China’s booming film industry has gotten a lot of international attention lately, resulting in high-profile collaborations, like Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo. However, domestic films made in China don’t seem to do well overseas, such as the failure of last year’s summer blockbuster Monster Hunt to win over foreign audiences.
But if there’s an area of Chinese film that shows how low and depraved domestic filmmakers are willing to stoop, it’s the knock-off. Some filmmakers liberally borrow from popular overseas films.
People in China were quick to criticize the marketing for Chinese film Crazy Toy City, whose Chinese name and movie poster are next to identical to that of recent Disney animated hit, Zootopia. As well, last year’s animated film The Autobots drew scorn when its character models were revealed to be the same as those from Pixar’s Cars franchise, including the dubious anthromorphic choice to depict a car’s eyes using its windshield instead of its headlights.
And now, this summer, audiences will get a chance to enjoy the latest knock-off from the Chinese film industry: My Wow, a movie whose Chinese title (我的魔兽世界) literally means “My World of Warcraft”.
The story details of My Wow have not been revealed, so in all fairness we can’t fully say if this is a knock-off of the long-running, extremely popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft that has undeniably impacted Chinese culture, and more than a few desktop wallpapers.
So far, all that we know is that the story will involve disparate elements of love, fantasy, and time travel. And if we’re staying true to the Chinese title, the tagline to the movie is translated to English as: “A man gets transported to a fantasy world of warcraft, where the impossible occurs…”
The movie’s promotional event had venerable Hong Kong character actor Jatfei Wong (seen above) posing with two people dressed up in the unmistakable armor aesthetic of World of Warcraft.
The promotional press conference for My Wow took place last month, revealing that the movie will hit theaters this month, coincidentally just weeks ahead of the expected summer release of World of Warcraft, another movie that has been influenced by the video game of the same name.
Even though its already the middle of May, we have yet to see a release date for My Wow, or even any promotional video or materials that didn’t debut at the April 15 press conference in Shijiazhuang. All that we have is the earnest words of director Zhang Wei:
I have injected the entirety of my fervor and passion into this movie, completely depleting the whole of my efforts to show a spectacle that is both sensible to a logical mind and yet remains an unceasing marvel for the eyes to behold.
Movie fans in China weren’t as charitable with their words.
One person was nothing short of straightforward in what he thought of the movie. “It’s clear what you want to do: have your fake ‘World of Warcraft’ movie play in theaters before it the real one does. I don’t care what you think. No one is going to see your movie, or at the very least, I won’t,” he wrote.
Another person wrote “Never before have I ever seen such a shameless dog,” while another said, “Guessing that ‘Father’ Blizzard (makers of the World of Warcraft video game) will sue them for copyright infringement!!”
All the same, even before seeing the film My Wow or even its slower-by-a-hair doppleganger companion piece World of Warcraft, we know that “fantasy” or “time travel” content will come under scrutiny by state censors for the same reason that World of Warcraft (the video game) underwent years before.
Even though the World of Warcraft video game (popularly shortened to “WoW”) has catered to their its Chinese fan base by devoting an expansion pack to them that featured a playable race called ”the Pandaren” (seen above), WoW still had much of its content cut by Chinese censors. Because supernatural elements are shunned and disavowed by state authorities, Chinese WoW players never got to see their defeated foes represented by skeletons. Instead, dead enemies simply turned into boxes of loot, inspiring Chinese players to rename the game as “World of Boxes”.
It may turn out that My Wow will be an enjoyable film with nothing at all to do with World of Warcraft. After all, Jatfei Wong is in it, and he was great in 2001’s Shaolin Soccer as the chain smoking steel-headed eldest brother of a band of monks. On the other hand, Wong is no stranger to knock-offs. He also appeared in Jay Chou’s Kung Fu Dunk, yet another film about misfits who use mystical kung fu skills to win sports competitions.