The highly publicized, infinitely profitable Hero. Courtesy of www.heromovie.org
How doth the folks in the Chinese industry perceive Hero's whirlwind success here in the States? One such critic weighs in with his take...
"Hero: Tops in North America"
by: International Herald Leader
translated by: Junie Quah
Beginning from August 27th of its premiere in the United States, the box office receipts for Hero's first three days reached 178 million, achieving the number one slot in the North American box office last weekend. As for a Chinese movie being #1 for the first time--the film industry is thrilled. However, there are a few people who have noticed that there are factors purely incidental. According to Los Angeles-stationed reporters Fei Zhi Ling and Zhang Da Ruo of the International Herald Leader, although Hero is number one at the box office, it does not mean anything. As for the Chinese film industry, its meaning is not as great as many imagine.
It has been two years since the buying of the movie Hero for public screening. This phenomenon is rare in the U.S distributing company. In the U.S, with the exception of remaking or adding scenes, it will usually not take too long for a movie to be screened. Normally, it takes a few months while the absolute maximum is a year. However, it took two years for Hero to screen across the U.S. Even Jet Li said, “I have no idea why it took so long to screen. A lot of people have already seen the DVD”. There are critics who think that the distributing company actually did not think this movie was going to do well, and did not pay much attention to it. Even before the screening, the company did not make the effort to promote the film, which resulted in many people actually paying more attention to Anacondas instead.
The timing for the premiere of this movie happens to be coincidental. It was arranged to be shown following the summer, and because it does not have to face competition from other big films, audiences became more interested, especially since it is different from other summer flicks.
Other than that, there is another important point. Many people watch the movie because of Jet Li, and not Zhang Yimou. The media also sees Jet Li as the main character of this movie and has mentioned less of the other actors. In other words, it is not the Chinese movie that is attracting these people. It is Jet Li, the kung fu actor who has become a U.S. citizen, who is attracting them.
It’s a fact that Americans are not very keen on foreign films. To them, it is tiring to read the subtitles while watching the movie. Many reports by the American media regarding Hero indicated surprised and “unexpected” reactions. Therefore, being number one at the box office should not be seen as too big of a deal, and it should not be treated as a victory for the China film industry. However, Hero outdid itself even with it being under so many negative conditions. The first three days of screening reached a box office total of 178 million, and for Hollywood, this three day result can be said to fall somewhere in the middle, which is not bad at all. Time magazine is one of the few being charmed by this movie. It says, “The most wonderful, and most attractive--the best. This movie is made with precision and fine attention to detail. Not a single shot goes to waste.” Even the Chicago Tribune says, “The movie Hero represents one of the martial arts movies of the century.”
Hero cannot be said to be a victory for the Chinese film industry. However, it does allow China’s film industry to make its first step into Hollywood. First, it selects actors who are more appealing in Hollywood to attract audiences. Another important point is having outstanding visuals and lighten the plot and meaning. When Americans watch movies, they do not usually care about the story. They care if it is exciting and interesting. To them, watching movie is like playing. Moreover, children and youngsters are the main target audience during summer. They care even more about visual effects. A lot of people from the mainland have criticized Zhang Yimou’s style of “More form, less content”. But to achieve box office success in the U.S, “More form, less content” is probably more effective. (Many artistic films in America did not do so well at the box office). Director Zhang Yimou probably foresaw this, but was not able to say anything about the criticisms.
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Date Posted: 9/17/2004