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Double vision

Veteran Hong Kong filmmaker, Teddy Chen Tak-shum, is taking on the unforgiving genre of movies adapted from video games and doing it in his own, inimitable style, Xu Fan reports.

By Xu Fan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-08-13 07:35
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Clockwise from top left: Scenes from the video game-adapted blockbuster Double World featuring the tiger mastiff, a fictional creature; an orphan who becomes the hero, a role starring Henry Lau; thief-turned-warrior Jingang Xiaomei, played by Lin Chenhan; and the deserter portrayed by Peter Ho. CHINA DAILY

For more than half a year, Hong Kong director Teddy Chen Tak-shum has been stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A self-described travel enthusiast, the filmmaker best known for the award-winning blockbuster Bodyguards and Assassins, says his feelings are a bit complicated now.

Chen tells China Daily that he has become bored of his insipid self-quarantine, but is excited to see his latest directorial outing, Double World, make a huge splash overseas.

As one of China's biggest-budgeted video game-adapted films, Double World cost nearly 300 million yuan ($43.2 million) to make, with around 80 percent of it comprising 1,800 special-effects scenes.

The visual effects-created by a Chinese company, More VFX, best known for its work on China's highest grossing sci-fi epic, The Wandering Earth-took 26 months to produce.

The film skipped a cinematic premiere to debut online on July 24, and is now available on the streaming service iQiyi in China and globally on the US streaming platform Netflix.

Charging 24 yuan per view for non-subscribers and 12 yuan for subscribers on iQiyi, the film is adapted from Zheng Tu, a popular Chinese massive-multiplayer online role-playing game which has accumulated more than 500 million players.

Within its first week, Double World achieved huge popularity overseas, landing sixth on the list of the 10 most watched films on Netflix between July 24 and 31, according to the streaming analytics firm FlixPatrol.

"While reading the figures, I was quite surprised as I didn't expect that a story set in ancient China would be so welcomed in some foreign countries-for instance, Oman listed it as the most watched title, and Romania listed it as the second," says Chen.

However, the film has received mixed reviews online, with plaudits mostly going to the visual effects, but criticism leveled at the storytelling.

Taking the initiative to mention the online controversy, Chen says he has always classified filmmakers into two categories.

"There are 'cinema art creators', and there are 'cinema entertainment producers'," says Chen. "I believe I'm kind of the latter. I just want my films to entertain the audience rather than introduce too many thought-provoking elements."

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