A Hollywood hero with Chinese characteristics
Wolf Warrior 2 owes much of its success to apeing the likes of Rambo but with a unique twist – it reverses the usual racial stereotypes
With Wolf Warrior 2, mainland filmmakers have succeeded in cloning the perfect Hollywood action movie for domestic consumption. It’s like the rap music video that the People’s Liberation Army recently used to lure new recruits. It has succeeded in aping the Americans while being patriotic – and profitable.
There is rich irony in using American pop culture to wrap themselves in the national flag. The more sophisticated audience on the mainland should appreciate the filmmakers’ intention. As Marshall McLuhan used to teach, look beyond the message to the medium and the way in which it carries the message.
I watched both Wolf Warrior and Wolf Warrior 2 on a mainland-made set-top box that offers pirated movies from all over the world. Since Wolf Warrior 2 is now the nation’s highest-grossing film ever, its producers can well afford to forgo the price of my ticket. I also think it’s quite appropriate to pirate a Chinese blockbuster. Call it just deserts.
The thing about Wolf Warrior 2 is that we have seen it all before. There was Rambo fraternising with mujahideen and playing with Afghan children. Here, Rambo is Leng Feng playing beach soccer with African children. Interestingly, both characters are ex-special forces.
There was Bruce Willis as the anguished Navy Seals commando in Tears of the Sun, sent to an African country in the middle of a civil war to extract a beautiful female doctor and ended up saving a bunch of natives he refused to abandon.
Here we have an anguished Leng Feng saving a beautiful female doctor while rescuing a bunch of natives he refused to abandon in an African nation caught up in a civil war. There is even an Ebola-like epidemic – Dustin Hoffman’s Outbreak, perhaps?
In this type of movies, the natives are just there incidentally. They may be victims or villains, but their sole purpose is to showcase the heroism and selflessness of the main character, who may save them or blow them to smithereens.
Leng Feng is China. He is a man of peace but can turn ultraviolent before an evil enemy. He is a friend of Africans, but must fight the baddy, an American mercenary called Big Daddy. He also likes to party and can drink you under the table. By reversing the usual racial stereotypes, the movie is clever that way. But after grossing US$722 million, who am I to question this juggernaut of a movie?