There’s an Epidemic in Hollywood

And it’s called Wanda Group (among others).

There’s an Epidemic in Hollywood
Photo by Nick Fewings / Unsplash

I recently had the chance to view Pacific Rim: Uprising and to say that I was disappointed would be a severe understatement. Pacific Rim, the original film directed by Guillermo del Toro, was a piece of absolute genius. Pulling from monster movie, science fiction, and “big damn robot” tropes, it created an epic that promised to spawn a massive future science fiction series. del Toro is on record as saying that there were to be planned multiple projects in this Pacific Rim Universe, as well as a possible animated series. In an age where long form “universe stories” are all the rage, this seemed like the perfect move.

And then the Wanda Group, a Chinese multinational conglomerate, bought Legendary, the company responsible for producing Pacific Rim. From there, everything went down hill.

Now, China has a clear vested interest in expanding its political and social power far beyond its borders. While the United States and other western powers continue to make moves on the territory surrounding China, attempting to “contain” the Chinese influence, China has also been busy. Chinese corporations are buying into every major industry on the planet at an alarming rate, from small music colleges in New Jersey to AMC.

When it comes to the effect that Chinese companies have on the film industry, what we instantly see is an arm of cultural projection. This is a very long-form perspective which, while perhaps not overtly orchestrated, does create the end-point of essentially producing pro-Chinese entertainment material; pro-Chinese sentiments buried within the fiction that billions of people outside China consume.

In Pacific Rim: Uprising, it also created a terrible film. Given control of the franchise, its new Chinese owners naturally brought in a strong China-centric plot, complete with Chinese stars. This is the same practice that has been used in other films as we see Chinese actors and actresses, and Chinese themes, growing as a powerful aspect of blockbuster films. Now, there were other glitches with Uprising, don’t get me wrong. The fact that del Toro was not the director (Steven S. DeKnight directed the film and his other work is not exactly stellar) was a problem; but at the end of the day it’s the moneylenders who control the fate of a film (especially when it comes to a big blockbuster project). There’s no doubt in my mind that the elements which concentrated on China were ones specifically connected to the acquisition of Legendary by a Chinese multicorp.

And so: the movie failed. Painfully, terrible, awfully.

But what does this mean for Hollywood on a much larger scale? Those of you who have read my other pieces know that I am not a fan of modern capitalism, nor am I fan of the horrifying media industry spanning the planet (an industry which functions by creating systems of fear and oppression; by gently and not-so-gently controlling exactly what sort of things people watch and listen to and read). But there is something just plain creepy about this increasingly dedicated expansion by Chinese companies and, while some have looked at this and taken note, the capitalistic system as it currently stands is utterly defenseless against this sort of tumor. When the only mission of a philosophy is to consume resources and generate wealth for a minority class, well… there will be problems for everyone else.

I’m not saying that China is always in the wrong (though, by golly, they do seem to get up to some pretty terrifying things) but there needs to be serious consideration about how its gaining power - and where that power applies pressure. Perhaps losing a few blockbuster films to Hollywood is not the largest tragedy of our generation — we have many far worse tragedies to contend with. But what happens to the media that we all consume does matter, in the end. We’re being told, all the time, what it is we should be thinking — perhaps this can be a wake-up call to recognize this fact and take action — not against Chinese actors appearing in films, but against systems of extreme financial control, where insanely massive corporate groups wield unlimited power to project their influence and decide the lives of local communities and individuals alike. Perhaps this problem of the Wanda Group can become the warning flare that makes people pay attention to the fact that they’re being duped at home, too, just as much as by some foreign corporate power.

Perhaps, too, some awareness of this sort of thing will also help keep great films from being totally screwed-over. We’ve got to make sure we stick to our priorities, after all.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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