The Chinese version of Tomb Raider has crossed cultures and countries, attracting audiences from around the globe

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/1 20:08:39

Foreign fans express their enthusiasm for Chinese tomb raider productions. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Time Raiders (2016), a Chinese film that mirrors American films, Tomb Raider (2001) and Indiana Jones (1981), will hit theaters in three days. Fans around the country are on the edge of their seats waiting for the release, but they are not the only ones. An overseas fan, 24-year-old Alex Ramirez, from the US, is also counting the days until the movie is out.

The film is based on the Chinese sensation Daomu Biji (grave robbery note), a novel written by Xu Lei, also known as Nanpai Sanshu. The book was first published in 2007 and soon attracted millions of readers throughout the country. In 2011, the book was translated into English and titled The Grave Robbers' Chronicles by Kathy Mok, and began to see an international fan base.

In recent years, with many popular books and novels being adapted into movies and TV shows, this trend has been sweeping the country, and brought about adaptations for big-screen and TV versions of the novel, including The Lost Tomb, a hit show of last year.

Ramirez started watching The Lost Tomb a year ago when it first aired on YouTube and Viki with English subtitles, and became hooked immediately. When he heard about the movie, he was extremely excited about the release and he cannot wait to see it.

"I like this genre because it has mystery, suspense and adventure. I've always watched Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, they are my kind of movies," Ramirez said. "The TV series is great, and I think the movie will be even better."

In recent years, China has witnessed the launch of more books, TV productions and movies with the tomb raider theme. The mysterious and adventurous works that unearth the rich history of China's underground world have not only attracted the Chinese fans, but also Western fans.

The rise of Chinese tomb raider productions

Before watching The Lost Tomb, Ramirez has always been a fan of Western tomb raider stories.

"I think the Chinese tomb raider productions are more interesting than Western productions, because they have more detailed plots, amazing characters and better actors," he said.

"I still remember a scene [in the TV show] when the group is in a cave, on a boat and a faceless female ghost suddenly appears with bugs crawling out of her sleeve," said Ramirez. "It scared me so much that I spilled the glass of water I was holding all over myself."

Ramirez is drawn to the interesting characters that the Chinese productions use. "Chinese productions have unimaginable creatures like ghosts, zombies and the faceless girl; the special effects are amazing." 

Nerissa Gonzales, a 46-year-old Filipino living in Italy, is also a big fan of Chinese tomb raider productions. She started to watch the TV series last year, and is anxious to see the new movie.

"The productions have awesome effects, beautiful scenery, and amazing action and adventure," Gonzales said.

The rise of Chinese tomb raider productions in foreign countries can also be seen by the high number of views on international broadcasting platforms.

The Time Raiders trailer was viewed 33,942 times on YouTube by Monday since it was uploaded two months ago. And the first episode of The Lost Tomb, which was uploaded six months ago, has been viewed 554,094 times by Monday.

The Grave Robbers' Chronicles, the English version of the book, also got positive reviews from buyers on Amazon. One anonymous buyer gave the book glowing recommendations. "I highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a good adventure or thriller. Think of it as Indiana Jones with more lead roles and supernatural monsters!"

This is not the first tomb raider themed work that has achieved success overseas.

In December, in the same month as its Chinese release, Mojin: The Lost Legend (2015), opened in 22 theaters across the US and Canada, grossing $280,000, according to a report from Variety, a website based in the US that provides entertainment news and film reviews.

The film was adapted from The Adventures of Three Tomb Raiders, which was written by Zhang Muye, also known as Tianxia Bachang.

The allure of xiaoxianrou

The plot and effects are essential parts of movies and TV shows, but equally important are the stars.

Ramirez became a fan of Li Yifeng from his starring role as Wu Xie, in The Lost Tomb. He is also a huge fan of Lu Han, who plays the leading role in the movie.

Both Li Yifeng and Lu Han are deemed as "xiaoxianrou" (little fresh meat), which refers to the good-looking male pop idols in their teens or early 20s. Due to xiaoxianrou's screen appeal and huge influence among fans, many producers of TV series and films invite them to star in their productions.

"I first discovered Lu Han when I started listening to Chinese music. I really enjoy his music; he is very cool and talented. I think he will be great in this role," said Ramirez.

Aye Yee Mon Zaw, a 23-year-old girl from Myanmar, has been a fan of Lu Han for over four years.

"He is so talented, and he has a really pure mind. There are a lot of his fans in our country and other neighboring countries," Mon Zaw said.

To support Lu, Mon Zaw is planning to hold a fan meeting after the movie is released, where she will screen the movie and fans can watch it together, since the movie will not be released in theaters where she lives.

It is the first time for Lu Han to play a role in an adventure and thriller movie.

"I expect 80 to 90 people will attend the event," Mon Zaw said. "I just wish I could actually watch Lu's movie in a cinema one day."

She thinks that Lu's role transformation is a good thing because it will help him prove that he is a great artist.

The richness of China's history provides tomb raider productions with limitless outlets to use imaginative and unique Chinese characteristics. Photo: Li Hao/GT


With rich history, comes great works

Another reason why Ramirez thinks the Chinese tomb raider productions are better is that China has thousands of years of history, which means rich historical stories and many ancient tombs.

"Unlike our country, China has a long history, and has more folk tales about tombs, superstitions and customs, that can all be used to enrich the fictional tomb raider stories," he said.

"I expect China to make more tomb raider productions in the future, and I am sure more fans around the world will be excited about these productions."

Phil Gillon, a film commentator from Eastern Film Fans, a website based in the UK, said that Chinese tomb raider films have endless possibilities. Since China's history dates back thousands of years, writers can use the rich history as a resource that will provide them with endless inspiration for stories that attract both Eastern and Western audiences.

"There are many Western fans of the Chinese tomb raider films because the genre has a global feel; it doesn't matter where it's set because everyone can relate to the story regardless of where you watch the films. The franchise can only get bigger and the scope of what you can do with this franchise is endless. I only see great things going forward," he said.

Newspaper headline: Film genre breaking borders

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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