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China’s military loves patriotic movies so much it opened its bases—and fighter jets—to filming

A scene from the Chinese action movie Sky Hunter
Sky Hunter/Hong Kong Cinema via YouTube
Ready for action.
By Steve Mollman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

In China it took less than two weeks for the locally made blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2 to become the nation’s highest-grossing film ever. Released in late July, the movie, essentially about punishing anyone who offends China, has struck a chord with many patriotic Chinese (in addition to sending a shiver down Hollywood’s spine).

Such fervor will be stoked by another film currently scheduled for release late next month: Sky Hunter. The first action movie focused on China’s modern air force, it follows elite soldiers as they resolve a hostage crisis and foil a terrorist plot. It stars A-list actress Fan Bingbing along with Li Chen, who also made his directorial debut.

During its making, the movie had strong support from the air force of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). That support included pilots flying some of the nation’s most advanced military planes, including the J-20 stealth fighter. Also pulled into action were Y-20 transport aircraft and various other jets. The PLA, long noted for secrecy, opened its bases for filming, and helped out with equipment, trainers, and dozens of experts.

A recent military parade marking the 90th anniversary of the PLA also helped fuel Chinese patriotism. Rather than a spic-and-span affair with soldiers marching past in dress uniform, it featured the dust and dirt of the Zhurihe training base in sand-swept Inner Mongolia, with images of it shown repeatedly by state broadcasters, and president Xi Jinping speaking from an open-top jeep in fatigues.

Of course China is hardly the first nation to mix patriotism and entertainment. But the success of Wolf Warrior 2 and the backing of Sky Hunter suggest it’s only just getting started in this arena.


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