How to sell 1.4 billion movie tickets

Today I saw a poster for the remake of The Karate Kid, the famous movie from the 1980s which I never really counted as one of my favourites.  The only sports film I have really enjoyed is Bring It On  (it’s about cheerleaders and that was a joke).

The Karate Kid reboot combines elements of the original film (naughty kid learns martial arts from wise old master) and its sequel (naughty kid visits the homeland of the master to further hone skills).  An interesting change, however, is that the master is now Chinese and that much of the action takes place in China – as opposed to Japan in the original.

Perhaps Hollywood could not find a suitable Japanese actor for the role – although this didn’t stop anyone casting a Chinese actor (Gong Li) in the role of the Geisha with the memoirs.  Perhaps Jackie Chan was looking to expand his acting portfolio beyond kooky sidekick.  Perhaps there is something else going on here …

China played a pivotal role in one of last year’s blockbuster films, 2012.  With the flooding of the entire planet imminent, the governments of the world turn to China to build 8 massive ships that will save a select group of people. Well, China makes everything else in the world, right?

As the tsunamis hit (wiping out all the Tibetan monks in the Himalayas, who must have missed out on tickets for the ships), world leaders have a change of heart and allow all of the Chinese workers to be saved as well.  2012 was wildly popular here in China, especially as it portrayed the rewards of hard work and the triumph of Chinese ingenuity.  In fact, some of my colleagues think that it is pretty much a documentary, and have discussed the option of moving to somewhere above the projected floodline.

The Transformers sequel from last year (also a huge blockbuster) also featured Shanghai, with Optimus swooping in to blow up some elevated motorways and crazy buildings.

And a few years ago, the third Mission Impossible film centred on Shanghai.  Unfortunately, it was banned here (I think because there were some Chinese bad guys).

Even the latest Iron Man was mostly set in a high-tech Expo.  I mean, which country has gone Expo-crayzy this year?

There is a definite trend to feature China in big films.  Maybe its just that right now, China is interesting and a bit mysterious.  It could also be that it is potentially the world’s biggest movie-going market.

So, throw in a few China references.  Portray the Chinese as they wish to be seen – clever and honest and hard-working.  But remember, they do Karate in Japan.  In China, it’s called Kung Fu.

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