10 years ago, Hollywood was shoehorning Chinese actors into American movies to try to appeal to Chinese audiences.
Now they fund Chinese movies and shoehorn in American actors to try to appeal to American audiences.
Skyscraper is not a bad film, and calling it trash is admittedly a bit strong. In a vacuum, this is an inoffensive and forgettable Die Hard wannabe whose greatest sin is managing to make the Rock boring; it’s a weak six after a few drinks. But this film doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so we are going to look at the context around it.
Skyscraper is produced by Legendary Pictures, which, as of 2016, is owned by a Chinese conglomerate. This film takes place in Hong Kong, and half the cast is Chinese. The Rock and his on-screen family stand out as real the weirdos in this Asian city (which does actually have quite a history of being, well let’s put it as “cosmopolitan“). If it weren’t for him, this could pass completely as a Chinese film- which is what makes Skyscraper so condescending and annoying.
As the intro referred to, Hollywood has been trying to tap into China for years, and their first attempts involved them sticking Chinese or otherwise Asian actors into blockbuster films. However, over the past few years they seemed to have figured out that the key to breaking through in China is to have Chinese studios partially fund the films. Thus we have an increasing amount of films like Skyscraper which are funded in some part by Chinese studios or corporations. That is how we get to an otherwise Chinese film which has the Rock stuck in it to show in America to come full circle.
It was pathetic, pandering and annoying years ago when American films would awkwardly go to Asia for no reason or stick in some Asian actors to try to get some of that sweet, sweet Chinese dough. And it is pathetic, pandering and annoying now that we have obviously Chinese films that are being passed off as American to try to appeal to Westerners.
The fact that it it Chinese is not the issue; there is nothing wrong with watching international films, and it is in fact a good practice to do so to see how other cultures create their art and treat certain subjects. The issue comes from these studios and distributors trying to dupe and make fools of us by trying to pass off films like this as something resembling authenticity.
Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, this is the new world order in which we live. China is set to overtake U.S. and Canada in ticket sales, so this trend will only grow. No longer will major Western publishers and distributors make films that are for Western audiences, or even a sort of formless general audience. Instead, they will increasingly make films that are for Chinese audiences and try to pretend that they are for other people around the world. And if the result of this shift in audience appeal results in more films which are as painfully forgettable as Skyscraper, then China and us are much worse off for it.