Military films win over audiences

“Wolf Warrior 2” has won over audiences and set a box office record, leading many to believe that there was scope for more such successes with military-themed films in China. 
Imaginechina

The film “Wolf Warrior 2” has set a new box office record in China. ---

The action-packed military film “Wolf Warrior 2” has set a box office record in China. Since its release on July 27, the film has grossed more than 5.6 billion yuan (US$867 million). Last month, the movie also knocked out American classic film “Forrest Gump” to become the first non-Hollywood film to squeeze into the top 100 grossing films worldwide.

Directed by martial arts star Wu Jing, “Wolf Warrior 2” follows a former Chinese Special Forces officer who rescues and protects civilians after getting involved in a war in an African country. He is also on his way to investigate the truth behind the death of his girlfriend.

Prior to “Wolf Warrior 2,” Stephen Chow’s 2016 fantasy comedy film “The Mermaid” was the highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time, raking in 3.39 billion yuan in ticket sales.

“The Mermaid” had attracted a large number of young cinemagoers who were mostly born after 1985. But “Wolf Warrior 2” saw a lot of elderly people heading back to the cinemas after staying away for many years. Some enthusiasts watched the movie several times with their family.

According to Li Yang, chief planner for “Wolf Warrior” film series, the success of the film demonstrates that military-themed film and TV productions have a huge market potential in China. A lot more stories about military heroes are expected to hit the screens in the coming years.

“Bullet Marks,” a TV series version of “Wolf Warriors” will be produced by Wit & Key. Li and his team are also considering to shoot a new sequel to the movie in one or two years. 

Li will also make a Chinese version of “Star Wars,” as well as “Eternal Eagle,” a movie set in the skies during the Battle of Shanghai (1937). Li said that military blockbuster movies are very common in Hollywood such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Pearl Harbor.” But in China, the genre still needs an in-depth and systematic development.

“We do not lack good military stories and impressive characters, but the challenge lies in telling an appealing story while passing the censorship,” Li adds.

Insiders believe that Chinese military films and TV dramas will have a better policy environment for creation and distribution, which will also make censorship easier for such kind of productions.

Recently the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television announced new policies to support excellent mainstream homegrown TV series. China Central Television, provincial Satellite TV and major video-sharing websites are required to broadcast series that pay tribute to historical events and heroes of the country during some of their golden time slot.

Han Hao, general manager of Wit & Key and chief producer of “Bullet Marks,” anticipates that military film and TV genre will flourish with the support of the government.

“However, scriptwriting is always a difficult part for the genre,” Han said. “A writer has to spend a lot of time in the barracks otherwise he won’t be able to conceive a good and authentic story.”

Some movie buffs attribute the popularity of “Wolf Warrior 2” to its distinctive character, solid storytelling, and spectacular fight scenes and advanced arms.

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Zhao Baogang’s “Deep Sword” deals with China’s submarine force. -

“Military productions used to be heavy, boring and preaching,” said Chris Yu, a high school student. “But the ‘Wolf Warrior’ series that centers on a patriotic but undisciplined soldier changed my idea of a stereotype in such movies.”

Local administrative worker Cathy Liu watched the film with her 10-year-old son. She hopes to see more touching Chinese movies of heroism and patriotism, ones which can ignite patriotic sentiment among children and teenagers.

The military TV genre is not new to Chinese audience. But for a long time such TV dramas were mainly broadcast on China Central Television. It was not until 2004 that military dramas such as “History of the Sky” and “Secrets of Soldiers” began to air on provincial Satellite TV.

In 2005, “Drawing Sword,” a series about a strong-willed colonel Li Yunlong, won overwhelming praise from both Chinese audience and critics. So far the series has been rebroadcast over 3,000 times — second only to the 1986 version of “Journey to the West.” The influence of the TV genre started to increase with the popularity of “Soldiers Sortie” and “My Chief and My Regiment.”

In July this year, well-known director Zhao Baogang presented “Deep Sword” on Beijing and Zhejiang Satellite TV. The series with China’s naval submarine forces as the theme was hailed by the viewers.

Recent popular TV productions also include “Anti-Terrorism Special Forces II,” a drama about today’s anti-terrorism heroes, and “Top Secret,” a series about air force soldiers in the late 1950s of China.

In addition to the display of military arms, these series boast stunning visual effects and spectacular scenes. Unknown stories and some historical events about the army were revealed in the series.

However, domestic military films used to be unpopular among cinemagoers. Except for Feng Xiaogang’s “Assembly” and Hark Tsui’s “The Taking of Tiger Mountain,” few productions became box office sensation.

