July 11, 2008

Most Expensive Asian Film, “Red Cliff”, Set to Be Red Hot at Box Office

Most expensive Asian film, "Red Cliff", set to be red hot at box office

by Xinhua Writers Miao Xiaojuan, Wang Cong

BEIJING, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Reportedly Asia's most expensive ever film, the widely anticipated "Red Cliff", debuted in Beijing on Thursday with thousands staying up to see the first showings just after midnight.

Normally early-retiring Beijingers set aside their reservations about the midweek late night to sit through the two-and-a-half-hour first instalment of the two-part battle epic -- and most gave it a warm welcome.

The 80-million-US-dollar historical drama opened in 48 Beijing cinemas under the Chinese title "Chi Bi" and was still drawing cinemagoers later on Thursday.

The Capital Times Cinema sold 186 tickets for the first show, compared with fewer than 10 tickets for the midnight opening of the Hollywood blockbuster Ironman in late April, said a security official surnamed Liu.

About 1,000 seats in UME Huaxing International Cineplex were taken, and New Capital Cinema sold all 1,730 tickets, most of which were bought by an IT company.

"I think the movie is worth watching," said 18-year-old Zhen Li, who sat the national college entrance examination last month. "The grand martial scenes and the heroes' integrity are really impressive. But I found some minor mistakes concerning historical facts and I hope next time the director will pay more attention to detail."

The first episode of "Red Cliff" opened across Asia on Thursday, and its second episode is set to be released in December. By then, a condensed version covering both episodes will also be released outside of Asia.

"I am looking forward to the second episode, for sure," Zhen said.

A woman surnamed Zhang expressed concern that the heroes' characters failed to match historical accounts. "Maybe the style is more likely to be favored by young people, because of its humor and all-star cast," she said.

New Capital Cinema manager Yu Chao said the film was sold out again on Thursday morning. "We'll screen the movie so long as enough people want to see it and we'll arrange the schedule according to the market," said Yu.

The movie revolves around the epic Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 AD, a decisive battle, immediately prior to China's Three Kingdoms period, between allied forces of the southern warlords Liu Bei and Sun Quan, and the numerically superior forces of the warlord Cao Cao.

The allied victory of Liu Bei and Sun Quan at Red Cliffs disrupted Cao Cao's plot to conquer the lands south of the Yangtze River. Liu and Sun's force of 50,000 defeated Cao's force of 800,000 and burnt 2,000 boats in the final battle.

The biggest scenes in the movie involved 2,000 actors and crew. Around 1,300 special effects were used, according to earlier media reports.

Award-winning Hong Kong actor Tony Leung, Taiwan supermodel Lin Chi-ling and Taiwanese-Japanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro are among the movie's A-list cast.

The China News Agency on Thursday quoted Xie Weijia, manager of the state-owned China Film Group Corporation, the main investor in the production, as saying, "The 80-million-U.S.-dollar investment makes Red Cliff the most expensive Asian-financed film ever."

"Generally I think the movie is okay, but the performance of Lin Chi-ling is a bit unnatural," Zhang Liangbei, author of several film- related books, including a biography of Taiwan director Ang Lee.

Zhou Liming , a critic for Movie Review magazine, doubted Red Cliff would win many fans in either the mainland or international markets.

"The story wasn't so interesting in the first episode. The actors and actress didn't perform so well either, but those special effects are good," said Zhou.

On July 2, the film premiered in Chengdu's Wu Hou Shrine, a top cultural heritage building, as part of campaign to raise public morale in the quake-hit region.

Hollywood-based Hong Kong director John Woo had told media he hoped it would be "a global blockbuster" and that Western cinemagoers would have a better understanding of Chinese culture, which was "more than Kungfu".

With "Red Cliff", Woo "shows he is still a masterful director to be reckoned with", Associated Press critic Min Lee wrote.

However, Lee noted it remained to be seen if Woo's story could win non-Asian audiences who are less familiar with the Chinese history.

Woo, 62, returned to depict the legendary battle of Red Cliff after he got his fame in Hollywood for his box-office hits like "Face/Off"(1997) and "Mission Impossible II"(2002).

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