The movie "Lonely Walking on the Moon" poster. Image courtesy of Linpin
The lunar robot in the movie "The Wandering Earth 2". Image courtesy of Linpin
Together with courage and hope, we head towards the vast universe. On April 12, the Chinese sci-fi movie "The Wandering Earth 2" was released in Russia. It is the first Chinese film released by Russia on the occasion of the International Manned Space Day and the Russian Cosmonautics Festival in the past 20 years, and it aroused enthusiastic responses from local audiences. In January of this year, the film was released simultaneously domestically and overseas, and once ranked among the top ten box office in North America.
In recent years, represented by films such as "The Wandering Earth", a number of high-quality masterpieces of Chinese science fiction films have emerged, not only gaining excellent reputation and considerable box office in China, but also gaining positive responses in overseas markets. The eyes of many foreign movie fans are gradually shifting from "Chinese martial arts" to "Chinese science fiction". They use this to further understand Chinese people's cognition of the universe, imagination of the future, and thinking about the relationship between people and technology. A unique Chinese expression in science fiction films, a film genre originated from the West.
Demonstrate the core of Chinese culture and technological strength
Chinese science fiction literature and art has gone through a century of development. In the early part of the 20th century, science fiction was a long-term part of the enlightenment, undertaking the responsibility of popularizing science and disseminating knowledge, and boosting the development of Chinese science fiction literature and art. With the increasing popularity of film technology, from the 1930s to the 1950s, Chinese filmmakers created "Shanghai Beach 60 Years Later" and "Fantasy of the Ming Tombs Reservoir" and other sci-fi films with the flavor of the times. Since the 1980s, unique sci-fi films such as "Displacement", "Synthetic Man" and "Atmosphere Disappearance" have come out. Since the beginning of the 21st century, films with sci-fi elements such as "Yangtze River No. 7" and "Future Police" have landed in theaters one after another. These sci-fi themes or works with sci-fi elements laid the foundation for the enlightenment and development of Chinese sci-fi films. With the significant improvement of China's comprehensive national strength and great progress in science and technology, Chinese science fiction literature and art has increasingly released remarkable cultural imagination and creativity.
For sci-fi movies to "go global", high-quality content that highlights Chinese cultural characteristics is the foundation, and scientific and technological strength and original atmosphere are the key. Contemporary Chinese sci-fi filmmakers consciously employ scientists and engineers in related fields as consultants during their creative process, extensively integrate disciplinary resources and creative inspiration from modern science and engineering technology, and rigorously display technological creations based on scientific theories and sci-fi settings. The hard core of technology gives sci-fi movies an internal logic that can withstand scrutiny and convincing detailed design.
The main creator is skilled in using film audio-visual language, and is good at creating a sense of magnificence and sublime in his works. He presents the macro vision of modern science or China's major scientific and technological achievements in an artistic and beautiful way, leading the audience to contemplate the community of shared future for mankind from the perspective of the universe, and inspire emotions. resonance. For example, in the movie "Lonely Walking on the Moon", the protagonist Duguyue and the kangaroo say their final goodbyes at the lunar orbital space station named "Guanghan Palace". Although the name "Guanghan Palace" has existed since ancient times, it is here taken from the name of the area where the Chinese Yutu lunar rover carried out inspections and explorations on the lunar surface, in order to pay tribute to the Chinese lunar exploration project. It can be said that the integration of scientific exploration, aesthetic pursuit and ideological feelings has greatly enhanced the cultural connotation of Chinese science fiction films, and the universality of this integration has further enhanced the international communication power of the works.
The value expression of Chinese science fiction films embodies the core of Chinese culture. For example, "The Wandering Earth 2" does not portray the protagonist as a lone hero who "changes his fate against the sky with his own strength", but a member of a community of human destiny that shares weal and woe with everyone and helps each other in adversity. The plot of "Three Hundred Warriors Detonated the Moon" that resonated strongly with many audiences is just the externalization of the collective heroism advocated by Chinese people from ancient times to the present. For another example, in the face of the common crisis encountered by human society, the "Wandering Earth" series gives the answer "Take the earth to wander". This not only makes the film full of the heroic spirit of "dare to make sacrifices, dare to teach the sun and the moon to replace the sky", but also reflects the relationship between the homeland feelings in the Chinese blood and the "facing the stars and the sea" to expand the territory. dynamic balance.
