Record-breaking action flick has audiences singing national anthem in cinemas

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/8 18:43:40

Box office success may inspire production of more patriotic blockbusters

Blockbuster Wolf Warriors 2 has been a huge smash hit, arousing nationalistic sentiments on the Internet

The overwhelming online praise has also drawn some criticism, with some saying the fever aroused by the film is abnormal

More and more films and novels are using nationalism to attract audiences


The film's hero jumps to the rescue of civilians in Wolf Warriors 2. Photo: IC

It has been two weeks since the release of patriotic movie Wolf Warriors 2 and the screenings are still packed and the online praise for the movie is deafening.

The story of a Chinese ex-commando saving his compatriots overseas has been the number one film in the country since it was released on July 27.

The film was shown 120,000 times on August 4 and earned $39.7 million at the box office that day alone. Over the weekend it expanded to 140,000 screenings per day and increased its earnings to $59.7 million and $62.7 million respectively, according to the Ent Group, a big data firm that offers consultation on China's entertainment industry.

With a total box office take of 3.5 billion yuan ($522 million) as of August 8, it became the top earning film ever aired in China, overtaking Monster Hunt and Fast and Furious 7.

The success of the film reflects the eager audience for patriotic movies in China, but some have said people are taking their enthusiasm for the film too far.

Deliberate nationalism

The protagonist is Leng Feng, a former soldier with special military unit "Wolf Warrior," who gets caught up in a conflict in Africa and single-handedly protects local and Chinese civilians from rebels and American mercenaries.

There are several scenes in the movie that are clearly designed to arouse patriotic sentiments among Chinese moviegoers. After a bombing, Leng and others run to the nearest Chinese embassy for help. The ambassador stands up to the insurgents and says "We are Chinese; we have always been brothers with African countries."

During the evacuation in the film it is also stressed that ships from other countries are sailing away from the conflict and that a Chinese aircraft carrier is the only vessel sailing towards the unnamed African country to pick up its citizens. When Leng leads people through a battlefield to reach the ship, he ties a Chinese flag to his arm and waves it to spark a ceasefire.

The movie was also released with a poster reading, "Anyone who offends the Chinese nation will be punished regardless of the distance."

Immediately after the movie's release, this poster was shared widely and many expressed that they felt touched and patriotic.

Frank Li, a netizen who studied abroad, told the Global Times he has watched many films about Americans saving the world and it's refreshing to see one in which a Chinese soldier is the hero.

Meanwhile, on Sina Weibo, lots of articles appeared saying that the film shows the ways in which China is great. One titled "a Chinese passport may not take you to everywhere in the world, but can definitely pick you up and take you home from any corner of the world" circulated, beginning with "no matter what danger you encounter overseas, remember, you'll have a strong country backing you up." The article recounted several cases of evacuation abroad during times of natural disaster or political turmoil, saying the Chinese government has always acted in a timely manner.

On Weibo, some even claimed that during screenings of the movie, the scene in which Leng carries the Chinese flag prompted cinemagoers to stand up and start singing the Chinese national anthem.

Wang, a former designer with the China Railway No.8 Engineering Group, was one of the Chinese nationals evacuated from Libya in 2011. He sent out a Weibo post after watching Wolf Warriors 2, describing his excitement.

"From 2011 till now, it's been six years (since the evacuation). China has improved a great deal since then and has stronger national defense power. Now people who are overseas should feel prouder, more confident and more secure!" he wrote.

Wang told the People's Daily during the turmoil six years ago that chaos quickly broke out in Libya. Waves of rioters and local police alike came to his factory's camp and raided the workers' dormitories, robbing and smashing as they went. Wang and a translator had to rescue several people from being robbed at gunpoint. At that time, he felt despair and feared he would be taken hostage.

When he contacted the Chinese embassy, staff told him to take cover and promised to come and rescue them. After three days, he was on a Chinese naval ship and felt lucky, especially seeing some other nonresponsive governments abandon their citizens.

His translator also wrote in his journal, "Thank you my country, because of the strength of our country, Chinese can finally have dignity!"

Director and lead actor of Wolf Warriors 2 Wu Jing displays a giant Chinese passport during a promotional event in Shanghai on July 26. Photo: CFP

Too much heat

Among these voices of admiration, some expressed concern that the Chinese masses can be so easily stimulated by such on-screen nationalism and sometimes their actions are overheated.

Weibo movie critic Tengjinshu wrote a post saying that she received abuse after admitting she hasn't seen Wolf Warriors 2 because she doesn't like this kind of film. Some called her an idiot, telling her to "scramble back to Japan" because her Weibo username sounds vaguely Japanese and that she's not worthy of judging a "great Chinese film."

"The individual heroism in Wolf Warriors 2 isn't the type depicted in American hero movies. His heroism doesn't exist alone but reminds us at all times that he's powerful because he's got a powerful country behind him," wrote Wang Wusi, an independent blogger.

Responding to these controversies, lead actor and director Wu Jing said in recent interviews that he thinks many are being too harsh as they don't hold American films to the same standards.

"Only when our country is strong can individuals be better off. There's not only Captain America, but also Chinese heroes … China has sent the most UN peacekeeping forces, why can't we film their passion and their stories? There can only be more and more Wolf Warriors stories," he said.

A working model

Whether or not people think it is a good thing, patriotic and pro-government films have been increasingly common in recent years, many of them becoming pretty popular.

Their style has been carefully tailored to fit the tastes of the younger generation, many of whom have long mocked TV shows that portray Chinese soldiers and citizens with godlike fighting abilities in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945) and belittle the Japanese.

A couple of scenes have been perpetual laughingstocks on the Internet. One of them has a farmer tearing a Japanese soldier in half with his bare hands, another shows an officer praising a soldier for shooting a Japanese soldier from 800 kilometers away.

But the recent "mainstream" films are different. The characters are portrayed with more humanizing characteristics, they curse, they sometimes break rules, but one thing stays the same, they still fight furiously for what they deem to be the right cause, and through that, the message is still sent to the audience. The remaking of The Taking of Tiger Mountain and the recent The Founding of an Army both show this trend.

Chen Shan, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times the popularity of the film shows the younger generation is searching for their own meaning of life and their interests are different from the last generation, represented by famous director Feng Xiaogang, who grew up through a chaotic time.

"The new generation grew up during a peaceful era, and they are searching for their life's purpose and values - what keeps them alive - and one of them could be patriotism," he said. "As participants and observers of the movie industry, we are all attentive to what are new hits and trends and I think it's bringing many changes to the Chinese film industry."

Directors, producers and even cinema mangers have realized it's a huge market. While a lot of Chinese military films and TV dramas set during World War II focus on a China that is struggling to defeat invaders, "Wolf Warriors 2 shows the strength of today's China around the world, which makes people proud," Yuan Haibin, a cinema manger in Beijing, told Global Times previously. He expects the movie to keep earning cash for the cinema in the days to come.

Newspaper headline: Popcorn patriotism

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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