Chinese war film The Battle at Lake Changjin, with his crazy budget and uninhibited patriotism, broke all local and 2021 records.
Far to the east stands Hollywood’s Mordor: China. Both a competitor and a target to be seduced, the love-hate relationship between the two parties has long raged. Nevertheless, in recent years, it is the Western prism that has rather shone, with blows of big-number blockbusters and world-famous franchises. Corn the Covid-19 pandemic has arrived, ravaged global cinema exploitation and reshuffled the cards like never before.
This is where China was able to show the extent of its strike force. With the support of the Chinese government, a huge blockbuster on the Korean War, carried by renowned Chinese directors, has emerged. As Western cinemas quietly crept up the slope with a James Bond here and a Venom there, this Chinese war film was crushing everything for its opening. At two months of operation, The Battle at Lake Changjin is not only a record for China, but it is quite simply the best global box office film of 2021.
The war may be over, it’s still there
On a Chinese scale, the biggest box office of a local production was held by Wolf Warrior 2 ($ 870 million). It had the advantages of being released before the pandemic and of having had a distribution in a few other countries (United States, Germany) to inflate its figures a little. The Battle at Lake Changjin, without any external support, managed to reach 892 million dollars as reported Variety.
Sure, no post-pandemic marvellian blockbuster has reached the film’s ankle, from Shang-Chi (420 million) to its cousin Sony Venom 2 (454 million). The only Hollywood blockbuster that can vaguely claim to come close is To die can wait (734 million), although it also obtained the support of China to develop its box office (unlike Shang-Chi and Venom 2). A possible joker for Hollywood? The phenomenon Spider-Man : No Way Home, which will also enjoy a Chinese release.
The Hollywood battlefield pulverized
We could also think of Matrix : Resurrections, but the saga may still be a little too dusty to make that claim. In any case, the Chinese war film, with a budget of 200 million dollars, has largely paid for itself. It is all the more a success as China tends to make low-budget films to be sure of making box office successes (Wolf Warrior 2 only cost 30 million). This risk-taking was very conclusive, therefore.
How can we partly explain the success of such an operation? The film was released during the week of October 1-7, 2021, which corresponds to the Chinese holiday celebrating the inauguration of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. A symbolic date which, by patriotic enthusiasm, pushed Chinese spectators in theaters. There’s also her big cast, with Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior 2) or Jackson Yee (Better Days). Also, we note the alliance of three Chinese directors of size: Chen Kaige (Legend of the Demon Cat), Dante Lam (The Rescue) et Tsui Hark (Detective Dee 3).
Hollywood sees China take off with its blockbusters
A cocktail of talents, which aimed as much at attracting the general public as the cinephiles. It all worked like a bang, and put a nice snub to the Hollywood supremacy of the market. To mark the occasion, the Chinese government celebrated the fruits of its investment (since it helped finance the project) by congratulating the performance of the film’s star, Wu Jing. Mission accomplished for the Middle Empire, whose very recent success will not help it less withdraw into itself, when it comes to hosting future Hollywood blockbusters.