'The Captain' continues to lead as 'Gemini Man' staggers
By Ai Yan

"The Captain," a film released during China's National Day holiday, geared up into its third week on Sunday, continuing its lead with a general box office surging towards 2.7 billion yuan (380 million U.S. dollars). Meanwhile, "My People, My Country" follows behind with total earnings of 2.75 billion yuan (390 million U.S. dollars).

Both the movies have secured their place among China's Top 10 highest-grossing films of all times.

However, Ang Lee's new film "Gemini Man," another one of his experiments extending the technological horizon of films, evoked only a lukewarm response both from general viewers and the critics. 

What to expect from Ang Lee?

What is expected of Ang Lee? As the only Chinese director to have claimed an Oscar, he almost never disappoints his audiences. Even with a flop at the North American box office, the investors were still counting on the director's home court.

After its release on Friday, "Gemini Man" stayed on top of the box office for only its first day, before being surpassed by "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" starring Angelina Jolie, which emerged as the daily champion for the weekend.

Over the first weekend, it grossed around 149 million yuan (21 million U.S. dollars), even less than its North American opening weekend. According to Hollywood Reporter, the film is faced with a loss of 75 million U.S. dollars, given its huge budget of 138 million U.S. dollars.

Though China now has more cinemas to support the screening of films with 120 fps, 3D and 4K formats, the viewers are not quite interested, or willing enough, to pay over 200 yuan (28.3 U.S. dollars) for one show. 

Actor Will Smith and director Ang Lee promote the film "Gemini Man" in Shanghai, China. /VCG Photo

Actor Will Smith and director Ang Lee promote the film "Gemini Man" in Shanghai, China. /VCG Photo

For the Chinese, the question persists: Is it necessary to sacrifice storytelling in order to make a breakthrough in filmmaking technology?

Most of Lee's supporters believe that he is a solitary explorer and pioneer, pushing forward the filmmaking industry into a new era, just like it once did from silence to sound and analogue to digital. Objectors argue that he has flopped this time, as even for Ang Lee, this was a mediocre story, though with Oedipus complex at the core, which is typical of Lee.

Despite all the debates, one thing is for sure: In 2016, when Lee's first 120 fps film "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" was screened, China had only two cinemas that could support the screening, but for "Gemini Man," at least 27 Chinese cinemas in nearly 20 cities are ready for it.

"Gemini Man" ended up only on the fourth place in last week's box office ranking list, but it might require a little longer to evaluate what the film means to the whole industry.

Ang Lee signs for fans in Taipei, China. /VCG Photo

Ang Lee signs for fans in Taipei, China. /VCG Photo

Post-holiday lineup

For other films, "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" came after "My People, My Country" on the third place with 160 million yuan (22.6 million U.S. dollars).

"One Piece Stampede," the 14th film of the Japanese animation series, secured the fifth place with 139 million yuan (19.7 million U.S. dollars).

The heat of the holiday may have faded away, but the box office is still hot. With no blockbuster expected to release this week, the new comers may still need to compete with the existing champions for better ranking slots.