2012, the new apocalyptic movie by director Roland Emmerich, opened this weekend in Shanghai to smashing box office records, showing that Hollywood’s discovered at least one way its blockbusters can make a killing in China – by pandering to the Chinese.
The movie depicts fictional events tied to a Mayan prophecy predicting the world’s end on December 12, 2012. We haven’t seen it, but many critics have complained that it’s little more than a string of ridiculous special effects, lasting a daunting 2 hours and 40 minutes. On popular review congregator site Rotten Tomatoes, it scored a measly 39%.
However, here in the Middle Kingdom, the movie has been a smashing success, grossing 9 million RMB just this weekend. Why?
Most likely because it depicts China as savior to the world, prying it from the edge of impending doom. In the movie, the Americans turn to China to build the ‘ark’ that will save the population because ‘the task would be impossible if given to any other nation.’ In one theater, the entire audience erupted into applause after the PLA saluted American refugees arriving in China.
Though the movie seems to have gotten the majority of China to fawn over it, some have been hypercritical of Hollywood’s being-pro-China-for-a-quick-buck stance.
They pointed out that 2012 was one of the few international movies that made it completely past the Chinese censors without having anything cut. Other China portraying movies, like Mission Impossible III, had crucial minutes cut out for daring to portray Chinese people as uncaring or thug-like. And last year’s Dark Knight, arguably one of the biggest Hollywood pictures of the year, wasn’t allowed into the country because of… “cultural sensitivities.”
A movie being too pro-China, and Chinese movie watchers being ridiculously willing to ignore how bad the movie is just because it is pro-China, doesn’t urge Chinese to ponder the ‘inadequacies of their country,’ the critics complain.
Plus, who knows what this could mean for the future of Hollywood. Maybe the next Batman flick will feature a Chinese actor saving Gotham City from itself using Chinese socialism?
[Correction: 2012 grossed 9 million RMB at Shanghai United Cinema Lines theatres.]