Chinese Box Office Phenomenon ‘Ne Zha’ Is Now Playing In North America
Barely a month after it opened in China, Ne Zha has hit American shores. It plays in select IMAX 3D theaters across the U.S. and Canada this week, followed by an expansion on September 6 (watch the English-subbed trailer below). The cg feature comes with quite the pedigree — it’s the only foreign animated movie that has ever opened in North America with over $500 million already in the bank.
In fact, Ne Zha has already earned over $669 million from its home territory in a mere 35 days. It is now the third-highest grossing film ever in China. The only two films to have done better at the country’s box office are live-action blockbusters, one of which — The Wandering Earth — Ne Zha looks set to surpass.
Much of that runaway success can be attributed to the film’s subject: the eponymous hero is a well-known figure from Chinese mythology. Here is the official synopsis:
A young boy, Nezha, is birthed from a heavenly pearl by the Primeval Lord of Heaven. Born with unique powers, Nezha finds himself as an outcast who is hated and feared. Destined by prophecy to bring destruction to the world, the young boy must choose between good and evil in order to break the shackles of fate and become the hero.
But Ne Zha has also received rave reviews in China, where it holds an 8.6 score on leading film rating platform Douban. It’s a triumph for first-time writer-director Yang Yu (aka Jiao Zi) and production company Beijing Enlight Media, which only six weeks ago was reporting an alarming plunge in its profits.
American critics have been more moderate in their praise. Writing in The New York Times, Ben Kenigsberg described the film as “a computer-animated feature of bright hues, hectic action, and only occasional charm,” and warned that the plot “assumes a passing acquaintance with [the Nezha legend].” The Los Angeles Times’s Michael Rechtshaffen was a little warmer: “Residing just beneath all the visual razzle dazzle is a stirring message of empowerment.”
Ne Zha is distributed by Well Go USA, an indie outfit with a strong track record in Asian titles. It screens in Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles. For a list of participating theaters, head to the distributor’s website. The film is also on release in Australia and New Zealand.
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