Why Star Wars Has Always Struggled In China, According To Rogue One’s Donnie Yen


For all of its box office dominance at home and overseas, Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise has always struggled to leave much of a mark on China. But why?

The problem is two-fold, it seems. For one, the Original Trilogy never received a wide release in the Middle Kingdom, while films like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi became a hard sell because they rely so heavily on callbacks to the Star Wars films of old.

By stark contrast, China’s biggest Hollywood imports (see: The Fast and the Furious franchise) have managed to rack up almost $400 million in box office receipts, leaving Lucasfilm’s recent Star Wars in the dust – Solo, for instance, took just $10.1M during its opening weekend in the Middle Kingdom.

Rogue One is the outlier in this particular scenario, though, as the well-received performances of its Chinese co-stars, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, helped stir excitement for the 2016 Anthology pic. So when Yen was asked to diagnose the franchise’s poor track record in China, the actor told JoBlo the following:

Yeah, and that’s unfortunate. Star Wars… Chinese audiences didn’t grow up with Star Wars culture so, unfortunately, it didn’t work. Marvel is a lot easier to understand. Star Wars, there’s a whole universe out there. Marvel, from the costumes, to the music, to the idols, to the stars, it’s much easier to close the gap between the film itself and the audience.

Without that nostalgia factor to cash in on, Star Wars, as a franchise, will have to settle for mediocrity at the Chinese box office, while other big-name Hollywood IPs like Fast and Furious and the rebooted Jurassic World reign supreme.

Next up for Lucasfilm’s space opera is the untitled Star Wars: Episode IX, which is now filming ahead of its arrival next Christmas.