Interview: Chinese sci-fi films still need time to catch up with Hollywood, says Wandering Earth director

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-28 15:29:05|Editor: Li Xia
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NEW YORK, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Five years ago, when Guo Fan asked his American peers during a cinematographic exchange program in Hollywood whether they had ever watched a Chinese film, the answer was simple and blunt -- none.

"Then I told them that in five or 10 years, they will see more and more great Chinese movies in U.S. cinemas," recalled the young Chinese film director who became nearly a household name in China for his latest major production -- the Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth.

"Still, we are about 25 to 30 years behind Hollywood in similar productions, though the gap might be smaller in terms of special effects -- about 10 to 15 years," said the 38-year-old Guo while meeting with some 200 enthusiastic fans in an AMC cinema in New York City earlier this week.

Since its debut on Feb. 5, The Wandering Earth has achieved unexpected success in the box office, now right on the trajectory to become the top-grossing homemade Chinese film. It has also broken the five-year box office record for a Chinese film in North America, prompting the producers to send Guo to Los Angeles and New York for promotion and fan meetings.

In an interview with Xinhua during his U.S. trip, Guo first thanked the moviegoers in both China and America for their "kind tolerance." "It's not that they couldn't see the flaws of our production, but they didn't complain much," he said with a humble smile.

"But our team of some 7,000 members did try our best, and this is just the level that we could reach for now," Guo added.

Adapted from a short story of the same name published by Chinese sci-fi writer and Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin, The Wandering Earth tells about an ambitious project of mankind to propel Earth out of the solar system which is to be devastated by a rapidly expanding Sun.

The big-budget production wowed the viewers with spectacular special effects that are widely deemed to be on a par with Hollywood standards, and the Chinese values of family, love and responsibility were conveyed in a way that resonated with the global audience.

Although Guo said repeatedly that his film initially targeted only the Chinese audience and that most of its viewers are still Chinese around the world, he gained lots of attention and acclamation from non-Chinese audience and media.

Last week, U.S. online entertainment giant Netflix announced that it has bought the rights of the film, which will be translated into 28 languages for the company's streaming service in over 190 countries and regions.

Daniel Eagan with the Filmmaker magazine told Xinhua during one of Guo's fan meetings that he loves all the roles in The Wandering Earth, because they are all "fleshed out and make psychological sense."

"The assembly of the sequences... the way they visualize the idea are very well done," he noted. "In terms of acting, writing, action design and cinematography, I think this is an equal of a Hollywood film. There's no question about it."

According to Guo, Chinese filmmakers are narrowing their gap with Hollywood productions thanks to the rapid development of China's high-tech sector, especially the progress in such areas as 3D printing, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

But to fully reach the Hollywood standards, the director said the further industrialization of Chinese filmmaking is needed and of critical importance.

"We Chinese never lack imagination. But turning ideas into reality relies heavily on the high level of film industrialization, which is already in place in Hollywood," he noted.

In Guo's opinion, a well-functioned mechanism of standardization, quantification and specialization in the filmmaking process could lead to much higher efficiency, thus promoting the development of the whole industry.

The industrialization process will take a long time to complete, but it's worth pursuing and investing in, said Guo. "When steam engine train was invented, it was mocked for moving even slower than carriages. But we would not have the high-speed bullet trains today without the first train."

The future of China's sci-fi film production also relies on the continued growth of the country's scientific and technological strength, he said, taking the Wandering Earth as an example.

In addition, science fiction films could inspire more people, particularly the younger generation, to love science and work for a better future of mankind, Guo said,

Citing the example of a schoolboy hoping to become an astronaut after watching his movie, Guo said he wished the kid's dream would come true. "Or maybe he will become a sci-fi film director like me. Either way, it will reinforce my belief that I'm doing a meaningful job."