Culture\Film and TV

Will the Force be with China?

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-29 07:44

Will the Force be with China?

A promotional event is held in Beijing for the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, featuring (from left) Donnie Yen, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, director Gareth Edwards and actor Jiang Wen. [Photo by Feng Yongbin/China Daily]

The Star Wars franchise has been a victim of both timing and cultural expectations in China's movie market. Xu Fan examines expectations for the latest installment.

Star Wars will return to Chinese screens in the first weekend of 2017, but the big question for the world's second-largest market may still be: How much further can the new space opera go on its expedition to collect Chinese hearts?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a spinoff prequel and the eighth movie of the world's most popular sci-fi franchise, will open on the Chinese mainland on Jan 6.

Last week, the major cast-Oscar-nominee Felicity Jones, Mexican lead Diego Luna and Chinese mega stars Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen-warmed up the forthcoming blockbuster in a whirlwind Beijing tour. Alongside them stood Gareth Edwards, the director previously known for Godzilla and Monsters.

The casting of Yen and Jiang marks the Hollywood franchise's first use of Chinese faces as major characters in Star Wars' 40-year history.

In the new tale centering on a group of unlikely heroes fighting against the Empire, Ye stars as a blind monk with stunning martial arts skills while Jiang plays his best friend, a weapons expert.

Early on, their casting news dominated domestic headlines. Some Chinese criticized the two-who can lead any big movie-for "degrading themselves" with supporting roles in a formulaic Hollywood blockbuster. That's especially since Jiang is known for his defiant, rebellious style and resistance of mainstream culture.

Both say that Star Wars' appeal for their children played decisive role in their acceptance of the roles.

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