‘Crazy Rich Asians’ unlikely to become mega-hit in Chinese mainland

By Huang Tingting Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/13 17:08:39

Crazy Rich Asians' Henry Golding (left) and actress Constance Wu attend the film's premiere in LA on August 7. Photo: VCG

Hit rom-com Crazy Rich Asians has not only made headlines in the US for being the first all-Asian-cast film produced by a major Hollywood studio in the past 25 years, but also sparked numerous discussions on social media in the Chinese mainland, where it has yet to receive a release date. 

Following Chinese-American professor Rachel Chu as she visits her boyfriend's super rich family in Singapore, the adaptation of Singaporean-American novelist Kevin Kwan's 2013 bestseller of the same name currently holds a 6.9/10 rating on Chinese media review platform Douban based on some 5,500 reviews, better than 46 percent of the romance flicks and 50 percent of the comedy films on the platform.

Mainland release up in the air

While acknowledging the social significance of the film for Hollywood, many Chinese reviewers have criticized the film, which is being referred to in Chinese as Zhaijin Qiyuan (lit: A Gold-Picking Romance) in the mainland, as having a cliché story. Some critics have even accused the film of misrepresenting Asian culture, calling it a "General Tso's chicken-style Asian movie."

One of the most popular Chinese takeout foods in the US, the chicken dish is not actually from China, but was developed by the late Chinese chef Peng Chang-kuei in the US in the 1970s.

While the film debuted in Hong Kong and Taiwan on August 23 and August 24 respectively, Warner Bros has yet to release any official announcement about whether the film will make it to Chinese mainland cinemas.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the only film that the company plans to release in the mainland this year, according to an industry insider who preferred to stay anonymous. But the source remains positive about the possibility of Crazy Rich Asians coming to the mainland.

Nothing special

Some Chinese film critics have proposed that even if Crazy Rich Asians does screen in the mainland it most likely will not perform as well as it has in its home market.

"We have to realize that a movie directed and starring an all-Asian team can be less popular in the mainland than in the US. We're not talking about it being niche or unwelcome, it's just that this film, in terms of its genre, is not as competitive as other Hollywood flicks may be when competing with domestic movies and that the all-Asian cast won't cause mainland audience to treat this movie as something special because the mainland is not as sensitive about the concept of 'ethnicity' as the US," wrote Chinese film critic Zou Xun in a post on Sina Weibo.

"[Crazy Rich Asians] is very likely to be given a luke-warm reception in the mainland, similar to Black Panther," Zou wrote.

The acclaimed Marvel superhero movie with a primarily black cast grabbed some 662 million yuan ($96 million) when it premiered in China in March - roughly seven percent of the film's global total - and currently holds a 6.4/10 on Douban, the lowest rating for a Marvel Cinematic Universe film.

Same old story

Chinese movie and book lovers have also been complaining that the plot of the film is too cliché as it is very similar to the many web-novels available in China.

"Crazy Rich Asians has a cliché Mary Sue plot… it received a high Rotten Tomato rating probably because foreigners seldom read badao zongcai stories [a Chinese web term referring to a genre that focuses on a female character involved in a romantic relationship with a rich, aggressive man of social status]," wrote Sina Weibo user AM_ANER.

"We've seen more than enough of these types of plots in Chinese romance novels… It's hard to understand why Crazy Rich Asians is so popular," wrote another Sina Weibo user Ersanziye.

Since Crazy Rich Asians' mainland release is still up in the air, some mainland netizens who are interested in the story have turned to the original English novel (as there is not yet a Chinese edition) to satisfy their curiosity.

Some Chinese have pointed out that the film and the original novel showcase a "social class pyramid in overseas Chinese society" that puts Chinese-Indonesians and Chinese-Singaporeans at the top and Chinese mainland immigrants at the bottom, which they feel could probably hinder the movie's entry into the mainland.

"The author judges people by the standard of old money, and Chinese-Indonesians and Chinese-Singaporeans are without doubt the most pure-blooded, respectable old money in his heart as they have been educated in the West, speak fluent standard English and maintain a natural and good relationship with the West," wrote Douban user Zhaocaimiao.

"Almost all my mainland friends here chose not to go watch the film," Lin Zhiyun, a Chinese student studying in Chicago, told the Global Times.

"An all-Asian film full of fancy cultural symbols that fit with white people's fantasies about Asians - such a monumental film!" she noted sarcastically.

Newspaper headline: Dubious potential

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