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China’s top movie ever is war epic about US defeat

Shirley Zhao and Alex Millson
Bloomberg

Forget James Bond’s gadgets, the super cars of “Fast and Furious” or “Dune”’s stunning landscapes - when it comes to box office smash hits, China’s Communist Party has nailed it this year.

“The Battle at Lake Changjin,” a 176-minute epic starring Chinese actor Wu Jing, isn’t only the highest grossing film worldwide so far in 2021 but has become China’s biggest film ever -- toppling 2017’s “Wolf Warrior 2,” which also stars Wu -- according to ticketing platform Maoyan Entertainment. The movie was commissioned by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China, otherwise known as the propaganda department.

Audience members wear masks while passing in front of the movie poster of "The Battle At Lake Changjin" in a cinema on October 2, 2021 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.

The film tells the story of how People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) troops entered North Korea and valiantly defeated the Americans mid-last century. Since its September 30 release during China’s National Day, it has raked in a hefty $891 million, including presale tickets, according to Maoyan.

A woman rides at an escalator past a movie promotion poster for "The Battle of Lake Changjin" at a mall in Beijing on October 11, 2021.

The movie’s release came after years of heightened tensions between the U.S. and China amid a protracted trade war and questions about Beijing’s early handling of Covid-19, with mainland borders remaining all but shut to outsiders amid pandemic restrictions. 

And if one heroic defeat of the U.S. wasn’t enough, Variety reported that a sequel is already underway, entitled “Water Gate Bridge,” which continues the story of the PVA’s campaign to drive American troops out of North Korea.

A boy poses in front of the movie poster of "The Battle At lake Changjin" in a cinema on October 2, 2021 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.