China’s blockbusters are politically revealing. They are also very nice. – Community News
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China’s blockbusters are politically revealing. They are also very nice.

The first thing you notice about “Twister” – the big baddie Donnie Yen fights at the height of 2010 IP man 2 – is that him enormous. Sky high. Made of muscles. Even his meanness is too great. Oh, and not coincidentally: he’s white. Western imperialism incarnate.

“I can kill you with two punches,” he snaps at Yen.

It’s probably no spoiler to reveal that the character played by Yen – perhaps best known to the American public for playing a blind mystic in Rogue One – is going to kick Twister’s ass. However, Yen has to take a beating first. Twister, who fights in Western boxing style, does indeed treat the smaller Yen like a rag doll during the fight: when the punches land, Real country. Often, however, the punches don’t land. Yen may be small, he may not have Twister’s muscles, but he is resilient, elusive and smart.

So of course the ruling British imperialists – the film is set in Hong Kong not long after World War II – change the rules midway through the battle. She to cheat. Don’t kick, Yen is told, or you will be disqualified and lose the match. “We cannot allow the westerners to belittle us,” complains an observer.

How Yen wins anyway: By punching Twister’s mountainous biceps, then finishing him off with a flurry of punches to the face. The westerners end up disgusted and angry; the Chinese public carries the yen on their shoulders. The good guys won. The bad guys have lost.

Standard action movie rate, right? Yeah right. “Raw nationalism”, as one critic dismissed it? Doubtless.

However, there is more to it. In ip man and many other studio films from the past 20 years, China tells a story of what’s on his mind as the country grows into a 21st-century superpower. It is a story about how the country sees itself in relation to the rest of the world. Americans who are increasingly focused on competing with China — and even considering the possibility of war to defend Taiwan — should probably be on the lookout.

If you want to begin to understand the challenges of US-China relations and how Beijing wants to position itself in the world, you could do worse than a movie marathon during the holiday season. This is true of many movie theaters in the world, including ours – after all, even American movies like the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick must obtain the approval of their storylines by the Department of Defense before using military means, with predictable USA! USA! Results. But China has long been a mystery to Americans, and one that’s easier to understand for anyone with a subscription to Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, or Peacock.

You can start with Jet Li’s Hero, a 2002 film that acts as a sort of origin story for China itself. Then you can move on to another Li movie, fearless, depicting the early 20th-century demise of the Qing dynasty and the rise of the Chinese republic. Or you could try Bodyguards and Killers, an all-star affair set during the same time period. And if you’re already a Donnie Yen fan, there’s Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen – sort of a sequel to Bruce Lee’s fist of anger – just before the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s.

Many of these films are set in a period when China was under the thumb of outsiders, including the British or Japanese. This is a painful era, a time in the country’s history when it often referred to itself as “the sick man of Asia.” In modern movies, however, these years have been recast as the foundations of China’s ultimate victory over those invaders — and the glorious rise of the Chinese Communist Party. The underlying message: China must face the outside world with force or be abused again.

“If they tell that story, that storyline is also being promoted by the Chinese government to justify the rise of the Communists and the rule of the Communist Party,” said Thomas Chen, a Lehigh University professor and expert on Chinese science. pop culture, me in 2017 “Because of the Communist Party, Westerners were expelled – and once again China is in the driver’s seat, deciding its own destiny.” That message is also carefully monitored: major studio films in China are not made and distributed without government approval, although independent filmmakers say they still have some room for careful creativity, and the country has a rich and robust history of challenging cinema.

Still, it’s worth noting here that these movies are truly entertaining, filled with expert action sequences and inventive fight choreography that rivals anything from Hollywood. Yes, there’s an element of propaganda in these movies, but then again, that’s not an exclusively communist phenomenon either (just watch a John Wayne movie). More to the point, like western blockbusters, Chinese movies are also often very much pleasure.

It is the ip man quadrilogy that probably does the best job in messaging and entertainment among modern Chinese movies widely seen in the West. Yen plays the title character – a martial arts grandmaster who was Bruce Lee’s mentor in real life – as a reluctant warrior who springs into action forever. (Does that sound familiar?) In the first film, the villains are the Japanese. In the second: the British. The third? Let’s say Mike Tyson shows up. And in the final episode, Ip Man travels to California in the 1960s, where he encounters only violent anti-Chinese racism. He decides to return to Hong Kong and teaches his son how to fight.

None of this plays at heavy handed. “ip man is popcorn cinema at its finest, full of rousing well-choreographed fights and historical drama,” The edge closed last year.

While Yen beats all the newcomers in these movies, he also offers the occasional olive branch to the rest of the world. “By fighting this match, I am not trying to prove that Chinese martial arts are better than Western boxing,” he says at the end of IP man 2. “What I’m really saying is that although people have different status in life, everyone’s dignity is the same. I hope that from this point on we can start with respect for each other.”

Whether peace and dignity will eventually prevail in the real world remains to be seen. But if you don’t go see these films, they may eventually find you: The Chinese film industry is growing by leaps and bounds. In 2021, the highest-grossing film on Earth won’t be F9, the latest James Bond movie, or something from Marvel. To be The Battle of Lake Changjin, created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, which tells the story of the Korean War known to Americans as the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Needless to say, the Americans aren’t the good ones in this version.