Last week a prominent Chinese film critic was slammed on social media for daring to criticize box office smash hit ‘Wolf Warrior II’, but what exactly was her critique?
‘Wolf Warriors II’ (战狼II) rode a wave of patriotic fervor to become the second film in history to reach $800 million in a single territory over the weekend, but not everyone is a fan.
Central Academy of Drama lecturer Yin Shanshan took to her Sina Weibo microblogging account last week to express her misgivings about the high-octane action-adventure – and was promptly jumped on by hordes of nationalistic social media users for her temerity.
Yin even lost the “verified” status on her Sina Weibo microblog account after she slammed the movie as excessively violent and “psychopathic” to her more than 70 million fans, prompting speculation she had lost her job, according to Radio Free Asia.
But what exactly did Yin say that earned the ire of Wolf Warriors fans on the Chinese internet? Here is her original critique, posted to Youtube and translated for China Film Insider readers:
“Wolf Warriors 2: Please Allow Me to Dislike It”
By Central Academy of Drama lecturer, Film Critic Yin Shanshan
I personally will never miss patriotic or nationalistic films like ‘The Founding of a Republic’ and ‘Operation Mekong’. I think these movies from any country are good for that country market as long as they are of good quality. Every country in the world is also producing films of such themes and there are simply no downsides for such productions. However, I was literally “dumbstruck” after watching ‘Wolf Warriors 2’ at the cinema.
From the first few scenes we got a good taste of the supposed evil of our foreign enemies: they are not only evil but inhumane and out of their minds. In order to seize the regime, they went on round after round of indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians including women, families, etc.
In my opinion, there is a rule of thumb in presenting death or violence in movies, it is that such display should be thought-provoking for an audience rather than just for the sake of it. An audience may be attracted by the variety of deaths, but there should always be a meaning in death. It should embody something beyond the surface and provoke thoughts and emotions in viewers. If not, why wouldn’t we just watch movies like Death Diaries about how people can literally die in millions of more creative, novel ways instead?
However ‘Wolf Warriors 2’ showcases only a kind of mechanical repetition of slaughter and bloodbath by foreign mercenaries without adding any more value. We are only seeing suppression by force, not anything for spiritual retrospection.
In a lot of movies, we can see an attitude of the director towards those who are killed. Michael Bay’s classic action thriller ‘The Rock’ is a great example that does that. It’s a film that also gives a voice to the villains who also hold legitimate values just as the good people do. ‘Wolf Warriors’, however, reduces its hostile forces to blood-thirsty animals rather than real people. I can only see how the director is psychopathic.
We can see that the storyline builds around the Chinese being confronted by deadly foreign enemies, but I feel that the story is touting violence and bloodbaths more than anything.
I also know one of Wolf Warriors’ selling points is to use those scenes to provide an adrenaline rush but in my opinion, they’re really lacking in any depth.
I went to admire the movie with two of my students when it had already crossed the CNY$1.2 billion box office mark. I was thinking that if the session had a 25% seating rate it would be quite a good result, but on that day the whole theatre was full except for the first two rows.
Usually in the second part of movies like this we see more restraint from the director with the depiction of violence, but not so in ‘Wolf Warriors 2’. The film is filled with violence from start to finish. My emotions as a viewer also went from surprised to numb to simply angry. I was angry with the director, not the villains in the movies. Shouldn’t we re-examine the story and question if it’s the writer who is psychopathic?
Wouldn’t director Wu Jing know that a lot of kids are also going to be watching this movie? Wouldn’t he also know that the film is on during the summer period when parents will be bringing their kids to receive a patriotic education? I think he does know.
After all, Wu Jing has taken on the roles of director, scriptwriter and lead actor in many of his recent films including in ‘Wolf Warriors 2’, so he definitely had full control over almost everything in the production process.
My last point is that the story’s logic is flawed. With the character of Zhuo Yifan played by Zhang Han, for example, it defies belief that he could transform from a heartless warmonger into a hero. The concept risks being politically incorrect.
‘Wolf Warriors 2’ should perhaps learn from other Chinese patriotic films such as The Founding of An Army and Operation Mekong that have left a lasting impression on viewers with thought-provoking, heart-touching stories.
Translation by Amber Ziye Wang.