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