Li Chen, director and leading character of the movie Sky Hunter Photo: IC
By Yang Sheng
After Wolf Warrior II, a popular action movie which broke the record of box office in China, another military movie Sky Hunter, produced jointly by the People's Liberation Army Air Force and civilian film companies, is ready to hit the screens on September 30, and the most advanced home-grown stealth fighter jet J-20 makes its first appearance in a movie.
In the future, Chinese military movies or war films will no longer merely stick to the stories about the past, like the Long March, World War II, War of Liberation and so on. More modern and fictional topics will be exploited for film productions and the PLA will also participate more deeply in film production because it can use the medium to introduce the progress of the military modernization of China and attract more young people to serve in the PLA, said Beijing-based military movie critic Dong Feng.
Lieutenant Colonel Zhang Li, a producer of Sky Hunter as well as an officer of the PLA Air Force, told the Global Times that "the original intention of the PLA Air Force to produce this movie is simple. We don't intend to make money; we want to use it to tell the people, especially the youth, what the PLA Air Force is like and what it can do to protect the country in this era and the future."
"Unfortunately, in the past, we didn't treat the publicity seriously, and we didn't produce successful films to shape the air force's image among the people. Interestingly, many young people who applied to become PLA fighter jet pilots were inspired by US-made Hollywood movies like Top Gun. Therefore, we have to produce a movie about the PLA Air Force that can touch the heart of our own people," Zhang said.
According to the trailer of the film, the PLA Air Force has used its advanced aircraft and main combat weapons to support the filming. The fighter jets including J-20, J-10C, J-11, J-11B and J-16 can be seen in the trailer. Some foreign fighter jets like US-made F-15 and France-made Mirage are also displayed in the air combat with the PLA fighter jets.
Apart from fighter jets, other aircraft like Y-20 heavy transport aircraft, KJ-500 early warning aircraft and CH-5 surveillance/strike drone are also shown in the trailer. Zhang told the Global Times that "the biggest difference between Sky Hunter and Wolf Warrior is that the latter is produced by civilian film companies and they have no support from the PLA, so there is no comparison between these two movies in terms of equipment."
Senior Colonel Chen Hao, the chief planner of the film and the deputy head of the publicity bureau under the Political Work Department of the PLA Air Force, said that "in the past we could only use very basic ground force weapons like tanks and artilleries to produce a war film. Since China's military modernization has made so many remarkable achievements, it is time for us to use thrilling weapons to make an inspiring movie."
The story line of the film is also innovative, and Zhang said the movie will start a new era of Chinese military films, because this is the first time for the Chinese military forces to conduct large-scale military combat operations abroad for a movie.
But some Net users raised questions about the story after watching the trailer. The trailer shows that the story is about counterterrorism, but "fighter jets are not built for counterterrorism, so the story might not be very credible."
"The story is mainly about counterterrorism but how we use advanced aircraft like J-20 and J-10C in a counterterrorism mission becomes a challenge for the scriptwriters. Therefore, we decided to make the story bigger: a fictional country in Central Asia faces a serious terrorist crisis planned by military officers as well as both domestic and foreign terrorists. Then the government which fails to address the crisis, asks China to launch military intervention to save the country and also safeguard regional peace," Zhang said.
"Chinese citizens in the fictional country have been kidnapped by the rebels and kept as hostages in a missile launching base which the rebels seized from the government, and the rebels and terrorists threaten to use the ballistic missiles against China. In this kind of a situation which requires strong capability for fast response, the PLA Air Force becomes the only force that China can rely on," Zhang elaborated.
The movie can also reflect the PLA's vision and idea for modern warfare and the use of air force in the future, Zhang noted. "The operation in the film is not just about a group of pilots or soldiers, but a whole combat operation system including fighter jets, airborne special forces, satellite, UAVs (drone), early warning aircraft and so on. It displays our vision on the combination of space and aeronautics," Zhang further said.