In its second weekend in mainland theaters, Chinese action film Wolf Warrior 2 earned an estimated 1.1 billion yuan ($163.51 million) bringing its total earnings at the mainland box office to 3.1 billion yuan (estimated). The film is currently the second-highest earning film in the Chinese mainland pushing past The Fate of the Furious‘ 2.66 billion yuan and right below Stephen Chow’s 2016 fantasy romance film The Mermaid (3.39 billion yuan).
The film’s success has come as a surprise for many moviegoers since it is only action star Wu Jing’s third directorial work and doesn’t feature any huge movie stars besides Wu.
Having seen the film before its nationwide release in China, Yuan Haibin, a cinema manager in Beijing, told the Global Times that he was confident it would be well received. Originally forecasting a take of 1 billion yuan, he never imagined it would be so successful.
Yuan said that the secret to Wolf Warrior 2‘s success, compared to other action films, has nothing to do with its action scenes, but rather is the result of its emotionally uplifting message.
While a lot of Chinese military films and TV dramas set during World War II focus on a China that is struggling to defeat invaders, “Wolf Warrior 2 shows the strength of today’s China around the world, which makes people proud,” Yuan said. He emphasized that the film introduces a new kind of Chinese hero to audiences.
“In the past, people instantly thought of Jet Li or Jackie Chan’s kung fu style when it comes to action films, but now audiences are seeing something different,” Yuan noted. “I believe there will be many more of this type of film in the coming years.”
A report from the Guangzhou based Xinkuaibao newspaper echoes Yuan’s opinion.
“China has veteran actors, young beautiful faces and pop stars, but lacks Hollywood style tough guys,” the report said, making reference to Hollywood action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise. “Leng Feng, the leading hero in both Wolf Warrior films… can be seen as the Chinese version of Stallone’s Rambo.”
“I criticized Wolf Warrior two years ago… for its illogical plot. But this couldn’t stop me from loving Wolf Warrior 2,” Sima Pingbang, a Chinese film critic, posted on Chinese film site Mtime. “You can clearly see Wu Jing, who is both the director and lead actor of the film, and his team becoming more mature. This is an example of a team in the Chinese film industry getting closer and closer to Hollywood action films.”
“As a mainstream commercial film, the success of Wolf Warrior 2 is dependent on its strict adherence to the conventions and style of a typical Hollywood blockbuster,” wrote one report from the Beijing Daily.
Of course there are still those who are not ready yet to jump on the Wolf Warrior 2 bandwagon.
For example, in his review on Chinese media site Douban netizen Forken Hwang calls the film “a male Mary Sue style fantasy” and gave the film two out of five stars.
While he admits that Wolf Warrior 2 has some of the best military action scenes in Chinese film, director Zhang Yu said that he finds it quite pathetic that Chinese films are always imitating others.
“Crazy Stone, which imitated the Coen Brothers’ style, started a new era of comedy [in China]. Lost in Thailand, which imitated The Hangover, started another. Now Wolf Warrior 2, which imitates First Blood, is going to kick off a new era for action films,” Zhang told the Global Times.
“Why is that exciting? This is an out-dated style that has been abandoned by others. We are like a student that is trying to make up for missing lessons.”
He added that while films in the US and Europe are starting to get more artistic, Chinese filmmakers have fallen back to imitate the film industry of the 1990s.
“Wolf Warrior 2 is progress, but we should not overpraise it,” Zhang noted.
Yin Hong, a professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Journalism and Communication is also taking a conservative stance.
“Wolf Warrior 2 is truly a high quality military action film with its combat and actions scenes as well as its plot and attention to detail. If only the film didn’t have such a subjective viewpoint that doesn’t focus on global universal values it would be able to win a worldwide audience like the 007 film series,” Yin posted on WeChat, pointing out that the film’s message of Chinese patriotism may alienate foreign audiences.
“Chinese audience love ‘fad’ films,” Yin noted. “This shows that people are not confident in Chinese films as a whole and so will go see whatever film is being talked about the most.”
“Of course, the most important thing is that most Chinese films are still not that great, which means audiences do not have many good films to choose from,” Yin added.
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The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily