25 August, 2017
The Chinese action film Wolf Warrior 2 continues to set box office records and cause online debate in China.
The film has earned almost $700 million in a just a few weeks since its opening in Chinese theaters. It could easily become the country's biggest blockbuster yet.
Some critics have expressed concern about what they consider an aggressively nationalistic message in the movie. Others argue the movie shows that China's patriotic films can become big hits, if done right.
A VOA reporter spoke with movie-goers in Beijing. Some said the film represented situations Chinese have and could face overseas when conflicts arise. They also noted that it tells the story of a real dispute in China.
At the beginning of Wolf Warrior 2, the film's hero, played by Wu Jing, is serving a prison sentence for killing a criminal. The violence is the result of a dispute about a forced home demolition.
Forced demolitions are connected to China's economic growth. They are also a major cause of social dissatisfaction in the country.
One moviegoer, surnamed Dong, had already seen Wolf Warrior 2 twice. She said she found the film both shocking and interesting. She said it made her think of situations when the Chinese military had to remove Chinese workers from foreign countries where conflicts arose.
"The director has good understanding of history and politics," she said. "I heard similar stories (about the removal of Chinese citizens from Libya)."
The film clearly attempts to represent China's military as firm about its aim of keeping Chinese citizens safe overseas. Near the end, the film shows a picture of a Chinese passport and a short message: "Citizens of the People's Republic of China. When you encounter danger in a foreign land, do not give up! Please remember, at your back stands a strong motherland."
Atypical patriotic flick
Chinese state media have praised the examples of patriotism seen in Wolf Warrior 2. The Global Times said patriotism was one reason for the movie's rising popularity. But the Chinese citizens VOA spoke with said they liked the movie because it was different from other films.
One woman surnamed Qi said most patriotic films are stupid.
"Usually patriotic movies like The Founding of An Army do not reflect realistic situations of everyday life like Wolf Warrior does, which showed scenes of him trying to stop a forced demolition. These kinds of things are more realistic," she said.
Floundering military film
The Founding of An Army tells about the establishment of the People's Liberation Army. It and Wolf Warrior 2 were both released close to the anniversary of the Chinese military's founding. But The Founding of an Army has done poorly at the box office.
Interference by movie censors might be partly to blame, however.
The Chinese social networking service Douban bars users from commenting or rating The Founding of An Army. Wolf Warrior 2, however, has received high marks on Douban.
At the theater in Beijing, the room playing Wolf Warrior 2 had a large crowd. The room in which The Founding of An Army was shown was nearly empty.
One theater employee told VOA that state-owned businesses had sent employees in large groups to some showings of The Founding of An Army. This improved the film's showing at the box office.
Reports of box office cheating are not uncommon in China. The website Cbooo.cn reports on movie ticket sales in China. It says The Founding of An Army has earned about 10 percent of that made by Wolf Warrior 2.
According to The Hollywood Reporter magazine, Wolf Warrior 2 is already the third highest-earning film in a single territory, after Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar.
The film's success has some already predicting a brighter future for China's film industry. But others have expressed concern about the blood and violence in Wolf Warrior.
One man, surnamed Zhang, said some of the debate the film has fueled online is worrying. He said he will not go see the film.
"The movie is like a war mobilization film," he said. "...Some who have seen it are saying we should wage war."
On social media, many are already urging the film's director Wu Jing to follow up soon with Wolf Warrior 3. Some have even suggested that the next film tell about conflicts with foreign powers, and show examples of Chinese-made weaponry.
I'm Caty Weaver.
William Ide reported this story for VOANews. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
box office - n. an area in a theater where tickets are sold for a movie or play
blockbuster - n. something that is very large, expensive, or successful
patriotic - adj. having or showing great love and support for your country
demolition - n. deliberate destruction of a building or other structure
reflect - v. to show (something)
scene - n. a part of a play, movie or story in which a particular action or activity occurs
censor - n. person who examines books, movies or letters, and removes things that are considered to be offensive, immoral or harmful to society
mobilize - v. to make (soldiers or an army) ready for war