Is global box office smash The Meg pandering to China?
Netizens question why the giant shark seems to prefer ripping apart Westerners
China’s answer to Jaws is feasting on the box office at home and abroad… but netizens are questioning whether The Meg is pandering too much to Chinese audiences.
The Meg, a Chinese-American co-production, stars Jason Statham and Li Bingbing. Instead of sending a great white shark to the little town of Amity on Long Island, this film sends a prehistoric megalodon to Sanya -- China’s hub of “debauchery” where superyachts and supermodels congregate each summer.
It’s one of several Chinese elements in the film, with almost half the cast being from China and conversations conducted in Mandarin. It opened with US$50.3 million in China and US$44.5 million in North America.
But Chinese moviegoers have been more critical of the film, with some even jokingly suggesting that the shark is actually kinda… pro-China?
“In this movie, Westerners were either swallowed whole or ripped apart. But all of the Eastern characters all died a graceful death, with their faces unscathed…” one article on WeChat said.
“Not to mention that there wasn’t a single trace of blood in the water [when it attacked Sanya],” it added. “This megalodon, which eats only foreigners and leaves a beach-full of Chinese people unscathed, is so thoughtful.”
Other comments show that Chinese moviegoers are very aware of how it seems to pander to Chinese audiences.
One online commentary said that The Meg is an example of how “Hollywood tries to incorporate more Chinese elements and ‘kneel and lick’ the China market.”
The Meg is actually categorized a “domestic movie” in China. While Warner Bros is the name most people associate this movie with, the majority stake actually belongs to Chinese producer Gravity Pictures -- which is looking to turn The Meg into a made-in-China IP.
To be honest, I’m not sure what’s worse: Hollywood pandering to China, or Hollywood getting China hooked on the dark magic of shark movies.
On the other hand: I gotta admit, I’d totally watch a Chinese version of Sharknado… or Santa Jaws.