Deciphering Wolf Warriors 2 and untold stories

China Plus Published: 2017-08-11 19:13:20
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By China Plus commentator Luo Dan

The runaway success of Wolf Warriors 2 is something that few people could have imagined, with the film becoming the top-grossing movie of all time in China.

The action film has injected a freshness to China's film industry, which is traditionally been dominated by comedies and fantasies. The previous record holder, The Mermaid, is a fantasy romance that grossed 3.39 billion yuan last year.

A still of the film Wolf Warrior 2. [Photo:]

A still of the film Wolf Warrior 2. [Photo:]

The game-changing moment came on August 7, 2017, when Wolf Warriors 2 raked in over 3.4 billion yuan, less than two weeks after its debut. The blockbuster has now made a record 4 billion yuan, as it's still being screened in cinemas in both big and small cities across China.

The film's single-day earnings exceeded 200 million yuan, lasting for more than 10 days and breaking new ground for China's box office records.

Wolf Warriors 2 is the sequel to "Wolf Warrior", but the setting for the story has moved from the Chinese border to Africa. Wolf Warriors 2 tells the story of Leng Feng, played by martial art star Wu Jing, a former Chinese Special Forces operative, who sets off to rescue compatriots and friends in a war-torn region of Africa ravaged by local insurgents and foreign mercenaries.

Many observers have branded the film as a good combination of patriotic and commercial elements. The former could be reflected in the timing of its release, which was just several days ahead of August 1, the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army. Even Wu Jing, who also directed the film, stated he wanted to portray an image of heroic and invincible Chinese soldiers in an international setting.

So what does 'international setting' mean? It certainly has a lot to do with the Chinese military mission in Africa and surrounding areas.

Few moviegoers will forget the scenes of pirates attacking merchant vessels and a Chinese warship helping Chinese nationals and foreign civilians out of conflict-hit area.

Undoubtedly, the two situations are reminiscent of the Chinese Navy's escort mission overseas and the two major evacuations of Chinese nationals in Libya and Yemen. The real events struck a chord for the Chinese audience, especially in terms of patriotism.

China sent its first escort squad to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters in December 2008 in order to protect passing ships against pirate attacks, safeguard sea lane security and maintain freedom of navigation along waterways. So far, some 80 Chinese Navy vessels have helped ensure the safety of more than 6,000 domestic and foreign ships.

A typical high-profile example of this dates back to early April this year, when a Tuvalu-flagged freighter OS 35 was attacked by Somali pirates. Nineteen crew members locked themselves in a safe room until commandos from the Chinese flotilla came to their rescue. In a video clip that later went viral on China's social media, the crew extended their gratitude to the Chinese military, with one saying only China came to save them, although there were actually five warships in the area by that time.

The incident once entered the public spotlight about a month later, when the Chinese navy handed over 3 suspects in the foiled hijack attempt to the Somali authorities. This was covered by major western media outlets, which helped highlight Chinese soldiers for their awareness of law and international practice.

In reality, Chinese naval ships were already involved in evacuation missions in Libya and Yemen. In late February 2011, the naval frigate Xuzhou joined a special mission, sailing into the Mediterranean Sea to escort foreign ships with Chinese nationals evacuated from restive Libya. Within two weeks, more than 35,000 Chinese nationals were pulled out from the North African country by various means, including by air and sea. In March 2015, the naval frigate Lin Yi itself transported nearly 900 people from restive Yemen to Djibouti in east Africa. The evacuees included Chinese and people from about ten other countries, including Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Germany, Canada, UK and Yemen.

The two Exodus-style events surely provided a source of inspiration for Wu Jing before he directed the film Wolf Warriors 2, the plot of which includes bringing Chinese and foreign employees in a local plant to safety. Chinese media report that among the audience were some involved in the real evacuation, and for them the movie went a long way toward explaining how they managed to pull through possibly the worst scenario in their life.

However, most of those watching Wolf Warriors 2 have little knowledge of China's multi-faceted connection with Africa and therefore it must be something else that appeals to them.

Generally speaking, to ordinary Chinese audiences, including millennials, jaw-dropping action sequences and the use of special effects are major attraction, which are also trademarks of Hollywood blockbusters like Saving Private Ryan, Transformer and Fast and Furious.

Analysts say director and actor Wu Jing's solution is the participation of a professional team and their emphasis on detail. Sam Hardgrave, fight coordinator of Captain America: Civil War, was invited to join Wu's production team to make the fighting scenes more impressive in accordance with Hollywood standards. Typical examples are protagonist Leng Feng's close-up five-minute fight with a mercenary leader, played by Hollywood veteran Frank Grillo who also appeared in Captain America as the antagonist. Sam Hardgrave also jokes that Wolf Warriors 2 could be termed "the tank version of Fast and Furious" as the movie sees quite a few stunts involving the heavy armored vehicle, including the bringing-down of helicopter.

Last but not least, Wu Jing's refusal to use stunt people for himself is another factor contributing to Wolf Warriors 2's success, because as both martial art actor and film director, he knows what he is good at, and how to bring the best visual effects in front of moviegoers.

To sum up, a good story line and professional production are prerequisites for a film's success, and with China's ever-increasing exchanges with foreign countries, ranging from government, economic to scientific and cultural, it's possible that Chinese audiences could see more high-quality films with exotic flavors in the future.

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Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Michael P. Toothman Michael P. Toothman is a Los Angeles-based speaker, educator, Sinophile, and expert on Leadership, Communication, and Project Management. He teaches for the University of California, Riverside and has mentored and trained over 3,500 leaders from over 1,000 companies in 25 countries. Jonathan Rechtman Jonathan Rechtman is a Chinese-English conference interpreter, entrepreneur, writer and public speaker. Based in China for over a decade, he has interpreted for multiple presidents and prime ministers, Fortune 500 CEOs, Hollywood stars, Nobel prize winners, and a princess. He is the co-founder at Cadence Translate, an on-demand translation solution for multinational corporates and investors. Luo Yu Luo Yu is a freelance writer, CRI's former co-host of RoundTable, discussing the hottest social issues in China. He was also former producer and host of Biz Buzz, a weekly business program which includes exclusive interviews with global business and political leaders. Former guests include former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Nobel Laureate in Economics Pro. Thomas Sargent. Luo Yu holds a MSc. Finance and Investment, a MSc. Management Science and Operational Research, a BSc in Biology and a BBA in Business Administration. Luo Yu loves exploring new opportunities. His boldest move might be when he switched from engineering to broadcasting. It’s a move he considers to be the wisest decision he's ever made. Sina Weibo: @CRI罗煜 Email: Shafei Moiz Hali Dr. Shafei Moiz Hali studied at George Mason University, Virginia, USA and specialized in the field of International Commerce and Policy. He did his PhD from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China specializing in Chinese foreign policy focusing on the Belt and Road Initiative and energy issues. Currently Dr. Hali is working as an Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Contemporary Studies, National Defence University (NDU) Islamabad, Pakistan. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is a senior research fellow and advisor for EU-China relations at the Centre international de formation européenne, Nice/Berlin.