Tencent Pictures, the film production arm of mainland Chinese tech giant Tencent, last week unveiled a slate of 43 new pictures.
A large chunk of the new titles is “main melody” or unabashedly patriotic works. But another category of Tencent’s projects fall under the heading “Eastern Stories.”
Among the more notable works are 2021 actioner “Raging Fire” starring Donnie Yen, the last film from Hong Kong director Benny Chan, who died of cancer in August; “The Eleventh Chapter,” a family comedy starring and directed by Chen Jianbin (“A Cool Fish”) set to release later this year; and “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” a romance starring “The Wandering Earth” lead Qu Chuxiao from first-time director Sha Mo.
There’s also “God Does Not Play Dice With the Universe,” an intriguing first feature from newcomer Wen Shipei billed by Tencent as “a Chinese version of ‘No Country for Old Men,’” starring two Taiwanese leads, Eddie Peng (“The Rescue,” “Operation Mekong”) and veteran actress-director Sylvia Chang (“Eat Drink Man Woman,” “Love Education”), jointly produced with Ning Hao’s Dirty Monkey Pictures.
Tencent is also planning two adaptations of its web comic “The Outcast,” simultaneously developing a web series and a more high-profile feature film, set to be directed by sought-after director Wuershan (“Mojin: The Lost Legend”; “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”), who envisions it as a “fantasy action youth drama.”
Wuershan said he encountered the comic only in June. “When I saw it, it was exactly what I was looking for, conceptually. It was already a very mature work that took traditional Chinese Daoist mysticism and martial arts tournaments involving magical powers, and combined that with the lives of youths in modern China through very inventive characters. I thought, ‘This is the next film I want to make’.”
This is a surprise coming from a director who last summer told Variety that he had already meticulously charted out his next 30 years of films, in which he intended to spin off and build out characters from his massive upcoming “Fenghsen Trilogy” to create a Chinese Marvel-like franchise.
The trilogy’s first film cancelled its planned summer release due to COVID-19. From the response to the trailer, however, it seems that the expensive gamble of shooting all three films at once with unknown stars before a single title had debuted may not have produced the hit he’d been hoping for.
At Tencent’s slate launch event, Wuershan trotted out much of the same language he has in the past for Beijing Culture’s “Fengshen.”
“I’ve always wanted to make Chinese-style genre films – to shoot a superhero film for young audiences. Adapting comics into films is one of the most important global trends right now. I’d always hoped that in China, we could also have a film universe that represents Chinese culture,” he said. “‘The Outcast’ has made me feel hopeful: It’s source material that could be adapted into a truly locally Chinese comic book universe.”
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