Measuring mainstream: Why 'Midway' sunk in China

2019-11-18 05:11:25 GMT2019-11-18 13:11:25(Beijing Time) Sina English

Roland Emmerich, film director of box office hits like The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Independence Day series, released his latest movie Midway on the Chinese mainland in November.

However, the Chinese mainland box office did not live up to expectations previously held for the Hollywood blockbuster. People are now wondering whether this Hollywood mainstream war film can move Chinese audiences. 

Between 'good' and 'bad'

Midway reproduces a key battle during the Pacific War in 1942. The film received 43 percent tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.2/10 on IMDB and 7.7 on Chinese media review site Douban. 

Nearly 70 percent of the audiences on Douban gave it four to five stars, which compliments the 92 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. It's obvious Midway is more popular among filmgoers than movie critics.

Although Chinese audiences said they enjoyed the film, it has only earned 197 million yuan ($28.1 million) since it first opened ten days ago. 

Related discussions on social media have appeared less than other films depicting the same period as the Chinese movie Better Days and the Japanese animation release Weathering with You.

Many comments on Douban said the film's main weakness was the storyline. When compared with Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, and Hacksaw Ridge, Emmerich's film lacks human emotion.

"The film was just a repeat of history that you're already familiar with but left you with nothing to remember," read one comment on Douban. 

"Emmerich never escaped from his reputation for being a 'famous disaster director' and used too many cheap computer graphic and visual effects in the film due to its low budget," read another comment.

Popular film

The film clearly explains what caused the Pacific War between the US and Japan, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the preparations and smaller skirmishes that transpired before the final battle.

Most netizens who responded positively said the film helped them understand the context of the Pacific War.

Battleships and warplanes like the SBD Dauntless, USS Enterprise, and Japan's Mitsubishi A6M Zero, and the Yamato were carefully restored for historical accuracy. 

The film also introduces what was known as the "dive-bomb" strategy, where a bomber should approach a target from a high attitude and suddenly nosedive toward it to drop a bomb. 

The war machines combined with the sea warfare scenes have been praised by army and history fans alike.  

The film also sheds light on the assistance provided by the Chinese people and army. After the Tokyo raid, US pilot James Doolittle and his team were forced to land at a Chinese airport because they were low on fuel in East China's Zhejiang Province. 

The Japanese Army punished the locals who helped Doolittle and killed almost 250,000 Chinese with biological weapons.

However, audiences pointed out that the film shows Doolittle was rescued by Chinese wearing straw hats and who lived in a palm forest, which never existed in Zhejiang Province, but has more in common with Vietnam. 

Some movie critics also suggested that it is an obvious mistake in a film which paid much attention on restoring history.

Higher standards

For a US mainstream film, Midway didn't attract a significant number of Chinese audiences, unlike the other war film previously mentioned. 

On the contrary, the success of some Chinese films during China's National Day holidays like My People, My Country, The Captain, and The Climbers inspired others to compare them with Midway

With My People, My Country, Chinese audiences said they should make films about  individuals during historical events and improve authenticity standards.

The primary purpose of making a film is to generate a profit. For the most mainstream films, if they are shown on a particular date like National Day or the Memorial Day, they must have political purposes. 

If not, mainstream films will be treated like regular commercial films. 


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