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China Catching up to Hollywood with New Blockbuster

(The Hollywood Reporter) – The Chinese film, which features Oscar-winning costume and set designers, is believed to be China’s most expensive production ever.

This excludes the disastrous Empires of the Deep, which was written and produced by Chinese Oligarch Jon Jiang back in 2010, which had a budget of over $130 Million.  It has still never been released.

 View the trailer below to find out why

As China inches ever closer to surpassing North America as the world’s largest box-office territory, its movie budgets are getting bigger, too.

Hollywood studio tentpoles routinely cost $100 million to $200 million to make, but China’s biggest titles seldom top $50 million.

Stephen Chow’s fantasy romp The Mermaid, which earned $550 million in February to become China’s biggest local box-office hit ever, had a reported production budget of just $60 million — and many in the Chinese industry believe it was made for less (it’s not uncommon for Chinese productions to exaggerate their budgets to attract attention, insiders say).

Poster for The Mermaid, the highest grossing movie in China
Poster for The Mermaid, the highest grossing movie in China

Asura, an epic fantasy film loosely based on Buddhist mythology, is perhaps a glimpse of the Chinese industry to come.  Asuras are described in Asian Mythology as powerful superhuman demigods or demons that can be both good and bad.

With a budget of $100 million, it is said to be the country’s most expensive fully domestic film ever.

A statue depiction of the mythological figure Asura – Photo Credit: Sarah Welch

The debut directorial effort of Chinese filmmaker Peng Zhang, whose career as a Hollywood stunt coordinator goes back two decades (Ant-Man, The Twilight Saga, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), the film features an international cast and veteran Hollywood production team, despite being a Chinese-language film intended first and foremost for the Chinese market.

Zhang Yi Shang is the female lead
Zhang Yi Shang is the female lead

“Produced by Zhenjian Yang, who scored big in 2012 with Painted Skin: The Resurrection ($105 million, a big haul at that time), all of Asura’s key production roles are held by Hollywood veterans, while the the rest of the crew is made up of Chinese staff — a strategy Yang pursued to both bootstrap the local industry’s experience level and to give the film an international polish. The costumes, for example, were designed by Oscar winner Ngila Dickson (The Lord of the Rings franchise), while the sound design is done by Martín Hernández (The Revenant, Birdman) and visual effects are supervised by Charlie Iturriaga (Deadpool, Furious 7, The Social Network).”

Asura is set in the mythical realm of Asura — the dimension of pure desire, according to ancient buddhist mythology — which is threatened by a coup from a lower heavenly kingdom.

Newcomer Lu Wei plays the films hero
Newcomer Lu Wei plays the films hero

“Sixteen-year-old Chinese rising star Lei Wu plays the film’s young hero, alongside Hong Kong veterans Tony Leung and Carina Lau. Eighteen-year-old newcomer Zhang Yi Shang is the female lead and love interest. The international elements of the cast are made up of American actor Matthew Knowles (based part-time in Beijing, Knowles speaks fluent Mandarin and is well-known to the local audience from roles in Chinese TV dramas like Love Me If You Dare, Deng Xiaoping and Red Star Over China), stuntman Damien Walters (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and British contortionist Bonetics Junior.”

American actor Matthew Knowles (left) and Chinese actress Zhang Yi Shang (right)
American actor Matthew Knowles (left) and Chinese actress Zhang Yi Shang (right)

Still in production, Asura is being shot in seven locations across China, including Ningxia in the country’s north and the Qinghai Tibetan Plateau.

Graphics below courtesy of The Alibaba Group. 

Exotic Locale in China
Exotic Locale in China
The Tibetan Plateau in China
The Tibetan Plateau in China

The movie is financed and produced by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures Group, Ningxia Film Group, Zhenjian Film and others. The first in a planned trilogy, the film is targeting a summer 2018 release.

Read Original Article here.

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