Fantasy epic 'Fengshen' trilogy: 3B yuan gamble?

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 6, 2017
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One of the most ambitious film projects, fantasy epic "Fengshen" trilogy, has been initiated.It is anticipated to allegedly cost 3 billion yuan (US$441.44 million) to make with an international production team.

Creators appear at a press conference to announce "Fengshen" trilogy in Beijing, May 31, 2017. [Photo /] 

Director Wuershan, who has helmed blockbusters such as "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" and "Mojin: The Lost Legend," revealed at a press conference in Beijing on May 31 that "Fengshen" has fascinated him since he was a child.

"Fengshen" is based on the household known novel of a Chinese ancient fantasy classic, "The Investiture of the Gods," a 16th-century Chinese novel written by Xu Zhonglin during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). It combines elements of history, folklore, mythology, legends and fantasy to retell the overthrow of King Zhou, the last ruler of the Shang Dynasty, by Ji Fa, who would establish the Zhou Dynasty in its place. The story integrates oral and written tales of many Chinese mythological figures who are involved in the war as well.

The trilogy films will start shooting during 2018 to 2019 after 4 years of preparation, and will hit theaters during the period of 2020 - 2022.

Wuershan said he will make this grandiose epic to fill the blank in the Chinese mythological epic film genre, "China has a brilliant civilization and stories, we need to use the high quality films to promote our culture."

The director and his team have visited world famous visual giants Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Weta Workshop in the United States and in New Zealand to find inspiration and cooperation. His team also visited numerous museums and old palaces in China during the preparation.

The film will have an international cast and crew, including "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Matrix" producer Barrie M. Osborne, who will serve as the production advisor for "Fengshen." Chinese heayweight producers Bill Kong and Du Yang will produce the film.

"Painted Skin: The Resurrection" script writer Ran Ping and Ran Jia Nan are working on the screen play, while Lu Wei, script writer known for award-winning "Farewell My Concubine," and American award-winning screenwriter James Schamus, will be consultants for the script.

"There are two problems in Chinese films, vulgarization and mediocrity. We hope to make a film to present our heroism and romanticism on the screen, which is very rare in the reality."

But it is not clear whether this kind of film will actually receive a warm welcome in the market.

There was another film which has tested the water, "League of Gods." The fantasy film, directed by Koan Hui and Vernie Yeung, based on the same novel "The Investiture of the Gods" and starring a starry cast of Jet Li, Tony Leung, Fan Bingbing, Louis Koo, Huang Xiaoming, Angelababy, Wen Zhang, and Jacky Heung, flopped in the market as it grossed only 283.9 million yuan (US$41.77 million) in 2016, and received mostly negative reviews.

"Fengshen" trilogy needs to make 9 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion) at box offices against its boasted 3 billion yuan budget to break even due to the revenue distribution system in China. But this is very unlikely to happen in the current state of the Chinese film market.

The biggest investor behind the "Fengshen" trilogy, Beijing Culture -- an entertainment industry conglomerate – suffered a 4.5 percent drop in the stock market the next day immediately after the company announced the ambitious news, which worried investors.

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