Christopher Nolan’s latest smash hit “Dunkirk” may be doing big numbers at the box office around the world, but in China the film is facing a more muted reception, and even calls for a boycott.
“Dunkirk” opened in mainland China on Sept. 1, and though it reached the top of the box office there, it did so with a relatively small $29 million, a little over half its opening weekend total in North America.
The Chinese newspaper the Global Times reported that part of the reason for the tepid response is that the film celebrates an evacuation of British troops during World War II. One outlet quoted in the Global Times compares the film to the successful Chinese film “Warrior Wolf 2”, stating, “while Wolf Warrior 2 portrays a complete victory, Dunkirk depicts is a disastrous evacuation, which is very different from traditional Chinese values.”
“Dunkirk” is also facing calls for a boycott by some in China over its depiction of General Harold Alexander, who conducted the evacuation. At another point in the war, Alexander was involved in the evacuation of Chinese troops from Burma into India, which some speculate resulted in extraordinary casualties for Chinese forces.
One commenter on the website Sina Weibo urged Chinese audiences to keep that history in mind, writing, “Do not be misled by this film. The truth is that the British used and then sold out our expeditionary force. Now they want to glorify themselves.”
Despite the problems for the film in China, “Dunkirk” (featuring One Direction’s Harry Styles in his first acting role) has been an unqualified success around the globe, bringing a total of over $460 million worldwide so far.
The Toronto International Film Festival will also be hosting a free screening of “Dunkirk” on Sept. 10 at the newly renovated Cinesphere at Ontario Place to celebrate the 50th anniversary of IMAX, with Christopher Nolan in attendance.