CHINA MARVELS AT MIGHTY FIGHTERS

China Daily European Weekly - - Life - Xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn Avengers: In­fin­ity War, Fate of the Fu­ri­ous In­fin­ity War The Fate of the Fu­ri­ous The Thor: Rag­narok Thor, Cap­tain Amer­ica: The First Avenger, Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ul­tron Doc­tor Strange. In

Build­ing its cine­matic uni­verse in the same decade that China’s movie in­dus­try has opened up and ex­panded has cer­tainly helped Marvel Stu­dios pro­duce the kind of fi­nan­cial suc­cess that would fill Iron Man Tony Stark with avarice, es­pe­cially after its lat­est tri­umph.

the stu­dio’s 19th fea­ture, marks Marvel Cine­matic Uni­verse’s 10th an­niver­sary and has bro­ken records to be­come the comics gi­ant’s most suc­cess­ful su­per­hero movie in the world’s sec­ond-largest movie mar­ket.

Al­though its re­lease on the Chi­nese main­land came two weeks later than in the rest of the world, the third in­stall­ment in the Avengers saga opened on May 11 and raked in 493 mil­lion yuan ($77.7 mil­lion; 66.2 mil­lion; £ 58 mil­lion) on May 13 alone to top the for­eign film box-of­fice charts in China.

It’s Marvel’s big­gest and most star-stud­ded epic yet, gross­ing 1.27 bil­lion yuan in its open­ing week­end, earn­ing the sec­ond-big­gest open­ing in China’s box-of­fice his­tory after

and mak­ing it the coun­try’s big­gest su­per­hero hit of all time.

It’s worth not­ing that eclipses in dol­lars due to an ex­change rate dis­crep­ancy, but the lat­ter still earned more in yuan. Around 10 per­cent, or 128 mil­lion yuan, of the to­tal was earned from the coun­try’s 514 Imax cine­mas, mak­ing it the high­est-gross­ing film for the for­mat in China since it was in­tro­duced here in 2002.

The film starts where the mid-cred­its scene in last year’s left off: in outer space, aboard an As­gar­dian refugee ship, be­fore di­verg­ing across mul­ti­ple plot­lines set both on Earth — in New York, Scot­land and the fic­tional African coun­try of Wakanda — and across the galaxy. The some­what tragedy-laden tale re­volves around the Mad Ti­tan, Thanos, and his bid to bring bal­ance to what he be­lieves is an over­pop­u­lated uni­verse by re­mov­ing half of its res­i­dents. To do so, he must col­lect six pow­er­ful gems called In­fin­ity Stones.

This sto­ry­line has been build­ing since the end-credit scene in 2011’s when Thanos made his first on-screen ap­pear­ance, fol­lowed by the sub­se­quent re­veal­ing of five of the six In­fin­ity Stones in and

the fi­nal stone is un­earthed and the seven-year long story arc en­ters its fi­nal phase as earth’s might­i­est he­roes as­sem­ble across time and space in an at­tempt to nul­lify the threat posed by Thanos.

With the film’s ti­tle listed as one of the top 50 most searched phrases on mi­croblog­ging site, Sina Weibo, the pop­u­lar­ity of the Russo brothers’ di­rec­to­rial flick — dis­trib­uted by Walt Dis­ney and pro­duced by Marvel Stu­dios — is in­dis­putable, and it has ob­tained a score of 8.5 points out of 10 on the pop­u­lar re­view site Douban.

How­ever, there was just as much drama off screen as there was in the box-of­fice bo­nanza it­self.

Ear­lier, or­ga­niz­ers en­raged Chi­nese fans at­tend­ing a Shang­hai pro­mo­tional event on April 19 when they is­sued fewer tick­ets to diehard Marvel fans than to the fans of the Chi­nese singers Ea­son Chan, Jane Zhang and Ja­son Zhang, who were also in­vited to sing some songs and pro­mote the movie.

Things went from bad to worse when the event’s host side­lined Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruf­falo and Tom Hol­land, let­ting Chan stand cen­ter stage.

Seem­ingly not quite pre­pared, Chan made the at­mos­phere even more awk­ward as he asked in a speech about the stars’ char­ac­ters, Iron Man, Hulk and Spi­der­man: “What do we call them? Su­per­men?”

Tak­ing into ac­count that DC’s has been a long-stand­ing ri­val of Marvel’s char­ac­ters in both comic books and on the big screen for more than half a cen­tury, it’s easy to un­der­stand the out­pour­ing of the fans’ wrath.

Like the Avengers, the an­gry fans as­sem­bled, on­line, to de­mand jus­tice. Marvel Stu­dios, Chan and the host all said sorry via their Weibo ac­counts.

All seems to have been for­given and for­got­ten, though, as the roar­ing box-of­fice num­bers ap­pear to show.

When pre­miered at mid­night on May 10, mil­lions of Chi­nese fans flooded to cine­mas, al­though most of them had to work on Fri­day. The first screen­ings brought in nearly 60 mil­lion yuan, just shy of the record-holder

which grossed 62.7 mil­lion yuan. For most in­dus­try watch­ers and crit­ics, the suc­cess of this lat­est Avengers out­ing is greatly due to the decade long de­vel­op­ment of Marvel Cine­matic Uni­verse, gath­er­ing to­gether dozens of well-loved su­per­heroes, which all started with in 2008.

China’s movie in­dus­try grossed merely 4.34 bil­lion yuan that year, but the fig­ure soared to 55.9 bil­lion yuan in 2017. It was a pe­riod of high-speed growth oc­cur­ring, co­in­ci­den­tally, at the same time as MCU’s ex­pan­sion, giv­ing it a per­fect spring­board to cul­ti­vate a large Chi­nese fan­base, com­pared with other block­buster fran­chises, such as which be­gan in the late 1970s.

For some, how­ever, the fran­chise may have evolved a bit too far and be­come too “fan-ori­ented”. In a Douban re­view marked as “use­ful” by more than 8,000 ne­ti­zens, film fan Ling Rui writes that au­di­ences who did not watch the sev­eral pre­vi­ous Marvel films would feel con­fused about the plot of

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