Cinema is big business in China. Overall box office there racked up US $4.8 billion in 2014. That may be less than half of North America’s overall box office of US $10.35 billion during the same period, but still represented a rise of 36 percent from 2013. In North America, the numbers showed a 5 percent decline.
Among all the reasons behind the changes, ticket prices and viewing habits are quoted as two of the most significant. An average ticket costs RMB35 or US $5.6 in China, compared to US $10 in the US. An absolute majority of the cinema-goers in China are young people below 35, who reckon the activity as part of a nice day out. For those in the US, watching a film can take place at home whenever one wants via online providers such as Netflix.
Venture in the Void
There is also something quite remarkable about the top ten highest-grossing films in China last year. Five of them were US productions. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” came first by earning more than US $300 million. The runner-up, a home-made romcom, fell short by more than US $100 million. The other US films on the list were namely “Interstellar”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. The one thing they have in common, besides the “Made in America” label, is plain to see: they are all sci-fi.
Indeed, for all the domestic cinema successes in China, that is one major element missing. Sci-fi and fantasy is a genre that Chinese fans cannot get enough of, but so far the country has yet to generate a credible offering. But that is about to change in 2015 with the release of “10,000 Years Later”, an animation about the dystopian world in 10 millennia from now.
The film has been seven years in the making, according to its official press release. It is described as a showcase of the “aesthetics of violence”, and therefore, is saddled with an adult-only certificate barring audience under 18. Just how effective the ban is remains to be seen, but the story itself is hardly X-rated.
It centers on a little girl from a Tibetan tribe. The world has become a desolate place after it lumbers on another 10,000 years. A dark force is growing to threaten the very existence of the earth. The girl realizes she holds the key to destroying this enemy and embarks on an adventure to save the world.
Sounds innocent enough. The fuss is solely due to images deemed violent and disturbing but are an essential part of the combat between good and evil, and due to the special effects which makes the film sci-fi. Some comments from the ever-discerning Chinese audience on seeing the trailers, however, are not encouraging.
But after all, they are connoisseurs of such US classics as “Transformers” when it comes to state-of-the-art SFX. One can only see for oneself how good or otherwise China’s first brave foray into the genre looks.
The film is scheduled for both domestic and international release this March .
This is a strange film both in animation and storytelling. It was China’s first fully CGI film and it shows. The animation switches from dated to breathtaking constantly, from basic virtual reality/video game characters in both their styling and bulky movement to awesome beings and increased fluidity, contrasted with utterly superb landscapes and architecture. I didn’t find the musical score as noticeable and the sub-titles were enough to make me wary of the dubs which are often worse in my opinion. There’s more battle scenes and overly long to boot than action fans need, they ripped off Lord of the Rings big time plus Yoda from Star Wars and Cheetara from Thundercats made it in there. The characters don’t really get much dialogue, it’s basically one big fight and yet it’s compelling…
10,000 years after the Earth has gone through some kind of catastrophe human, humanoid and non-human tribes have formed, there are multi-cultural areas and wanderers too. A young girl from the Ballad (bard) tribe along with her faithful dog Warrior and blind grandfather travel through all the lands they can accumulating and spreading knowledge and soon that nomadic, well learned yet innocent spirit will come in helpful. A warlord has decided he’s going to acquire the ancient magic and bring back TechCity (the age we had before the catastrophe). Calling our science ancient was understandable given the future setting but it was surprising when the ancient magic spoke and said it was older than the gods, and unfortunately (perhaps the subbing) it seemed to say the period between it giving us fire to much more advanced knowledge was negligible e.g. 10,000 years ago we got both fire and Einstein’s equations. To a being/existence of such advanced age it could be a blink of an eye whilst being lost/forgotten for another 10,000 years felt much longer in comparison… Perhaps.
When the world as we knew it changed we lost all of the gods except two ‘gods of humanity’ left to watch over us. One invisible female whose voice we hear and power is shown through flower petals and a male stone giant; both are exquisitely portrayed but apart until the little girl reaches out to them. The goddess is in another ‘dimension’ and the god stiffened to statue his heart hardened but the girl is able to bridge both space and emotion even without knowing how.
