'Dunkirk' sees lukewarm reception as some Chinese moviegoers accuse film of trying to paint over Britain's past

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/3 18:48:39

War film ‘Dunkirk’ faces a difficult battle in the Chinese mainland

Promotional material for Dunkirk Photo: IC

Christopher Nolan's latest work Dunkirk, a box-office hit in North America, received a lukewarm reception in the Chinese mainland after it premiered on Friday.

Although the war suspense film, which depicts the evacuation of British soldiers during a fierce battle in World War II, stayed in first place throughout the weekend for single day box-office, it did so with gloomy numbers: 57 million yuan ($8.6 million) on opening day, 76 million yuan on Saturday and 21 million yuan as of Sunday noon. Estimates place the movie at making roughly 190 million yuan over the weekend, about half its first weekend take in North America.

The film's tepid performance in the mainland, according to certain media outlets, has been attributed to the theme of the film - which praises an evacuation - not striking a chord with Chinese audiences.

A number of Chinese media outlets compared the film to box-office juggernaut Wolf Warrior 2, a Chinese-made patriotic movie that literally sent a message that said: "The citizens of the People's Republic of China: When you encounter danger overseas, do not give up! Please remember, right behind you, there is a powerful motherland!"

Chinese news outlet toutiao.com pointed out that "while Wolf Warrior 2 portrays a complete victory, Dunkirk depicts is a disastrous evacuation, which is very different from traditional Chinese values" and therefore "will not achieve a very high box office." 

Despite the fact that Dunkirk has still received overall high grades on Chinese film websites Mtime (8.3/10) and Douban (8.6/10), there have been quite a few negative comments aimed at the portrayal of Harold Alexander, the British general behind the evacuation, as a hero.

"Harold Alexander is known for running away," a report on Tencent subsidiary website kuaibao.qq.com, wrote, adding that in March 1942, when the general was fighting against the Japanese army in Burma (today's Myanmar) together with the Chinese army, he oversaw an evacuation that allowed a large amount of equipment and arms to fall into Japanese hands and led to mass casualties for Chinese forces. It is estimated that only 40,000 troops of the 100,000 strong Chinese expeditionary force survived the evacuation.

One of the netizens who protested against Dunkirk, Mr_A Zheng posted on Sina Weibo that he hoped moviegoers would first learn about the general's history before going to the cinema.

"Do not be misled by this film. The truth is that the British used and then sold out our expeditionary force. Now they want to glorify themselves," he wrote.

Looking at other films that competed over the weekend, Japanese live-action adaptation of the popular manga Gintama sat on the second place with an estimated 66 million yuan, while Chinese action blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2 ranked third with an estimated 59 million yuan. While Gintama premiered the same day as Dunkirk, this is already Wolf Warrior 2's sixth weekend. The film is the highest-earning film in the Chinese market with a total box office of 5.5 billion yuan.

Luc Besson's space epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ranked fourth with 41 million yuan. Released on August 25, the high-budget production has taken in a total of 372 million yuan in the Chinese mainland.

Disney's Cars 3 was at No.5 with 18 million yuan. It opened in the Chinese mainland the same day with Valerian and has now grossed a total of 123 million yuan.

Newspaper headline: Lukewarm reception

Posted in: FILM

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