Above: Ekin Cheng stars as the self-sacrificing eldest son to rescue his father at all costs.
The highly anticipated period war movie, Saving General Yang <忠烈楊家將>, opened in theaters on April 4. Despite facing competition from both domestic and international films, Saving General Yang received an extremely positive response from casual movie watchers and professionals alike.
On its opening day, Saving General Yang went up against domestic films Finding Mr. Right <北京遇上西雅圖>, The Chef, the Actor, the Scoundrel <廚子戲子痞子>, and Drug War <毒戰>, as well as Hollywood powerhouses Oz: The Great and Powerful and Jack the Giant Slayer. Nevertheless, the impressive acting line-up, coupled with an engaging storyline and effective promotional events, ensured the film’s success.
Fans eagerly snapped up tickets to advanced showings of Saving General Yang, which took place on April 2 in sixty movie theaters across twelve cities. Tickets for these showtimes sold out within two hours. On the day of its official release, ticket sales for Saving General Yang quickly surpassed those for the two Hollywood films. At one movie theater in Beijing, more than half of the tickets for the 2 PM showing had already been sold by 10 AM.
Amid their enthusiasm, fans are quick to point out the one disappointment about Saving General Yang: the lack of available movie screenings. Because the film opened on Tomb Sweeping Day (清明節), many viewers took advantage of the holiday to make a trip to the cinema. However, they felt that there were not enough movie screenings, which meant audiences had to wait a long time until the next showing. As a result, many asked movie theaters to allot more space to showings of Saving General Yang.
Netizens also expressed worries that the star-studded cast, which features idol celebrities like Wu Chun (吳尊) and Raymond Lam (林峯), meant that the movie would be exclusively geared toward fans of these idols. In response, Taiwanese actor Vic Chou (周渝民) said, “The popularity of each of us is a guarantee at the box office, but we hope that viewers will forget who they came to see, and that they will go into the movie theater to feel and experience without any sort of bias, thus merging into the world that we have created together.”
Fortunately, the actors’ impressive performances, the stunning battle scenes, and the touching family story won over many viewers. When they watched Saving General Yang, they forgot about the actors’ idol status. Rather, they remembered each actor for the role he or she had portrayed. Some viewers even said that they had nearly given up on domestic period films, but Saving General Yang brought new hope.
The movie also sparked heated debate about the plot, particularly the scene in which She Taijun, the wife of Yang Ye and the mother of the seven sons, visits the fortune teller Guiguzi to ask for advice. Guiguzi predicts, “Seven sons go, six return” (七子去六子回). The Yang family interprets this to mean that, out of the seven sons, one will die. As a result, Yang Dalang (Ekin Cheng 鄭伊健) insists on defending the valley and engaging the enemy all by himself, even unto death. In the end, however, it is revealed that Guiguzi’s prediction meant that only Yang Liulang, the sixth son, would return.
In response to this revelation, many viewers have said that the prediction was not elaborated on and that, had it been explained more clearly, the Yang family’s sacrifice could have been avoided. Particularly disconsolate viewers blamed Guiguzi for causing the deaths of the Yang family’s sons, and fans have even turned up at promotional events, weeping and crying that “the seven sons of the Yang family should not die.”
These passionate and emotional responses prove that Saving General Yang has touched many of its viewers. On Mtime.com, the movie’s ratings increased after its premiere, even reaching as high as 7.7, which is unheard of in recent years for a movie in this genre. The website also shows that many fans gave the film a five-star recommendation.
Reception from professional figures has been fairly optimistic as well. After an advanced showing in Zhengzhou, a group of movie theater managers gave Saving General Yang a positive evaluation; one general manager posted a recommendation on his Sina Weibo, commenting, “The seven Yang sons are handsome, cool, and wonderful, and Shao Bing (邵兵) gave his most complete and perfect performance since entering the film business.”
Other well-known figures in the entertainment industry have also shown their support for Saving General Yang through their Sina Weibo accounts. Director Wong Jing (王晶) wrote, “With the most effective storytelling method and exquisite filming, Ronny Yu’s skills have advanced again.”
This article is written by Joanna for JayneStars.com.