The fights scenes take up most of the film; as well seeing the variety of strange species, the final battle shows that we caged animals, controlled food/veg by DNA, cash was king and even used fire people as cigarettes/lighters; the way in which the girl defeats the warlord is incomprehensible but beautiful.
Due to the violence the film’s age rating in China was 18 but exempting one bloody scene at the beginning it would likely be PG-certified here since it’s not very ‘realistic’ (well, the zebra guy proves to be quite the martial artist). Amidst the battling there are scenes of sadness and hints of humour that did move me but might seem superficial to others. It’s a strange mix of messages; being Chinese it’s not surprising that the warlord wanted to rebuild and spread TechCity in the West (though it was showed as the West of China) but at the same time it was promoting Tibet…
I don’t know which gods the two gods of humanity are supposed to represent from the Tibetan pantheon, if any, they could just represent the general idea of Tibetan Buddhist compassion and mercy. That said the perception of Buddhism has been skewed for… The whole time Eastern vogue spread again last century? A bit like people associating yoga with Sikhism and Western yoga teachers converting to it (especially those who learned kundalini from Yogi Bhajan) when Sikhism is only a few hundred years old and a streamlined form of Hinduism with bits of Islam. Yoga is one of the comprehensive life sciences predating Vedic/modern Hinduism but was incorporated… In regards to Tibet their native beliefs before Hinduism and Buddhism are hard to ascertain (as well as priests being very exclusive), Bon re-emerged with Buddhism and then being in the Himalayas all the areas attached to it hold the mountains as an earth home of the major gods, the area also being sacred to Jainism. Everybody likes to claim Mount Kailash/Kalisa in particular, well they would wouldn’t they. And some forms of Buddhism also shamelessly claiming the Taras are male. By the time Buddhism got to Tibet they already had numerous mother/goddesses but since the Hindu main males (Shiva – female name, Brahma – female name and concept, Vishnu – not female but he’s bisexual and at times turns into a woman, Indra – female name] have put their names over everything e.g. you have Shiv[a] claiming to be Kalachakra and Mahakala and to live in Kailash. If only his name hadn’t been retrospectively stuck on a weather god from Harrapan. It’s no wonder the popularity of the ‘thunderers’ (a mightier version of the ‘roar’) being the heads of the pantheons to follow e.g. Odin, Zeus, Thor, and the God of the old testament.
Whether they represent any of the known gods or not it’s interesting how the film claims the ancient gods died out/went away and so when they’re re-awaken for the fight you see the Tibetan rock god reaching out and working with the Greaco-Roman gods who claimed the last they were here they helped people… In one sense Tibetan Buddhism allows for this because it acknowledges bad enlightened beings or enlightened beings pretending to be bad in order to create moral dilemnas for people and push them to be better/enlightened, they basically admit to playing both sides. Akin to the Greaco-Roman gods playing games with people for entertainment, to alleviate their boredom. In that sense the misuse of the swastika by the Nazis kinds of works since the warlord is compared to Hitler (though worse) but at the same time it doesn’t appear that well thought out, the filmmakers had the Tibetans as the heroes yet forgot the importance of the swastika to them?
After the people and then the gods coming together we’re shown nature and culture joining the fight so we see elementals and figures manifesting from their environs such as water and paintings working together as if to say our whole culture will prevent/defeat TechCity but our culture included and brought about the technological age its highlighting. It’s awkward because we are tool orientated without modern technology but there’s a difference between using tools and needing them to the point of not being able to manage without. The film shows the popularized idea of intricate and dangerous ancient building mechanisms (it would have been more interesting had they shown ancient cultures had batteries, specs for flying machines and temple statues that floated via magnetism) but not why they dislike modern convenience tech e.g we have become dependent on it, weaker and less able in essential skills.
Ultimately it seemed to say don’t worry no matter what we do, over how long, even repeatedly – a Jesus/sacrificial figure[s] will try to help and then a goddess will come, save us and give us another chance. Hmm.