Above: Adrien Brody in Feng Xiaogang’s new film, “Back to 1942″.
Both Back to 1942 <一九四二> and The Last Supper <王的盛宴> were released on November 29 in mainland Chinese theaters. Without any surprise, Back to 1942 ended the day as the box office winner, raking $20 million RMB on opening day.
Back to 1942 however, did not do as well as director Feng Xiaogang’s (馮小剛) previous hits. Back to 1942’s box office sales performed below forecast, and The Last Supper’s sales were off to a bleak and discouraging start. Back to 1942 and Life of Pi were neck-to-neck when it came to viewers per show. The biggest disappointment is The Last Supper; it lagged far behind in terms of viewers per show, at about half of what the competitors were pulling in.
Lowest Feng Xiaogang Film Opening in Recent Years
Starring Hollywood actors, Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins, Back to 1942 grossed approximately $20 million RMB in its premiere. The film nevertheless performed less impressively than other Feng Xiaogang’s films in recent years. In 2011, Aftershock <唐山大地震> grossed $36 million RMB and 2010’s If You Are the One 2 <非誠勿擾2> raked $33 million on opening day.
A week after its release, Ang Lee’s (李安) critically acclaimed Life of Pi is still doing well at the box office. Even with the end of its IMAX run and featured in less theaters, Life of Pi still raked in over $10 million RMB on November 29, with cumulative sales at $170 million RMB.
Starring Liu Ye (劉燁) and Daniel Wu (吳彥祖), The Last Supper was at a distant third place with less than $10 million RMB. Although it is difficult to project the total revenue of the film based on its opening day performance, movie theaters will be adjusting the number of showings to reflect the popularity of the trending sales. The Last Supper’s bleak opening day sales will lead to further reductions in theater showings.
The day after the premiere, Back to 1942 will be shown in over 35% of the theaters in mainland, compared to 27% for The Last Supper, and 20% for the Life of Pi.
Divided Reviews of “Back to 1942″
Back in 1942 did not impress many foreign critics, with Rottentomatoes.com giving it a disappointing under 50 percent rating. The movie was generally viewed more positively by mainland Chinese audiences, although it is less favorable than Life of Pi.
Mainland netizens called Back to 1942 to be inspirational, helping viewers in understanding the history of one of China’s worst famines. Audiences also enjoy the big-budget production, the vivid details, and the strong emotional impact. Many commented that Feng is the one director who has the skill to pull off a war and disaster movie of this scale. Netizens are especially impressed with the scene depicting the Japanese bombing of the refugees and the bombing of the city of Chongqing. The recent anti-Japanese sentiment that arose from the China-Japan dispute over the Diaoyu islands and the negative portrayal of the Kuomingtang government spurred mainland viewers to go watch the movie.
Negative comments over Back to 1942 include Feng’s stereotyping the Chinese as poor, down-and-out farmers. As holiday season is approaching, many found the famine epic too sad to watch. There were also netizens complaining that the story that as told does not move at all, when compared to western films such as Schindler’s List.
While some viewers criticized that the pace of Back to 1942 was very chaotic, and called it a mediocre movie, they applauded Feng for his effort, since the film took him 17 years and three attempts to bring the novel of the same name to the big screen.
This article is written by Lance for JayneStars.com.
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