By Joy Fang
IT WAS East versus West in a clash of the blockbuster sequels last weekend, with Hong Kong martial-arts film Ip Man 2 going head-to-head with Hollywood comic-book adaptation, Iron Man 2.
So, who won the battle of the box office in Singapore?
Superhero flick Iron Man 2 beat martial-arts film Ip Man 2 by close to S$1 million.
Iron Man 2 was the No. 1 film at the local box office from last Friday to Sunday, grossing more than S$2.6 million over its three-day opening, including evening sneaks last Thursday.
In 2008, the first film earned S$2.6 million over a five-day opening weekend.
Iron Man 2's opponent, Hong Kong's Ip Man 2, earned S$1.74 million during its opening weekend here from last Thursday to Sunday, including last Wednesday's sneaks. Its first instalment earned S$827,000 on its opening weekend in 2008.
Worldwide, Iron Man 2 is doing well - it has brought in US$100.2 million (S$137.9 million) in 53 foreign markets. It opens in the United States on Friday.
Ip Man 2 was a winner in Hong Kong, grossing HK$13 million (S$2.3 million), while Iron Man 2 took in HK$11 million there.
It has opened in Australia and China, though no figures were available for those countries at press time. It will also open in the US next year.
Film critic Tay Yek Keak said that, while he is surprised by the narrow box-office margin here between the two movies, there is simply no fight.
"You can't beat a Hollywood blockbuster with an Asian film. The buzz for the Iron Man sequel was huge, and its marketing campaign alone could kill the Asian movie," he said.
Lead actor Robert Downey Jr was the main draw, who created anticipation for the sequel, he said.
"Everybody loves him. He makes the metal man come alive, and makes him cheeky and fun. He's like Charlie Chaplin in an iron suit. The build-up to the Avengers film is also a big pop draw," Mr Tay added.
Iron Man 2 will segue into the upcoming Avengers movie, slated for a release in 2012. The Avengers, also a Marvel Comics adaptation, refers to a team of superheroes which includes Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man.
my paper film reviewer Yong Shu Hoong said that Ip Man 2 lead actor Donnie Yen, unfortunately, does not have an edge in terms of star power when facing off with Hollywood star Downey Jr.
Also, Singaporeans tend to prefer Hollywood blockbusters over Asian films because they have better special effects, bigger budgets, and famous Western stars, he added.
Iron Man 2's production budget was a whopping US$200 million, while Ip Man 2's was US$12.9 million.
Although Yen is a charismatic hero, Ip Man 2's target demographic is older, and is limited to a Chinese audience, said Mr Tay.
Iron Man fan Wyman Hor, 25, said that although the Iron Man's first offering was better than its second in terms of plot, he still thinks the sequel is a must-watch.
The action and new characters, such as Black Widow and War Machine, make it a very exciting film, and it appeals to his "inner desire to be rich and fly in oh-so-cool iron-alloy armour", said the information-technology executive.
But other fans who watched both films found Iron Man 2 wanting.
Design engineer Fang Zhiheng, 27, felt that the superhero sequel turned out to be another predictable explosive summer blockbuster with no heart. That is a shame, he said.
Ip Man 2 - a semi-biographical movie based on the life of the Wing Chun grandmaster who later became gongfu legend Bruce Lee's martial-arts teacher - scores, he said, because of its excellent action sequences combined with witty lines and a heartwarming storyline.
"The plot did a good job invoking feelings of Chinese patriotism among its audience," Mr Fang said.
"Many Chinese Singaporeans are very proud of their culture and heritage," he added.
Respiratory-therapy assistant Justin Tan, 20, agreed. He felt that Ip Man 2 was a more honest film which did not depend on CGI to bring across a simple yet strong message - that we should respect one other, he said.
In the film, a British boxer puts down Chinese martial arts and Ip Man must use his skills to defeat him.
"After watching both films, all I know is that I wanted to learn Wing Chun more than I wanted to be Iron Man," Mr Tan quipped.
Overall, Ip Man 2's early takings in Singapore have surpassed those of previous Chinese blockbusters, such as epic film Red Cliff 2, which brought in S$1.26 million on its opening weekend here, and Shinjuku Incident, which raked in S$939,000.
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