Batman and Superman fight for the Chinese fans’ love... and their money

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-13 19:58:01

From left: Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill attend a press conference for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in Beijing on Friday. Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

One of Warner Bros. Pictures' tent pole releases for 2016, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice kicked off the first leg of its promotional world tour in Beijing on Friday, gathering reporters from all over Asia, include South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. At a fan meet for the film the following day, Li Yifeng, one of the most popular celebrities in China, was invited as an ambassador to bring some extra attention to the film.

With China becoming an increasingly important film market, it is easy to understand why film studios have begun favoring China when it comes to marketing activities. While it may have been next to impossible for Chinese film fans to see their idols in person about five years ago, now many big overseas names such as Henry Cavill (Superman) and Zack Snyder (director for Batman v Superman), have come to China on more than one occasion to push their films. It seems mastering certain Chinese phrases has become a necessity for Hollywood stars.

A different story?

To premiere in China and the US on March 25, Batman v Superman is set after the event seen in Man of Steel. While Superman is seen by many as a god sent to help humanity, the devastation left in the wake of his last fight with the Kryptonian general Zod has made others wonder if he is a threat to the human race. Following the thinking of the latter, Batman, the dark knight of Gotham City, sets out to remove this threat.

Known for action films like 300 and Sucker Punch, Snyder admitted at the Beijing event that he made Batman v Superman  to honor the influence comic books had on him, while also containing his signature style.

The first live-action film ever to see Batman go head-to-head with Superman, the director said that as a fan of both characters, it was a dream for him to put the two characters on the same big screen. 

According to Snyder, one interesting facet of Batman v Superman is that both superheroes represent justice from their own points of view and "neither of them is necessarily wrong in the analysis of the other." As such the director feels the audience is sure to find it interesting to follow the mindset of the two. 

Heroic trend

Part of Hollywood's arsenal to conquer box offices around the world,  superhero films have become one of the more popular genres.

Also a director, Ben Affleck (Batman) believes that superhero stories have become more widely accepted in recent years because visual effects have reached a point where they are good enough to make audience believe in the stories.

"You can believe people can fly and shoot laser beams and that kind of thing," he told press on Saturday.

"I think the reason why the genre is so successful is because the fantasy that we can have super powers is so intense," he added later.

However, with the number of such films increasing, some have begun to wonder if the genre is about to reach the saturation point where audiences grow tired of them.

"I think what happens is that there will be good ones and there will be some don't work like any genre of movie," Affleck told the Global Times, using the recent Deadpool film as an example.

"Deadpool was really funny and inventive, turned the genre around a little bit. That's why we don't just want to make a good superhero movie, but to make a good movie. I think people want to see a good story being told."

Star Lord who?

Superhero stories, together with their comic books, have existed in Europe and the US for generations. However, for moviegoers in China, a majority of them still have little knowledge of or connection to popular Western characters.

During the journey to the East, Marvel is sure to be a leading force. With X-men, Avengers and other related franchises coming to China, young Chinese's knowledge of Marvel characters like Captain America, Iron Man and Wolverine are improving.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, the latest in the Avengers franchise, earned 1.46 billion yuan ($224 million) at the Chinese mainland box office last year, ranking at seventh place overall, but the first among its superhero film peers.

Lagging a bit behind is DC. Yet, just like how Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought in pop star Lu Han as its "official ambassador" to China, Warner Bros. has turned to well-known actor Li Yifeng.

"If it weren't for Li, only half the number of people would have shown up here today," mentioned one veteran press photographer at the fan meet Saturday.

The showing Saturday was impressive, buffed up by several groups of primary school kids looking to see either Batman or Superman for themselves - something rarely seen at fan meets for Marvel characters.

This is most likely due to the fact that while Chinese are still becoming familiar with popular Western comic book characters, the longevity of Batman and Superman in Western comics mean they are two of the most recognizable Western superheroes in China.

Newspaper headline: Dawn of superheroes

Posted in: Film

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