The directing duo behind Marvel Studios’ blockbuster Captain America franchise has signed on with a Chinese production firm to create an original Chinese superhero trilogy that’s already been nicknamed “Captain China.”
Joe and Anthony Russo, directors of the Marvel franchise’s last two films, will co-produce China’s own version of Captain America, Chinese media reported this week, just as Captain America: Civil War hit screens worldwide. The film had the fifth-largest opening weekend of all time, earning $182 million in the US. China’s opening gross is a strong $96 million.
Now the world’s second-largest film market will make its own national superhero franchise, with Hollywood’s help. Chinese production firm Fangjin Media (Beijing) has signed a deal with the Russo brothers and their team to make an action sci-fi trilogy featuring an original Chinese superhero. The first film, The Hero’s Awakening, will go into production at the end of 2016 and hit theaters in early 2018, said Fangjin Media spokesperson Su Zhenping.
A Captain China comic has quietly been published by US-based independent publisher Excel Comics for years. In the little-known series, which came out in 2012, Captain China is an “enhanced soldier” who survives the Mao era, sleeps for 50 years, and wakes up in the modern age. The superhero wears a costume made of China’s national flag and a police cap, and is equipped with a Mauser pistol (used by the Red Army during World War 2).
Images from the comic are circulating online in China, though they have nothing to do with the Russo brothers’ upcoming films.
In the upcoming Chinese superhero films, the hero will not actually be named “Captain China,” Su said, adding that the trilogy is ”similar to Captain America.” The Beijing-based production company specializes in making noncommercial films aimed at domestic and Western film festivals, according to its website.
The first film of the series has a budget of around 350 million yuan ($53 million), and the trilogy a combined budget of 1.5 billion yuan ($230 million). (By comparison, Civil War’s production cost is $250 million.) The Russo brothers will co-produce the films, and their team will be in charge of everything from the screenplay to directing to special effects. The other two films, Nirvana and The Hero’s Sacrifice, are expected to hit Chinese theaters in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Joe Russo explained more about the upcoming Chinese superhero.
He can control things with his mind. And it’s an origin story, it’s a little bit of a through-the-looking-glass concept; he’s a normal person with a normal life and one day he happens upon the fact that he has these abilities and it opens up a whole world to him that he didn’t know existed.
The movie titles make the Chinese superhero franchise sound more like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and how the hero gets his superpower is a bit like Spiderman. While the name “Captain China” won’t be used in the films, the nickname has stuck in China. The nationalism of Captain America—a government-backed patriotic soldier—has sparked much discussion about what his Chinese counterpart will be like.
“Directors, can you really understand the core socialist values?” one blogger mockingly asked the Russo brothers on Sina Weibo (link in Chinese, registration required), referring to the ideology of the Communist Party.