“Patriotism is now a business.”
“I suggest Wolf Warriors 2 be in cinemas forever, and sooner or later we’ll have the highest-grossing film of all time worldwide.”
On October 26, domestic action film Wolf Warriors 2 (战狼2 zhàn láng) concluded its three-month run in theaters with a record-breaking box office gross of 5.6 billion yuan ($844 million). However, the real impact of its massive revenue-generating success on the Chinese film industry is still open to debate.
Lauded as a savior for the declining Chinese film market of 2017, Wolf Warriors 2 surpassed Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid to become the highest-grossing movie in China’s box office history less than one month after its debut on July 27. According to (in Chinese) Sina Entertainment, Wolf Warriors 2 has been viewed by more than 150 million people, which means that roughly one in nine Chinese went to cinemas to watch the film. Wolf Warriors 2 is also the first Chinese film to break into the top 100 worldwide grosses ranking by claiming the No. 55 spot.
Despite its undeniable box office success, reviews of Wolf Warriors 2 on the Chinese internet are widely divided — the two quotes at the top of this article are representative, or see this Weibo post (in Chinese) for more. In her biweekly film column for SupChina, Pang-Chieh Ho described Wolf Warriors 2 as a film “with unabashedly patriotic and nationalist overtones,” which largely explains the polarized opinions surrounding it. Sixth Tone notes that the success of Wolf Warriors 2 can be largely attributed to its timing because it was released amid increasing tensions between China and India over a border dispute. Meanwhile, in many interviews with media, the film’s director and lead actor, Wu Jing 吴京, often branded himself as a patriotic hero who wants to light up “the patriotic firewood in the chests of the Chinese audience.” But as Ma Tianjie notes in Chublic Opinion, while patriotic messages are drawing points for some Chinese audiences, “the question is whether core Chinese values are really universally appealing.”
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