China’s most expensive movie becomes epic flop

Pulled from cinemas after its opening weekend, China's most expensive domestically made film has become a flop of historic proportions, bringing in just 7.3 million USD despite a reported budget of over 110 million USD. (Greg Baker/AFP)
Updated 17 July 2018
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China’s most expensive movie becomes epic flop

  • The film cost 750 million yuan ($113.5 million) to make, state media said
  • The estimated loss of $106 million would make it the fifth-biggest flop in movie history worldwide

BEIJING: With a $113-million budget, the most expensive Chinese film ever made has become a flop of historic proportions, pulled from theaters on its opening weekend after bringing in a paltry $7.3 million.
Alibaba Pictures’ special effects-heavy fantasy film “Asura” was intended as the first instalment in an epic trilogy inspired by Tibetan Buddhist mythology, part of a drive by authorities to promote works bearing elements of traditional Chinese culture.
The film cost 750 million yuan ($113.5 million) to make, state media said, and opened on Friday, but Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan said it only took in just over $7.3 million at the weekend.
By Sunday, the film’s official social media account posted a statement declaring that it would be removed from theaters as of 10 p.m. that night.
“We express our apologies to all those who wanted to but won’t have the chance to see it,” it said.
Most of China’s biggest blockbusters to date have been made with half the budget lavished on “Asura.”
The estimated loss of $106 million would make it the fifth-biggest flop in movie history worldwide, behind frontrunner “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” which suffered losses of $125 million, according to data from website Box Office Mojo.
State media had touted the movie before it was released, with the China Daily hailing “Asura” as “the most hotly anticipated blockbuster of China’s competitive summer season.”
“It’s a very imaginative movie. We wanted the film to raise confidence in our own culture and train more domestic talent,” Yang Hongtao, chairman of Ningxia Film Group, one of the movie’s backers, told the paper ahead of Friday’s opening.
Six years in the making, the film was heavy on expensive visuals, featuring 2,400 scenes with special effects in its runtime of just 141 minutes, the paper noted.
Bankable Hong Kong actors Tony Leung Ka-fai and Carina Lau starred, while high-powered foreign talent — such as Oscar-winning Ngila Dickson, costume designer for the “Lord of the Rings” franchise — also took part.
Yet the film garnered a rotten 3.1 rating on Douban, China’s most influential user review platform.
“My god, it’s horrifying! It’s just a magnificent pile of excrement!” one user wrote.
Wildly different reviews on the country’s two largest ticketing platforms prompted a virulent retort from the movie’s production team, posted Friday to its social media account.
On opening day, “Asura” netted an 8.4 rating out of 10 on Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao. But on Maoyan, backed by Alibaba’s rival tech giant Tencent, reviewers had given it just 4.9.
The team accused Maoyan of using fake, paid reviewers to post 1-star ratings to artificially deflate the film’s score, calling the alleged move “despicable, foolish, and ludicrous.”
Many users dismissed the film’s team’s statement.
“It was garbage anyway,” one reviewer wrote.


‘Gold’ whips up India’s patriotism through hockey

Updated 21 August 2018
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‘Gold’ whips up India’s patriotism through hockey

CHENNAI: Sports films seem to be the fashion in India. In recent times, there has been “Soorma,” “Chak De! India,” “Mary Kom,” “Sala Khadoos” and “Lagaan.” And now it is Reema Kagti’s “Gold,” a fictional story loosely based on India’s first gold medal as an independent country at the 1948 London Olympics.
Bollywood bigwig Akshay Kumar, who has in recent years taken on the role of a patriotic Samaritan with movies like “Padman,” “Toilet,” “Airlift” and so on, portrays Tapan Das, a Bengali coach and manager of India’s field hockey team.
Dhoti-clad Das is passionate about the country’s national game, which has now been eclipsed by the glamorous and money-spinning cricket. A bit of a clown and an alcoholic, he somehow manages to convince the hockey federation that he can assemble a winning team and clinch the gold at the London Olympics, just a year after India became a free country. Putting together a team of players (Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh, Vineet Kumar Singh and Sunny Kaushal among others ), Das raises a battle cry: Let us avenge 200 years of British slavery by winning the hockey gold on their home turf!
The script and the way it has been narrated capture the essence of a newly independent India, struggling to cope with the blood and gore of the Partition, and it is a heart-rending human tragedy. What is more, “Gold” is a brutal reminder of how the division of the Indian subcontinent into two nations not only split the people, but also its sports and players. There is a poignant moment when we see Pakistani players cheering Indians on the field in what was to be one of the last examples of such unity.
Admittedly, Akshay carries the film with his antics, bordering on buffoonery, and an almost obsessive earnestness. But he appears to be playing this nation-building patriotic card a little too often, pushing us into a bit of boredom. “Gold” is not in the same league as “Chak De! India” or “Lagaan.” A certain novelty we saw in these two movies seems to have been lost.