In the history of world science fiction films, the expression of cross-species emotional connections, such as the establishment of relationships between humans and alien life, can be described as a classic theme. Contemporary Chinese science fiction films are good at creatively transforming the conception of Chinese and foreign literary works. In "Lonely Moon", Duguyue partners with a kangaroo who was also forgotten on the moon. In order to provide energy for the solar rover, he and the kangaroo went west to catch up with the sun. This paragraph not only uses the plot of the science fiction writer Jeffrey Landers' novel "Chasing the Sun", but also pays tribute to the myth of "Kua Fu chasing the sun" in "Shan Hai Jing". In the most romantic scene in the whole film, we see the kangaroo pulling a cart and galloping on the surface of the moon, and then flying over the crater, leaving a magnificent silhouette with the earth as the background. This paragraph also reminds many "sci-fi fans" of the classic segment of the sci-fi movie "ET Alien". The delicate warmth of the East, intertwined with ingenious variations on themes familiar to "sci-fi fans" around the world, has added a lot of color to Chinese science fiction films.
Create a more mature film industry system
Chinese sci-fi films are steadily going overseas, supported by a mature industrial ecology. In the past few decades, the exploration and development of Chinese science fiction literature and art has cultivated a market for Chinese science fiction films. Chinese film production is becoming more and more sophisticated, which provides strong industrial support for the advent of Chinese science fiction blockbusters. It is in such soil that the emergence of the "Wandering Earth" series is possible.
A film is an audio-visual art, and a mature production level that can withstand the nitpicking of the audience is a hard indicator of whether a work can successfully "go global". The production team of "The Wandering Earth" learned from the operation experience of mature foreign film industry systems, and established an industrial assembly line-style division of labor and cooperation system and a standardized process management mechanism according to local conditions, thus successfully completing this large-scale and highly technology-intensive series of films. After the filming of the first "The Wandering Earth" was completed, the main creative team and the Beijing Film Academy jointly established a film industrialization laboratory. During the filming of "The Wandering Earth 2", the laboratory members specially recorded the deficiencies in each link, and the "Mistakes Collection" was printed to be a full 50 centimeters thick. The goal pursued by contemporary Chinese sci-fi filmmakers has shifted from "producing a single exquisite shot" to "producing thousands of good shots in a process-based and managed manner", in order to establish an increasingly perfect Chinese sci-fi film industry system.
"Lonely on the Moon" has also reached a high industrial level. In order to simulate the real moon dust, the film crew ground 200 tons of stones into sand and laid them in the studio, and built a moon base in real scene in the 6,000-square-meter studio. Among the nearly 2,000 special effects shots in the film, the most difficult one is the production of the kangaroo character. The visual effects team used the computing power of 2,500 distributed parallel cluster computing systems to solve the problem of close-range, high-precision kangaroo image rendering, and created a lifelike kangaroo image with as many as 50 million hairs. The production precision, simulation and artistic sense of this digital creature character have reached the current international first-class level.
In addition to high-level production standards, mainstream commercial films under the mature film industry system also have the characteristics of genre superposition and genre compounding. If "The Wandering Earth" is a composite of science fiction and disaster films, "Lonely Walking on the Moon" is based on science fiction and disaster genres, and superimposed the signature comedy genre of the "Happy Twist" team. Cleverly superimposing two or more film types can also help the film gain a wider audience.
At present, the industrialization of Chinese science fiction films is still in its infancy, and there is still much to learn and improve. For example, the scale expansion and form expansion of prop model reserves, the sustainable recycling of props and scenery, the creative absorption of art films, the cross-media development and value amplification of sci-fi intellectual property rights, the construction of supporting mechanisms for upstream and downstream collaboration in the industrial chain, And cross-industry, cross-field collaborative linkage development, etc. On the way forward, Chinese sci-fi filmmakers still need to extensively absorb advanced international experience and learn advanced technologies to further promote the high-quality development of China's sci-fi film industry.
The value core and artistic expression of Chinese science fiction films are deeply rooted in the land under our feet, inheriting China's long history and culture. The improvement of the level and transnational dissemination of Chinese science fiction films depends on the overall development of the construction of the Chinese film industrialization system under the integration and mutual learning. It is believed that Chinese sci-fi films and sci-fi literature and art will continue to bloom with vigor and vitality, and tell richer and more beautiful Chinese stories to the world.
(Author unit: College of Liberal Arts, Capital Normal University)