Chinese filmgoers walk away disappointed in ‘Wonder Woman’

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/4 18:03:39


Promotional material for Wonder Woman Photo: IC

Promotional material for Wonder Woman Photo: IC


Promotional material for Wonder Woman Photo: IC


Released on Friday, highly anticipated Hollywood blockbuster Wonder Woman has left audiences feeling a bit disappointed.

With its positioning as the first superhero blockbuster to feature a female lead in more than a decade together with a nearly perfect "freshness" rating on movie review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, Wonder Woman was highly anticipated among Chinese filmgoers. However, now that the film is in theaters it seems that the consensus so far is that it doesn't quite live up to the hype. 

Flawed film

Hitting the Chinese mainland day and date with North American, the Hollywood action flick earned 80.18 million yuan ($11.78 million) on opening day and a weekend box office of  236 million yuan as of Sunday afternoon. While Wonder Woman was the highest grossing film in the mainland over the weekend, its opening day take lags far behind the $38.85 million it earned in North America.

Box office aside, it seems Chinese audiences are more critical of Wonder Woman as well. As of Sunday, the film had a 7.5/10 from over 47,600 viewers on Chinese media review site Douban, a drop from Friday's 8.3/10 from about 2,300 viewers. Although its grade on Chinese movie site Mtime is higher, a 7.8/10 from some 2,000 netizens, that is still lower than the film's grade on IMDB (8.4/10).  

A lack of a logical plot seems to be one of the major flaws that Chinese audiences are pointing out.

"Without a doubt the film has a lot shining points… but the final fight ruined the entire film. Among all the many superhero films out there, this is the only one that features a curt, irresponsible and illogical final fight," netizen Pinuoqiu wrote on Douban in a review.

Some Chinese have poked fun at how Wonder Woman takes on numerous German soldiers with guns armed only with a sword and shield by calling the film the US film version of Chinese war dramas, which are often criticized for going over the top when depicting Chinese people fighting against invading Japanese soldiers during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).  

"Is there any difference between Wonder Woman and a nonsense Chinese anti-Japanese TV drama?" Tianbuzhi, another netizen wrote, giving the film a 5.8/10 on Mtime.

"I will now never be surprised again when a qixiannü (a Chinese goddess) tears apart a Japanese soldier barehanded," netizen Daguniu Xiaoxianggu commented on Mtime.

In a review titled "Beauty is justice, Wonder Woman should be given a thumbs down," critic A Yuan wrote on Chinese blog Xiaoxian Movie that the extreme high grade Wonder Woman has received on Western film websites like Rotten Tomatoes stems from "audiences who have gotten used to disappointing DC films being thrilled to finally see an acceptable one."

According to the blogger, the personal charm of lead actress Gal Gadot is another major reason for the positive welcome overseas.

"The flaws in her performance are covered by her beautiful appearance and powerful bearing," the review reads. "Director Patty Jenkins knows how to present Gadot's beauty, using classic Zack Snyder slow motion and framing her in shots that look like oil paintings."

Bait and switch

While there are a lot of female superhero characters in Marvels and DC comics, Wonder Woman is the first character to get her own standalone film among the recent round of superhero films. Add to that the fact that the film is led by a female director and it stands out even further among its peers.

The film's producers no doubt made a wise choice promoting the film as a symbol of female empowerment in China. Women's right has long been a topic that easily provokes discussion in China. This has become especially true recently as Indian film Dangal has pushed the topic of feminism to a new high.    

However, while the film does feature scenes in which the lead character Diana/Wonder Woman challenges male-dominated society, some Chinese filmgoers have criticized the film for failing to live up to the "feminist" label it was promoted under.

"I felt like I watched a fake Wonder Woman. I didn't see any feminist message. It's basically a film that features nothing but the beautiful face and sexy figure of the lead actress," netizen Elly taurus posted on Sina Weibo. 

"From the beginning to the end, Wonder Woman comes across as no different from the stereotypical view of a woman," A Yuan wrote. He goes on to explain that Diana first comes across as an innocent beauty who knows little about the outside world, then becomes a person who only wants to help strangers and save the world before finally turning into a sentimental and vulnerable girl who needs to be enlightened by a man.

Chinese elements

As the Chinese film market has grown, so too have efforts by Hollywood to cater to audiences in China. However, be it including China exclusive scenes or casting Chinese actresses in small bit parts, most of these efforts have floundered.

Like those that have gone before, Wonder Woman's attempt to partake in this trend has also had the opposite effect on Chinese audiences.

In one part of the film, Diana and another character speak a few lines of Chinese to showcase the characters' linguistic abilities. However, the lines were spoken so poorly that many in the audience were left wondering what they had just heard.

"I watched the English version with Chinese subtitles, but I did not realized the two were speaking in Chinese until the subtitles specified that the lines were 'Chinese,'" Liu Linqian, 28, told the Global Times after watching the film Saturday night.

While previous films have gone out of their way to show how they are trying to include Chinese elements when carrying out promotions in China, perhaps the marketing team for Wonder Woman in China realized the quality of this added dialogue wasn't up to snuff as marketing materials haven't featured it.

Newspaper headline: Off the mark

Posted in: FILM

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