‘Dune’ won’t help Hollywood regain its status in China: film observers
Published: Oct 25, 2021 10:37 PM
Hollywood sci-fi epic <em>Dune</em>.Photo:VCG

Hollywood sci-fi epic Dune.Photo:VCG

Hollywood sci-fi epic Dune has divided Chinese moviegoers, with some film observers saying that due to its literary nature it might be hard for the film to be a big success and restore the luster of Hollywood in China. 

Having premiered in China four days ago, the film has grossed 147 million yuan ($23 million), no match for China’s third-highest grossing film ever, The Battle of Lake Changjin, which has earned 5.31 billion yuan as of Monday night, according to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan.

However, it has scored IMAX’s biggest global October opening weekend ever — earning $17.8 million globally across the IMAX network for the weekend, an unprecedented 20 percent of the film’s weekend total, according to a report by IMAX China on Monday.

Chinese moviegoers have expressed great anticipation for the long-awaited sci-fi epic, but word-of-mouth has gradually divided into two very different views. 

Those who disliked the film said online that they didn’t understand it. Some were fans of the original novel and expressed their dissatisfaction with the adaptation.

Directed by acclaimed sci-fi director Denis Villeneuve, the film follows the life story of Paul Atreides – played by Timothée Chalamet – and the Atreides family's tragic involvement in a war between the native Fremen people and the family's enemy, the House Harkonnen.  

On China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo account, one Chinese netizen also accused the China African Project – which he claimed is a twitter account that seeks to undermine China-Africa relations – of posting a photoshopped poster that removed a black actor to try to smear China. 

Those who liked the film said it was partly due to the star effect of the protagonist Timothee Chalamet who has a big fan base in China following the success of Little Women in China in 2020. Others enjoyed the unique style of Villeneuve.

“The diverging response to Dune in the Chinese market is due to its style. A classical and serious film with a more relaxed narrative rhythm and a strong author style does not appeal to all viewers,” a moviegoer surnamed Li told the Global Times. 

Currently, the film has earned a high score of 7.9/10 on Chinese reviewing platform Douban, which has proved that the critics and senior movie fans like this movie more. But the tepid box office results show that ordinary audiences are less interested in the film, according to Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai.

He predicted that its final box office can be around 250 million to 300 million yuan, because 007: No Time to Die and other new films are coming soon, leaving less market space for Dune

“Taking into account the unprecedented all-star lineup and the big budget of the film, such box office results will obviously not satisfy the producers,” he added.

For senior movie fans who dislike the increasingly mediocre Hollywood films, a large production with a unique style like Dune is more appealing. It has an exciting theme, a fascinating production team and large-scale investment that every film creator dreams about. But for ordinary audiences, they may wish to have more Marvel superhero movies or movies like Star Wars and Star Trek coming to China, according to Xiao.