Jon Jiang, a Chinese film-obsessed real estate tycoon, has produced a 3D film titled “Empires of the Deep” after costing $130 million and three years of effort. At $130 million, “Empires” is the most expensive Chinese movie ever produced and represents an investment of more than 20% of Jiang’s personal net worth. However, as it turns out, massive funding doesn’t help making a masterpiece. Watch the official trailer of “Empires of the Deep” after the break.
The maker described his movie is about “an unlikely love story between a young human and a mermaid… set in a mythical world”. After the movie’s trailer was released, it received a lot of critics from the publics and experts, saying it’s a “crappy underwater Avatar” or a “grainy live-action remake of The Little Mermaid”, while some said it’s a mash-up of “Avatar,” “Gladiator” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”, all thrown together in a Chinese hot pot.
Kristy Puchko, writing on CinemaBlend.com, commented:
“Live action scenes seem as low-budget as TV’s Xena: Warrior Princess, and computer graphics that look like a video game from the early 2000s.”
Film blog Indiewire suggested the film will never see a U.S. release, at least not in cinemas, and it said:
“With all the money spent, this looks cheap and woefully put together, with the talented Kurylenko left to flounder in cast of nobodies in a silly undersea adventure, with truly shoddy special effects”.
Mr.Jiang has been very strict on this project and faced many barricades when producing the film. First, the script. It was written by Mr. Jiang, and it had gone through 40 drafts with the help of 10 Hollywood screenwriters before Jiang was able to select a final version that met his vision. Second, the directors. Jiang originally picked Catwoman director Pitof as the director of his film, but Pitof refused. Therefore, Jiang sought Jonathan Lawrence, Michael French and Scott Miller, but none of whom had previously directed a big-budget action movie. Third, the actors. Jiang initially wanted Italian actress Monica Bellucci or Sharon Stone as the lead actress, but got refused. Eventually, the role went to former bond girl Olga Kurylenko. Lastly, the budget. Jiang’s film went over budget by more than 80 Million, late payments to cast and crew members.
Jiang was listed by Forbes in 2002 as one of China’s richest men, claimed that he had watched more than 4000 movies but has no prior filmmaking experience. He wanted to make “a very serious love tragedy” that “is a combination of something mystical, something that satisfies your bloodlust and something sensual.” Jiang called himself as an “International producer”. He compares himself not to Chinese filmmakers like Zhang Yimou, but to George Lucas, James Cameron and Peter Jackson, the titans of Hollywood fantasia.
Jiang claimed “Empires” was a co-production with a Hollywood company, E-magine Studios. But the company is owned by Mr. Jiang and his friends. Another major investor in the movie is a company in Zhejiang Province. In Mr. Jiang’s offices in Beijing, where dozens of young Chinese toil in cubicles on computer graphics for “Empires”. There are three items that are telling of Mr. Jiang’s ambitions: “Days until Monica Bellucci shows up on set. Days until the Cannes Film Festival. Days until the grand premiere.”
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