Big news keeps pouring out from China, this time involving the Spider-Man franchise producer Avi Arad creating a Chinese “global franchise,” themed after the legendary Mongolian hero Genghis Khan, with the backing of Chinese money and the state-owned China Film Group. Does this sound odd? Genghis Khan vs. Spider Man, and capitalist Hollywood vs. communist-controlled film group with a heavy agenda to promote the Party/state ideology? It is no wonder that, when reporting this news, deadline.com writer Nancy Tartaglione added one brilliant tagline: “It’s often said about China that the bigger the announcement, the less real the deal.”
Bruno Wu, CEO of the Seven Stars Entertainment of China, announcing the co-production of Genghis Khan’s Treasure, a “historical epic in 3D,” produced by Avi Arad and scheduled to be released in 2016.
I am not saying that this project wouldn’t go through. My hunch is that, the “strange baby,” conceived as a “global franchise” involving a private Chinese company (with good connection with the government), a state-owned and Party-controlled company, and a Hollywood producer who claimed he has “done my [his] research with China,” and to be helmed by Mongolian woman director Lisi Mai, whose track record is highlighted by Chinese patriotism and nationalism, is destined to fail or at least fall far short of its original ambition.
Here is the deadline.com‘s coverage of the announcement of the project:
In late 2011, Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Entertainment announced a joint venture with producer Avi Arad. The aim was wide-ranging: to develop superhero franchise properties across live-action tentpoles, animated TV series, merchandising, digital platforms, and mobile apps. All of the stories were to be inspired by Chinese history and mythology. In 2013 the venture morphed into a more formal agreement that created Dragon Entertainment.
It’s often said about China that the bigger the announcement, the less real the deal. Feeding that theory, there’s been no public-facing fruit from the Wu-Arad hookup since the jv was first unveiled. But a new project with an important stamp of approval from the China Film Group could change that.
Bruno Wu with his celebrity wife, Yang Lan, often known as “the Oprah of China,” at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Dragon Entertainment has entered into a multi-year co-development and co-production agreement with China Film Co, the distribution and production arm of the state-run CFG, which essentially controls distribution [of Hollywood films] in China and is also [one of] the biggest producer[s] of local films and co-productions. In other words, its involvement makes for a more real deal.
The new head of CFC, La Peikang, Arad, and Wu say the first project to be produced under the deal is Genghis Khan’s Treasure, a 3D adventure epic about the legendary conqueror. Mongolian filmmaker Lisi Mai is attached to direct. It is fully financed and set to go into production next year for a 2016 release. The English-language film is yet to cast, but will seek Chinese and American actors. CFG will release in China and Arad says it will have a Hollywood studio partner.
Wu says he sees the pic as a “global franchise,” and Arad tells me it’s “designed to be a worldwide tentpole.” The Spider-Man franchise producer has had a “total fascination” with factual stories of the world and Genghis Khan’s is one of them. He feels “it’s definitely a brand and an intellectual historical account of him that’s unbeknownst to a lot of people.” Sequels to the history – or continuations – are eyed.
It can’t be denied in today’s world that Hollywood and China are wannabe bed-partners. In the same heady breath it can’t be said that there’s a lot of foreplay that reaches climax. Arad tells me regarding his dance with Wu, “I am very cautious and only do what I really like. I’ve done my research with China.”
Driving the announcement home, La Peikang says, “We are very pleased to be working with such proven producing talent. Given Dragon Entertainment’s China focus and strong current development slate, we look forward to an extremely prolific co-production partnership.”