— two tent­poles — fail­ing to make a splash, a re­cov­ery looks doubt­ful.

Bri­tish ac­tor Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, who stars in the $165 mil­lion vis­ual feast, seems at least partly re­spon­si­ble for Doc­tor Strange achiev­ing com­mer­cial suc­cess as well as critic ac­claim.

On China’s pop­u­lar re­view site Douban, the movie scored 8.1 points of 10.

Doc­tor Strange’s plot is a sim­ple tale un­like Marvel’s fa­mous Avengers fran­chise, which has a whole bunch of su­per­heroes to keep track of, be­sides their com­plex re­la­tion­ships and back­grounds.

In the film, the pro­tag­o­nist, Stephen Strange, is a world-fa­mous neu­ro­sur­geon who has a ca­reer-end­ing car accident when he in­jures his hands.

He then em­barks on a jour­ney to Nepal to seek heal­ing, but un­ex­pect­edly be­comes a fighter with mag­i­cal pow­ers to beat a dark force from outer space.

“The whole idea (be­hind the film) was about mak­ing a dif­fer­ent kind ofMarvel movie,” says the di­rec­tor, Scott Der­rick­son, dur­ing a re­cent pro­mo­tional tour in Shang­hai.

Known for Sin­is­ter and The Ex­or­cism of Emily Rose, the 49-year-old Amer­i­can di­rec­tor is also a fan ofMarvel comics.

To him, Strange is su­per­hero.

“Strange, be­ing a skep­tic and a ma­te­ri­al­ist and some­body who is very re­sis­tant to the lesser-known a fa­vorite Marvel magic and­mys­ti­cism, is forced to open up his mind to the pos­si­bil­ity that maybe there is more to the world than he thinks,” he says. Un­like most other Marvel su­per­heroes, such as Iron Man who has a pow­er­ful suit and Cap­tain Amer­ica who has an ex­per­i­men­tal serum — Doc­tor Strange gains his pow­ers from Ori­en­tal-type mys­ti­cism. Chi­nese au­di­ences may also feel a cul­tural res­o­nance with the film film, which fea­tures an eth­nic Chi­nese guard at a li­braryli­bra of an­cient magic boo books. Other scenes have StrangeSt achiev­ing a break­throughb on a Hi­malayan peak and showHong Kong. Though comic booksb fea­tur­ing Doc­tor t Strange were first pub­lishedp in 1963, China na has had a far shorter his­to­ry­his with the char­ac­ter. ter. ButB Cum­ber­batch is a dif­fer­ent­d­if­fere story. His por­trayal of Sher­lock­Sher Holmes in the se­ries ono the de­tec­tive has won him nu­mer­ous Chi­nese fans. For Cum­ber­batch, be­com­ing a su­per­hero in Marvel’s cin­e­matic uni­verse was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, says the 40-year-old ac­tor.

“He (Doc­tor Strange) is not a god. He is a hu­man. Un­like Iron Man, he did not start life as a bil­lion­aire or have a suit to pro­tect him. He learns from his ef­forts. He has power from dif­fer­ent sources, and is in­cred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble,” he says in Shang­hai.

Chi­nese crit­ics are op­ti­mistic about the film’s po­ten­tial in the coun­try.

“Su­per­hero films are now the most lu­cra­tive genre in the world. Around half of the top 10 top-gross­ing movies this year are su­per­herothemed,” says Jiang Yong, a Bei­jing-based in­dus­try watcher.

So, de­spite the fact that China has a small fan base com­pared to the United States when it comes to Marvel comics, Jiang be­lieves that Chi­nese movie­go­ers know at least as much as their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts when it comes to mod­ern su­per­hero movies.

“Also for Chi­nese fans, watch­ing such movies re­minds them of their teenage dreams of be­com­ing heroes and eases real-life pres­sures for them,” he says.


Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch at an event in Shang­hai pro­mot­ing Doc­torS­trange, in which he plays the pro­tag­o­nist.

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