Five times Hollywood destroyed Hong Kong landmarks … or the entire city
The Rock’s Skyscraper is just the latest film to have used the city’s forest of skyscrapers the perfect backdrop for all kinds of CGI-generated mayhem. Here are some other times Hollywood has trashed city buildings, or Hong Kong itself
Hollywood action film writers have an obsession with Hong Kong. Directors have found in the cramped, surreal skyline of the city the perfect backdrop for all kinds of CGI-generated natural disasters, explosions and battles between otherworldly creatures.
Skyscraper, starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, is the latest film in which the Hong Kong skyline plays a central role. The movie is set in fictional tower The Pearl, supposedly the safest building on Earth … until it gets attacked by terrorists.
As film-goers get ready to see how ‘The Rock’ saves the day, we take a look at five other times movie directors have wreaked havoc with Hong Kong landmarks … or erased the city altogether.
1. Bank of China Tower – Battleship (2012)
Debris from an alien spaceship falls across the city, grazing Lantau Island’s Tian Tan Buddha and destroying the Bank of China building in Battleship. After glimpsing the hopeless office workers trying to flee the explosion, we can see the top part of the building collapsing onto Central.
The board-game-inspired action film, featuring Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna, received mainly negative reviews, and, according to Forbes, was a major flop for Universal Pictures.
2. Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre – Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
The fourth instalment of the Transformers franchise sets some of its major action sequences in Hong Kong, where Optimus Prime and the rest of Auto-bots reunite to battle a new alien threat.
Hongkongers will spot various city landmarks, including the Hong Kong government headquarters, the To Kwa Wan neighbourhood in Kowloon, the Yick Cheong Building in Quarry Bay and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, which gets destroyed by an alien spaceship.
The franchise has become a favourite of Chinese film-goers and, aside from Hong Kong, Age of Extinction was partly shot at the Great Wall of China and in three Chinese cities.
Despite leading the race for 2015’s Razzie awards, the satirical prizes that honour the worst Hollywood movies of the previous year, the fourth Transformers instalment took a whopping US$1.1 billion at the global box office.
3. Central District – Pacific Rim (2013)
Before exploring the romantic outings of sea creatures in The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro directed Pacific Rim , an incursion into the mecha-bot genre in which human-controlled robots fight against the Kaijus, sea monsters that rise from the Pacific Ocean.
One of the major fights of the film is set against the backdrop of a neon-saturated Hong Kong, with the giant figures fighting along one of the city’s container terminals, then moving to Central district, with the Bank of China among the buildings recognisable in the background.
Inspired by Japanese monster films and anime, the movie gained a cult following, and a sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising, was released this year.
4. Lui Seng Chun – Doctor Strange (2016)
Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange featured a head-spinning reverse destruction of Mong Kok – a sequence in which the Lui Seng Chun heritage building and surrounding streets are wrecked, then instantly restored.
In the film, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange needs to protect three sanctums across the world to avoid the Earth being swallowed by the Dark Dimension. When the last of the sanctums, in a replica of Mong Kok’s Lui Seng Chun building, is destroyed, the superhero uses his time-wrapping powers to restore it to normal.
The sequence was not shot in Hong Kong, but Marvel created a whole set with 60 buildings imitating a typical Mong Kok street in Pinewood Studios in London, according to Cinemablend.
5. Hong Kong – Meteor (1979)
Using what now would be considered cringeworthy special effects, Meteor director Ronald Neame created a tsunami that engulfed the whole city in this 1979 film.
The movie, produced by Run Run Shaw, features Sean Connery and Natalie Wood trying to save the Earth from the imminent collision of several fragments of the fictional asteroid Orpheus.
The asteroid is finally obliterated thanks to nuclear weapons, but not before Hong Kong and parts of New York are destroyed.
The movie received bad reviews, with The New York Times labelling the galactic threat a “big hunk of week-old bread”.