Jedi mind tricks do not work on China, while Star Wars fans from around the world waited in line for days to catch The Rise of Skywalker, the sci-fi series has struggled to woo filmgoers in the increasingly important Chinese market.
Special previews of the long-awaited Star Wars film in Beijing this week drew just a handful of fans.
Chen Tao is a rare superfan in a country where Friday’s opening day pre-sales were just 12 million yuan (US$1.71 million), Xinhua news agency said, a fraction of the 218 million yuan taken on release by a Chinese-made crime drama, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The 35-year-old Shanghai resident only became curious about the space saga by accident after stumbling across a pre-installed Star Wars game on his first computer.
Chen now runs one of China’s biggest online Star Wars fan groups, debating lightsaber physics on the online message board Zhihu and managing a Weibo account with 30,000 followers.
He loves the Star Wars world for its vast scale and rich detail that fans can piece together through movies, books and games.
“Its world is like a jigsaw puzzle ... which feels very magical to me and inspires a desire to explore this universe,” he said.
However, Chen and his fellow fans are rare in China, where cinemagoers flock instead to see Marvel superheroes and domestic films.
Last year, The Last Jedi ranked No. 47 at the box office in China, far behind Marvel’s superhero film Avengers: Infinity War at No. 6, Box Office Mojo said.
Since buying Star Wars studio Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney has stepped up efforts to gain fans in the world’s fastest-growing movie market.
In October, Disney and Tencent-owned e-book company China Literature announced that they would be publishing the first-ever Star Wars novel written specifically for Chinese audiences featuring “Chinese-style expression.”
“We will introduce interpersonal relations and other concepts from Chinese custom into Star Wars,” a China Literature representative said, without further detail.
The made-for-China Star Wars novel would need to overcome significant obstacles.
A Beijing bar hosted a screening on Tuesday of previous Star Wars films ahead of Friday’s China release — but the special room was mostly empty.
The indifference could be explained by the fact that Chinese audiences were introduced to the series in 1999 with the prequel Episode 1: The Phantom Menace — a disappointment to original fans and panned by critics.
“When Star Wars was released worldwide in 1977, it was a real film revolution,” said Steffi Noel, an analyst from Shanghai-based market research firm Daxue Consulting.
“Each new episode of Star Wars is linked to a craze, a nostalgia,” Noel said, but most Chinese viewers never formed this nostalgic bond with the movies.
In 1977, as foreign audiences were introduced to George Lucas’ Skywalker saga, China had just emerged from the chaotic Cultural Revolution and had little access to Western popular culture.
The three original films were only finally shown at a Shanghai film festival in 2015.
By the time that Chinese audiences were introduced to the franchise, “the technology seemed old,” Fan Yunxin of a Beijing-based science fiction reading group said.
“Space opera isn’t really something Chinese people relate to,” Fan said, adding that while she likes the films, she does not know of any “hardcore” fans.
Alex Hu, a 24-year-old science fiction fan, said that he was unimpressed with the visual effects.
“I would say a lot of fight scenes in Star Wars are similar,” he said.
Chinese sci-fi fans tend to prefer “hard” science fiction that focuses on scientific theory and have high demands for a story’s logical consistency, but Star Wars was more like a “Roman empire tale that had been moved into space,” Chen said.
When he first watched one of the films, he was amazed by how casually alien and human characters coexisted in the Star Wars universe, something that he had never encountered before in a sci-fi movie.
Disney would need to rebrand Star Wars to sell the franchise in China, Noel said.
“What they need to sell them is a new story,” she said. “It’s not enough to include Chinese-style drawings or Chinese architecture.”
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big