In 2015, the first installment of “Wolf Warrior” raked up 540 million yuan at the box office. In late 2016, Hong Kong filmmaker Dante Lam’s “Operation Mekong” grossed 1.18 billion yuan. The film was based on a true event on the Mekong River in 2011, when 13 crew members on two Chinese cargo ships were killed on a stretch of the river in the Golden Triangle region.

Experts and industry insiders anticipate that in the future, military TV and film productions with elements of youth, sci-fi and spy thriller will become particularly popular among the young audience. The genre still has a huge space for creation and innovation in China.

“Military-themed film and series are not just about visually impelling conflict or fight,” said Han, general manager of Wit & Key. “They should also boast some in-depth reflection on war, life and humanity. We still have a lot to learn from our foreign peers.”

Shi Chuan, a film critic and vice president of the Shanghai Film Association, said that military film and TV directors still faced a dilemma while scriptwriting.

“Some good historical events and military stories may not conform to China’s current foreign policy,” Shi said. “Script writers in this genre have to be very careful and skilled not to touch sensitive topics.”

Ti Gong

"SWAT Elite" is a series about the growth, endeavors and emotions of young firemen in China.

Highly anticipated military film, TV series coming

The box office success of “Wolf Warrior 2” has sparked a fever for military-themed TV and film productions. An array of new films and serials are already in the works.

On September 30, “Sky Hunter,” a directorial debut by mainland actor Li Chen will be released nationally. The film revolves around a group of Chinese air force soldiers who vow to fight terrorism and protect the country and its people.

It took the crew two years to make the film. Shooting also took place in many extreme weather conditions such as desert, highland and snowfield. Breathtaking scenes of extreme low-altitude flight and forced landing are a feature of the movie to depict a battle of wits and courage.

Li said it had long been his dream to make a film about the spirit and charm of Chinese soldiers. China Air Force also provided support for the production. Military experts in arms, training and diplomacy offered advice in scriptwriting and cinematography.

Ciwen Media will present “SWAT Elite,” a series about the growth, endeavors and emotions of young firemen in China. The series featuring a lot of rescue scenes is compared to the acclaimed American series “Chicago Fire.” It will start airing on Hunan Satellite TV in October.

Wit & Key will produce “Bullet Marks,” a TV series version of “Wolf Warriors.” Written by writer Dong Qun, who also served as one of the screenwriters for “Wolf Warrior 2,” the series is now in the casting phase. Filming will begin next year.

The series will be shot with an eye on young people. It is a story about special troops, but also about brotherhood, faith, patriotism and team work. Some high-tech arms and impressive military clothing will be displayed in the series. Actors for the series will receive professional military training.

Mainland filmmaker Guan Hu is teaming up with Hollywood visual veterans to shoot “800,” a film that pays tribute to the 800 Chinese soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the famous Defense of Sihang Warehouse in 1937.

During the three-month Battle of Shanghai, the 800-odd defenders of the warehouse bravely resisted waves of Japanese attacks and gave cover to the Chinese forces retreating west. The war scenes will be shot with the top ALEXA IMAX65 camera. Hollywood visual artists who were involved in the production of “The Thin Red Line,” “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings” have been invited for special effects and stunt design. 

Ti Gong

“Sky Hunter” revolves around a group of Chinese air force soldiers who vow to protect the country. 

Ciwen Media will present "SWAT Elite," a series about the growth, endeavors and emotions of young firemen in China. The series featuring a lot of rescue scenes is compared to China's counterpart to the acclaimed American series "Chicago Fire." It will start its airing on Hunan Satellite TV in October.

Wit & Key will produce "Bullet Marks," a TV series version of "Wolf Warriors." Written by writer Dong Qun, who also served as one of the screenwriters for "Wolf Warrior 2," the series is now in the casting phase. Filming will begin next year.

The series will be shot from the perspective of young people. It is a story about special troops, and it is also about brotherhood, faith, patriotism and team work. Some high-tech arms and impressive military clothing will be displayed in the series. Actors for the series will receive professional military training.

Mainland film maker Guang Hu is teaming up with Hollywood visual veterans to shoot "800," a film paying tribute to the 800 Chinese soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the famous Defense of Sihang Warehouse in 1937.

During the three-month Battle of Shanghai, the 800 or so defenders of the warehouse bravely resisted numerous waves of Japanese forces and covered Chinese forces retreating west. The war scenes will be shot with the top ALEXA IMAX65 camera. Hollywood visual artists who were involved in the production of "The Thin Red Line," "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings" are invited for special effects and stunt design.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Director Guan Hu, with production team of the film “800,” speaks at the press conference of the film in Sihang Warehouse War Memorial Hall in Shanghai on September 7. -


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