Saturday, 21 September, 2019

Asura, China's most expensive film ever, pulled after box office flop

Director Zhang Peng and actors Wu Lei and Zhang Yishang attend a promotional event for the movie Most expensive Chinese fantasy flick ever just bombed so hard the studio pulled it from cinemas
Adrian Cunningham | 17 July, 2018, 15:19

There were huge expectations for the big-budget fantasy film Asura, which cost a whopping 750m yuan (£85 million) to make.

In an article published before the film's release, Yang Hongtao, chairman of Ningxia Film Group and one of the film's major backers, expressed confidence in Asura, saying: "It's a very imaginative movie".

As China is expected to overtake the USA as the world's biggest film market, the plan for Asura was to kick off a major fantasy franchise akin to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

By Sunday, the film's official social media account posted a statement declaring that it would be removed from theatres as of 10pm that night.

The film's official Weibo account announced the news on Sunday, with producers offering "deepest apologies to viewers who did not get a chance to watch the film, as well as to all the Chinese and global participants who were involved in its production over the past six years".

The movie reportedly is China's most expensive domestic film ever, and the lineup of American creative talent brought in to help create Asura and its distinctive world certainly makes it look like a serious blockbuster project.

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Now, producers are apparently planning to rework the film and release it again at a later date in an effort to reduce the £80 million loss.

Most of China's homemade blockbusters reportedly have cost about half what Zhenjian Film Studio, Ningxia Film Group, and Alibaba Pictures Group spent to make Asura, and it sounds as though the producers aren't ready to throw in the towel completely in the wake of the pricey film's DOA weekend.

Six years in the making, the film was heavy on expensive visuals, featuring 2,400 scenes with special effects in its runtime of just 141 minutes, the paper noted. "The film's costumes were designed by Oscar-winner Ngila Dickson (Lord of the Rings), while Hollywood veteran Martín Hernandez served as audio director (The Revenant, Birdman) and Charlie Iturriaga (Deadpool, Furious 7) supervised the VFX work", according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The team accused Maoyan of using fake, paid reviewers to post 1-star ratings to artificially deflate the film's score, calling the alleged move "despicable, foolish, and ludicrous".

"It was garbage anyway", one reviewer wrote.