Marvel’s Black Panther has been over-promoted in an attempt to reach $1 billion at the box office internationally. The film had a slow start in China, with the first weekend racking up $66.5 million according to First Post. However, the Chinese aren’t anywhere near as euphemistic when it comes to their criticisms of the film. While $66.5 million is a decent intake – surpassing the abysmal showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in China – the Chinese still feel this Americanized film is too boring for their tastes.
Hip Hop Wired combed through reviews on the Chinese equivalent of IMDB called Doubon, where they pointed to some of the more racially charged comments from the users. The site noted that while the IMDB score for Black Panther rests at 7.8 out of 10, as of the writing of this article, the Douban rating sits at 6.7 out of 10. Obviously the score isn’t terrible, but it’s 1.1 points lower than its Western counterpart. Why is that? Well, Hip Hop Wired attempted to frame the narrative around the Chinese being racist.
However, despite Hip Hop Wired attempting to turn it into a race debate, the reality is that majority of the Chinese moviegoers who gave it a low score just found the overall themes in Black Panther to be boring.
Vincent96 gave the film two out of five stars, writing…
“The boring and almost childlike play, even if not talking about those “politically correct”, is still the most hated of [this] individual’s hatred. The two stars [given to] the “Blaxploitation again with an unprecedented powerful posture to make waves”. After all, as fans, we are also witnessing a sub-type history.”
Others were angry that the Chinese weren’t prominently featured in the film, but that it was more about whites and blacks. Last year’s top-grossing Chinese film was Wolf Warriors 2, as reported by Quartz Media. The film was themed around a Chinese elite soldier saving Africa from evil white mercenaries, many Chinese praised the film’s nationalistic themes and its portrayal of China modernizing and saving Africa from white colonists. Writer, director, producer and star, Wu Jing, fired back at critics stating that he was Chinese so obviously the film would be patriotic and positive in its portrayal of China.
Fen Zhi Lou explained that the film was too surface and too simple, without proper character depth, writing…
“[I almost became sick] and spit out in disgust [at the] cinema. From the point of view of setting, characters, and the degree to which the characters are thick is like the original novel, they all seem to share the problems of the starting point novels – that kind of problem. The arrogant black Aotian can give alms to white people to show his generosity (then he ignores the urbanity of the yellow species, and he ignores it) But when the distant relative legally inherited the throne, immediately instigate a coup d’état to defend the royal pedigree of the purity [of his own home]! Even the basic literacy of citizens is not a super hero. Should they be [so] shameless?”
Bie Kan Gun also didn’t like that the whites were portrayed as villains, disliking how they were made to look “weak” in Black Panther..
“2018 Lunar New Year’s Eve cues. In order to implement the Guiding Principles of Black Life, it is imperative to turn whites into weak chickens and runaway dogs, and the yellow species maintain their cannon fodder for the damned family. Wild boar fights the general visual experience, sensory and spiritual pollution. When you encounter the issue of inherited inheritance rights in history, you must choose to incite the masses to insurrection. Whoever speaks well is a wild boar. Oh, you are a wild boar. It was confirmed that Marvel was both stupid and bad.”
Others seemed to recite their dislike of the film with the same sort of distilled boredom that they had with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with Vamei explaining in a two-out-of-five-star review…
“It was really a tribal war and it was stingy. The plot is also very dry. Can only look forward to the new story of the second egg.”
In fact, boredom seemed to be one of the biggest issues that the Chinese movie-going audience faced when watching Black Panther. Henrique Asano and Cyrus Wong both mirrored each other’s comments, claiming that the film was boring. Others pointed out the implausibility of the “waterfall” scene. A few more were simply not entertained nor interested by the inter-tribal affairs that rested at the heart of the Black Panther movie.
Not everyone was down on the film. Cang Tian gave it four out of five stars and wrote…
“The old ZZZQ is not bothered. The manga has been available [since 1966], and it has been popular [since the] 70s. At that time, the four characters have not yet been created. On the other hand, the United States, which is so serious in apartheid, can have the first black person to surpass the British. Isn’t this a force? The storyline is pretty old-fashioned, but it looks good, so it’s OK. The [theater] is full, and it is also the most black audience [I’ve encountered] in [my] personal experience. There can be black British students, they really should see it [and be] very happy. The [male lead] is handsome.”
User Donatello gave the film five stars with a very trollish review, writing…
“Is there anything better than a handsome and fit black man dressed as a catwoman who wrestles with a feminine power?”
Many Chinese were actually baffled at the high praise that Black Panther has been receiving in North America and from Western critics. Hilariously enough, there are actually threads on the film site asking why there’s a disparity between the user rating and the critics rating, and why people overseas are viewing Black Panther differently from Chinese.
User Ji Zhujun attempted to breakdown and liken Black Panther to a superhero tale about Donald Trump, and how it is an allegory for border control in America, along with the geopolitical conundrum of dealing with isolationism versus pluralism. Zhujun explained how the lead character, T’Challa, was like Trump, and that he had to overcome the obstacles in his way in order to make Wakanda great again, just like Trump wanting to make America great again…
“The United States has been hesitant to accept refugees. Erik [Killmonger] wouldn’t like Wakanda well. He also hopes that blacks all over the world will also do well. [Erik] has adopted radical methods and wants to conquer the world with violence, like what the white colonial blacks did. Although Erik was black, he represented the white image of the era of the great seas. They used force and violence to conquer the world. Therefore, T’Challa, which represents the spirit of the United States, must overcome Erik, which is also ironic about the future of Trump.
[…] Black Panther’s passion in the United States is not without reason. The film has given the American audience the desired answer in terms of race and American spirit. On the other hand, after all, we have not experienced racial problems like the United States. When the political situation breaks down, and only looks at the surface stories and special effects, everyone must feel that the praise has been overdone.”
That was the most upvoted comment in the thread. Another commenter tried to point out that the movie was trying to promote the heroism of Africa because the Chinese are trying to “save the world” and “save Africa”, and therefore he believes that Hollywood is trying to follow in China’s footsteps by raising up black people as heroes. His comment was the most downvoted in the thread.
Sun of Sun provided his take on the situation, explaining…
“[…] Oh, it perfectly meets the illusion of the original left fantasy of Africa.
“By the way, they think so of China.
“To maintain diversity, it is shameless arrogance and hatred for the modernization of backward areas.”
The comments about racism aren’t quite as prevalent as the comments about the movie simply being boring. In fact, this was an issue that many Chinese had with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. They found the film boring, too long, and that it broke the lore of George Lucas’ original films.
In this case, there is a lot of socio and geopolitical discussions surrounding Black Panther, and obviously not all of the Chinese are for it. It will be interesting to see how well the film does during its second week in China, and if it will bomb like The Last Jedi or maintain its momentum.