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Asian superheroes come to rescue of region's film industry

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Asian filmmakers who have watched in envy as U.S. superheroes have won billions at the international box office are determined not to let Hollywood have everything its own way.

At this week's 13th Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), a buzz has been building about a Korean production that looks set to take on Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Man at their own game.

On the sidelines of the festival, industry insiders have been rallying support for Asia's own brand of superhero.

The $12 million "Jeon Woo Chi" has been the talk of the festival with its producer Lee Eugene calling it the "most anticipated project in Korea."

Featuring Korean superstars Gang Dong-won, Lim Soo-jung and Kim Yun-seok, it follows a time-traveling Taoist magician and his fight against a band of nasty goblins.

Lee hopes the film will take on Hollywood's blockbusters when it is released next summer and its anticipated four-month shooting schedule is one of the longest in Korean film history.

"It's going to be very different from a Hollywood clear-cut 'good' superhero," Lee told reporters. "Jeon Woo Chi is a rascal and quite mischievous."

The film is certainly up against the odds when it comes to box office figures, as Hollywood's current trend of plundering America's comic book back catalogue is reaping huge rewards.

The latest edition of the Batman franchise, "The Dark Knight," earned more than $460 million in foreign ticket sales alone, while "Iron Man" with $253 million, and "Spider-Man 3" with $554 million, also enjoyed massive paydays from the international market.

To Asia's embattled local film industries, hit hard both by poor box office returns and dwindling production numbers, these are figures beyond the wildest of dreams.

But that doesn't mean Asian filmmakers are not going to put up a fight.

PIFF has this year included a Superheroes in Asia section featuring 11 regional films from the past half century, which have been enthusiastically received.

"In Japan, we have had our own heroes such as Ultraman since the 1960s," said Japanese film producer Shozo Ichiyama.

"The important factor is you have to make your heroes different from the United States' ones. That's why one of our Japanese heroes, Gekko Kamen (a masked Japanese avenger on a motorcycle), has a motto 'Don't kill him, forgive him.' It is different from the American mindset."

In recent times, local box office heroes such as India's time-traveling Krrish and Malaysia's Cicakman, part man, part lizard, part legend -- both featured in Busan -- have managed to stand up to the Hollywood challenge.

Veteran Philippine film critic Edward Cabagnot says history has shown that smart Asian filmmakers have been able to look to the West and learn.

"We love our heroes in Asia," he says. "In the Philippines for example we have taken what America has given us and made it local. That's why a character such as our Darna, who has been around since the 1950s, is basically Wonder Woman but with local characteristics. Like Philippine society itself, her stories are a mix of Catholic guilt with Hollywood glamour."

Perhaps the only film region in the world to keep Hollywood's heroes at bay has been India, where "Spider-Man 3" failed to make the box office top 20, pulling in just $380,000.

"The reasons for this are simple," said critic Meenakshi Shedde. "Indian cinema already has a sense of the fantastic, so the audience is not impressed with Hollywood heroes.

"Just take a look at what your average Bollywood hero does during the course of a film -- he can fight, sing, dance and basically do anything he wants. So nothing American cinema does really surprises or impresses us."

Just why we seem to love superheroes so much was another matter up for debate in Busan.

Joo Youshin, who lectures in cinema theory at Yongsan University in Seoul, believes the success of the Hollywood heroes reflects universal human desires.

"They speak to us about the contradictions we feel in society everywhere," she says. "And sometimes they reflect our psyche too."

But Cabagnot has a simpler explanation. "Sometimes we just like them because they are sexy," he says.

"In Asia, of course we can copy this. It is how we can be successful. And no one has the copyright on sexy. Not even Hollywood."

© Wire reports

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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I think it's due to the inferiorty that many Asians and Japanese in particularly ( mainly because of their rathar shamefull participantcy in WW2) feel towards Americans and because of that Asians failed to produce a superhero to the extent of Spiderman and Batman , because it's got something to do with that iferiority sentiment that leads to the general preception that a superhero is an American .

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I think it's due to the inferiorty that many Asians and Japanese in >particularly ( mainly because of their rathar shamefull participantcy in >WW2) feel towards Americans and because of that Asians failed to produce >a superhero to the extent of Spiderman and Batman

I disagree. For one, most of the Japanese with any shameful participation in WWII are either dead or a stone's throw from it and have nothing to do with the article whatsoever. Secondly, if one reads the article, it clearly points out how Asian nations have had their own superheroes. While any kid growing up in the US in the 1960s and 70s would know of Superman, Batman, Spiderman et al, who outside of the US would have heard of them? To go on about inferiority based on this article is assinine.

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The Dark Knight was a great movie, because of the special effects, great screen play, great acting, and alot of cash. Good Luck !!!! Please no more flying in the air with ropes. Chinese movies are so boring. (red cliff) (croutching tiger hidden dragon) I am tired of seeing massive army against 1,2,3,4 people with a sword(s). Boring !!!!!!

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If anyone had an inferiority complex, it was the creators of such lame characters as Superman, the Hulk, Batman, etc. Children of immigrants living in grimy New York City at the bottom of the social pecking order and resentful every day for it. Each time I hear another insipid U.S. comic book hero is being brought to the big screen, I think to myself "You mean there is another one?" Yes, another one dragged from the rubbish bin to remind Americans that imagination has run out in Hollywood.

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I'm hanging out for a live screen version of Anpanman with Kimutaku in the title role.

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Kekko kamen is much better than Gekko Kamen ;p and no killing? watch Garo, or most kamen riders have people dying in them

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<"quote"> That’s why one of our Japanese heroes, Gekko Kamen (a masked Japanese avenger on a motorcycle), has a motto ‘Don’t kill him, forgive him.’ It is different from the American mindset.” </"quote">

Correct me if I'm wrong, but neither Superman nor Batman kill people. In fact, which American superhero's do? (The X-Men and Spawn are the only ones that immediatly come to mind).

I mean, I'm not American so I couldn't give a damn what Japanese think the "american mindset" is, I just found this comment a little odd.

On top of that I love Japanese people, they are very patient and slow to anger (sometimes too slow IMO) but one thing they are not (in my experiance) is especially forgiving.

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they could have supersalaryman or the silver-haired surfer-type in Japan,but the names are too long for mass appeal.

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JayJaye

I'm with you there. I found it quite strange someone thinks the mindset of american superheroes is to just kill that bad guys. Usually, that's the very LAST resort.

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remember superman, christopher reeves? well, he was a parapelegic... i don't really care for any hollywood 'superhero', that's why i sign up for free blockbuster or netflix trials, rent the trash, and then cancel my subscription. ha ha ha!

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i wish any Asian film crew the best of luck. however, when it comes to airing their productions in the U.S., i am very pessismistic, for that's the center of the universe, according to those racists.

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NOBODY beats this guy!

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz-mJed_bP0

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Actually Asia had their very best superhero back in the early 1970s. Bruce Lee.

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Ok I just ahd to laugh atbthis one...The cool Bollywood Superhero who can fight and dance???Ha! Ha! I think tears are coming out.

I think those are hilarious, how could I possibly see them as superheros.

Come on...Christopher Reeves=Superman???? Not a chance! He only played the character; Superman is a comic superhero. He could be anybody. the same goes foe Batman and Wonder Woman. I have to admit, we have cool looking super heros. They have been long lasting and reinvented and people still love them. Who doesn't want to be like them.

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