Highly-anticipated 'F9' takes a long road to beat 'Godzilla vs. Kong' due to poor word-of-mouth and John Cena's controversial comment concerning the island of Taiwan
Published: Jun 02, 2021 11:46 PM
Screenshot from Sina Weibo

Screenshot from Sina Weibo

Thirteen days after premiering in the Chinese mainland, Fast & Furious 9 (F9) finally beat Godzilla vs. Kong on Wednesday to become the highest-grossing Hollywood film in China since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The long road to the record mainly stems from the poor word-of-mouth about the film and star John Cena's controversial video about the island of Taiwan, said film industry analysts.

As of Wednesday noon, the Universal Pictures' action film F9 had grossed over 1.23 billion yuan ($193 million), while the final box office for Godzilla vs. Kong in the Chinese mainland was 1.23 billion yuan, according to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan.

The reason why F9 was able to topple the Warner Bros' monster film was due to the great reputation of previous Fast & Furious films in China, according to Chinese film observers. 

"The Fast & Furious IP has a large number of fans in China, and no matter if a movie in the franchise is good or not, there are Chinese fans who will still go to theaters to watch it. That's why the film was still able to achieve a relatively high record box office despite poor reviews," Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"When compared to the original estimated box office for F9, which was expected to break 2.5 billion yuan, the current result can be seen as a 'disaster,'" Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Compared to the box office earned by 2017's The Fate of the Furious in China, F9's current performance is far from satisfactory. 

Data shows that the highest grossing film in the franchise was 2017's The Fate of the Furious, which earned 2.67 billion yuan in China, even higher than the box office take in North America, where it earned $226 million.

F9 only has a low 5.5/10 on Chinese media review platform Douban, while Furious 7 has an impressive 9.6/10. 

Shi pointed out that this non-ideal result is sure to cause Universal some pressure when it comes to the box office in North America, where the film is scheduled to release on June 25. 

The low box office of F9 stems mainly from its illogical story. In order to re-capture the hearts of fans in Asia, they resurrected the dead character Han Lue, but the plot itself does not make sense and leaves the audience feeling "cheated," Shi analyzed. 

"The collapse of the film's reputation has seriously affected its subsequent screen share which was divided amongst Love Will Tear Us Apart, Stand by Me Doraemon 2 and A Quiet Place Part II," Xiao echoed.

"Another reason that may have contributed to the poor box office was the controversial comment by US actor John Cena in a promotional video for the film aimed at audiences on the island of Taiwan. It seems that its box office slowed down after the controversy," Shi added.

Cena on May 25 apologized on Chinese social media after having mistakenly indicated that the island of Taiwan is a country in a promotional video.