Monsters lack the local touch

Updated 2016-12-30 10:57:36 China Daily
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Monsters are typically Westernized like the one portrayed in the 2015 Chinese fantasy film Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe.

Monsters are typically Westernized like the one portrayed in the 2015 Chinese fantasy film Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe.

Over the years, filmgoers in China have griped that monsters portrayed in Chinese films look like those seen in Western movies. But things could be about to change.

After watching Zhang Yimou's filmThe Great Walllast week, Gu Meng was impressed by the army of Tao Tie monsters from Chinese mythology. However, he complained that the Tao Tie in Zhang's film were not "Chinese" monsters.

"They looks like Western ones with Chinese names. They have more in common with monsters from Hollywood films, such as Godzilla," says Gu, a programmer in Beijing who loves monster movies.

Gu is not the only one to feel this way. Many Chinese netizens say that as the Tao Tie is seen as one of the four evil creatures-and is believed to be the offspring of a dragon, according Chinese mythology-it should have been portrayed as a single beast, instead of hoards of ant-like beasts in the film.

But the complaints are not only about Tao Tie.

Chinese have long complained that monsters portrayed in domestic movies look like those in Western films. That's not surprising, since many were created by Western companies.

The Tao Tie in Zhang's film, which is based on the Chinese literary work,Classic of Mountains and Seas, has been created by the New Zealand company Weta Workshop.

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Bolg, an orc from the fantasy movie The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.

Bolg, an orc from the fantasy movie The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.

Gao Xia, a concept designer with Weta Workshop, who worked on rendering Tao Tie, says: "Chinese monsters are very different from their Western counterparts. It is also more difficult to portray Chinese monsters on screen because of the cultural factor."

Pointing out some of the challenges involved in creating Chinese monsters, he says that, for example, the eyes of Tao Tie must be under the arms according to mythology. However, in the film they are moved to the neck.

Referring to Hollywood creatures, he says: "They must be anatomically perfect. The veins of the monster, the color of its skin, the muscles and even the parasites in them must make sense."

Another problem with creating Chinese versions, he says, is that ancient paintings that portray Chinese monsters often use clouds and fire, and many monsters from folk tales and mythology only exist in the written form, making them difficult to portray.

"Just like Chinese ink paintings, we put more stress on imagination," says Gao.

Speaking about the difference between monsters from the East and West, Gino Acevedo, who has been involved in the creation of monsters for films likeThe Lord of The Rings, The HobbitandAlien, says Eastern culture is fond of the powers of supernatural beings, while the West turns to nature for inspiration.

Acevedo himself is a good example of a monster expert inspired by nature.

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A fish-like monster from the folk tale Madam White Snake created by Chinese artist Wu Jian'an.

A fish-like monster from the folk tale Madam White Snake created by Chinese artist Wu Jian'an.

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