Wolf War­rior2: Be­yond Su­per­hero

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Li Zhuoxi

Dom­i­nat­ing the do­mes­tic box of­fice, Wolf War­rior 2 has been a record breaker since its re­lease: It grossed over 100 mil­lion yuan in four hours, over 1 bil­lion yuan in 85 hours, 3.4 bil­lion yuan in 11 days and 5.4 bil­lion yuan in 35 days. It beat ev­ery other Chi­ne­se­lan­guage movie in the world in box of­fice re­ceipts and gar­nered crit­i­cal ac­claim around the world.

The film is based on a true story of Chi­nese na­tion­als in Africa be­ing evac­u­ated by Leng Feng, a vet­eran who risked his life to save his com­pa­tri­ots as well as refugees, and lacks big stars or heavy mar­ket­ing.

In 2016 when its box of­fice growth slowed, China’s film in­dus­try reached a bot­tle­neck and be­gan strug­gling to trans­form. Many are work­ing to an­a­lyze how Wolf War­rior 2 per­formed so well.

Qual­ity Counts

As an ac­tion film fea­tur­ing a mov­ing plot, Wolf War­rior 2 has reached top global pro­duc­tion lev­els. The 123-minute movie blessed big screens with hun­dreds of ex­plo­sions, pieces of state-of-the-art weaponry and heart-stop­ping chases. Ac­cord­ing to Sam Har­grave, the movie’s fight and stunt co­or­di­na­tor, they de­stroyed more than 100 ve­hi­cles in ad­di­tion to two 20-ton full­sized tank mod­els and an air­plane replica.

The pro­duc­tion process was unimag­in­ably dif­fi­cult. “Half of the crew was bit­ten by poi­sonous spi­ders,” de­clared Wu Jing, di­rec­tor and the lead ac­tor of Wolf War­rior 2. “The an­i­mal trainer was bit­ten by a lion, and the driv­ers were robbed.” Their ad­ven­tur­ous, painstaking ef­forts ul­ti­mately paid off with a block­buster that blew away box-of­fice records. The film­mak­ers cap­tured movie­go­ers’ hearts by feed­ing their eyes with a qual­ity film crafted un­der the strict dis­ci­pline of a di­rec­tor over­see­ing a de­voted crew that per­formed metic­u­lous de­sign and ad­dressed ev­ery de­tail.

From Rut to Roar­ing

Along­side the strong words on paper, the spir­i­tual core of the script is an­other se­cret to the film’s suc­cess.

In re­cent years, Chi­nese au­di­ences have been less in­ter­ested in tra­di­tional pa­tri­otic films even if they fea­ture big stars. Most stu­dios are stuck in a rut.

“The in­dus­try must adapt to the young gen­er­a­tion who don’t think the same as their el­ders who grew up in the era of rapid growth shortly af­ter in­tro­duc­tion of the coun­try’s eco­nomic re­form and open­ing up,” com­ments Xue Jing, a se­nior movie critic. “The Wolf War­rior se­ries opted to spear­head a path for col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion to shift the lan­guage en­vi­ron­ment from ‘weak’ to ‘strong.’ We are strong to­day, not the weak we used to be, so there is a gap in the tastes of ‘weak’ and ‘strong.’”

Tra­di­tional voices, mod­ern de­mand and Chi­nese im­ages have been sewn be­tween the lines, twist­ing the iden­tity of “weak” and “strong,” and al­low­ing space for all view­ers of ev­ery age and from ev­ery back­ground to re­late emo­tion­ally.

New Or­der in China

In re­cent years, the world has seen ris­ing anti-glob­al­iza­tion and pro­tec­tion­ism trends due to slow eco­nomic progress, ev­i­denc­ing, to a cer­tain ex­tent, the non­sus­tain­abil­ity of cap­i­tal­ist ide­ol­ogy and eco­nomic or­der, which has posed the need for new break­throughs.

What this film aims to pro­mote be­hind its “na­tion­al­ism” is free trade to align with on­go­ing glob­al­iza­tion rather than iso­la­tion, which goes against the cur­rent. Global com­mu­ni­ca­tion as such can be seen not only in big pic­ture realms such as the sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal as­sis­tance rep­re­sented by Dr. Chen, but also in the eco­nomic trade de­tailed in small mar­kets and big fac­to­ries. The cir­cu­la­tion of com­modi­ties has en­riched the lives of African peo­ple ma­te­ri­ally; the flow of in­for­ma­tion sup­ported Leng Feng, the hero who sought spir­i­tual re­venge. The fair and le­git­i­mate as­pects of free trade are ac­knowl­edged prop­erly.

The great­est suc­cess of Wolf War­rior 2 isn’t nec­es­sar­ily its dom­i­na­tion at the box of­fice. It has set a new stan­dard for all of its suc­ces­sors. It’s not try­ing to im­i­tate Hol­ly­wood by cre­at­ing a su­per­hero in tights who hap­pens to look Chi­nese. It cre­ates a whole new im­age for the coun­try.

Xue Jing be­lieves that against the back- drop of the era, Wolf War­rior 2 has de­picted a fresh im­age for China, both do­mes­ti­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, which is a pro­found de­vel­op­ment. “From a na­tion­al­is­tic plot, the movie cre­ated space for imag­i­na­tion far be­yond West­ern scope by un­der­scor­ing the im­por­tance of global free trade or­der and the es­tab­lish­ment of moral rules fea­tur­ing Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics,” Xue added. “Do­mes­ti­cally, it in­te­grated dif­fer­ent groups; in­ter­na­tion­ally, it sculp­tured a com­plete Chi­nese im­age. It speaks re­spon­si­bly as its coun­try be­comes a great global power. These are fac­tors that make the film so su­perb and in­spir­ing.”

A still from Wolf War­rior 2. By Septem­ber 1, 2017, a lit­tle more than a month af­ter its re­lease, the movie had grossed over 5.5 bil­lion yuan. VCG

The pro­duc­tion process was unimag­in­ably dif­fi­cult: Half of the crew was bit­ten by poi­sonous spi­ders; the lo­cal driver they hired was robbed; and they en­dured a tsunami... “It’s fi­nally done!” ex­claimed Wu Jing, di­rec­tor and the lead ac­tor of Wolf War­rior 2. “At least I’m still alive.” IC

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