Film Review: Shock Wave 2 (2020) 影評《拆彈專家2》- Fact, News and Narrative Control
Updated: Jul 18, 2021
FILM AND REALITY
A journalistic approach to film is more socially appropriate than aesthetically approaching it.
In the past, film school teachers and students were all taught that film is all about human emotions or self-identification or enlightenment ''abstractly'' without any social context, without touching any single social issue of our society and the world.
That's fatally wrong and totally blind to our reality of social lives while ''social existence determines social consciousness''. We can't only focus on social consciousness itself by solely writing about social consciousness like paid critics and astroturfing commenters online. Their sheer ''professional'' aim is to mechanically and fraudulently boost box office as part of advertising marketing campaign and paid service by marketing companies and corporate mainstream media. On the contrary, true film writing is truthfully about journalistic facts not narrative in terms of social context.
In fact, there are three basic factors and layers of art-related ideologies of superstructure, such as facts, news and narrative management on film, video, television, journalism, advertisement and any art industries under capitalism. Among them, both journalism and advertisement ''businesses'' are major driving forces on which film business itself is firmly based. (So called film business is mainly about cinema ownership and profitable distribution; it's all about how many aficionados to buy cinema tickets no matter what kind of genre and content it is)
First, there are countless incidents and facts appear in our everyday social lives; then some of them are selectively picked up by state or corporate media or social media ''influencer marketing'' companies as news; and finally filmmakers creatively distort numerous news in order to produce certain narrative for employers, governments and shareholders. Obviously, everybody's knowledge about social incidents ''what's going on'' is mainly limited in accumulation of news we receive on daily basis.
Furthermore, even social media platform such as Wikipedia is a tool for corporate mainstream media that it is to control narrative by ''enshrining'' mainstream news coverage under the name of ''verifiability'' not truth. Thus controlling narrative on social incidents is to control society by a small number of ruling class titans. In reality, any commercial film is to serve the narrative control of society as a propaganda-entertainment commodity.
For Shock Wave 2 (2020), the most prominent genre filmmaker in Hong Kong, Dir. Herman Yau and his co-screenwriters Erica Lee and Eric Lee successfully ''consumed'' now officially ceased Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement (March 15; June 9, 2019 - January 7, 2021) for both warring political camps of Hong Kong under the strict Chinese censorship.
From preproduction (confirmation of a thematic sequel project of 2017's blockbuster Shock Wave by Universe Entertainment on March 18, 2018), filming, post production till the initial theatrical release in mainland China (December 24, 2020), they also could have exploited the still ongoing fourth wave of COVID-19 epidemic. Nevertheless, producer and star Andy Lau strategically avoided direct reference to any social incidents ostensively, instead he escapistically exploited motifs of actual social incidents. Such as ''indigenous terrorism'' which is notable political labelling against protesters by both police and pro-establishment camp; ''mutually assured destruction of social facilities'' Lam chau on Hong Kong International Airport and its related social infrastructures like Airport Express of MTR and Tsing Ma Bridge; one of typical protest phrases ''made to be thrown away after use'' and precepts of the police propaganda film 守城 (Safeguard HK; 2021) instilled by creditors and the state authorities.
The character transformation of the protagonist, a former Bomb Disposal Officer of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Bureau (EOD), Poon Sing-fung (潘乘風) is custom made for attracting audience of both political camps specifically. As a bomb disposal police officer, Poon Sing-fung (潘乘風) can attract and flatter pro-establishment audience; as a rebellious, frustrated and fatigued character after superiors' refusal of his reemployment as a front line officer attracts opposition audience; as a undercover anti-terrorist officer, his character is embraced by Hong Kong police-thriller film fans.
Why so many Hong Kong citizens disapprove local films of today?
A simple reason that Hong Kong citizens got fed up with maladministration of HKSAR bureaucrats after 1997. The current will only continue and further deteriorate as long as state-subsidised Hong Kong films depict HKSAR bureaucrats as cinematic heroes. It will only fit mainland market. Unfortunately, Hong Kong films of today became propaganda-superhero tales for covering inept HKSAR bureaucrats.
Whatever it is, like any other Hong Kong commercial films, it completely avoided any social issues thus it is purely an escapist approach, even blind to the reality of society because it totally excluded concrete controversial issues. As a result, we can't see any social topics we concerned. Instead, what we can only see here are familiar locations, our messiah Andy Law and apparent CG animated explosive scenes not society at large.
Undoubtedly, protesters are cinematically distorted, alienated and monstrified as Vendettas in the narrative of HK police's WAR ON TERRORISM. In short, monstrification of protesters is simplification and capitalisation of social issues. This is what escapist film entertainment industry does systematically at present. At the end, depoliticisation turned out to be stealth politicisation without social context. Those elements are consciously abstracted and caricatured thus it's out of real context.
An anarchist terrorist group Vendetta led by its guru Ma Sai-kwan (馬世軍) begins a series of terrorist attacks with bombs. One of their targets, Hong Kong International Airport is nuked.
Inciting Incident: A bomb disposal officer Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau) gets injured by one of terrorist explosive device attacks and loses his left leg while on duty. As a result, his reemployment as a front line officer is rejected by his superiors.
End of ACT1: Five years later, Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau) suddenly finds himself as a member of Vendetta and then a suspect of one of terrorist attacks which killed a chairman of REDA after wakening up at hospital coma with symptoms of amnesia. Then he runs away with help from his Vendetta comrades.
Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau) as a fugitive traces back his past memories and clues. A telephone number surfaces from his memory later. It leads to his ex-girlfriend, the chief inspector of the Counter Terrorism Response Unit (CTRU) Pong Ling (龐玲) during escape from police.
Midpoint: Pong Ling (龐玲) reveals his true identity a ''undercover agent'' of CTRU.
End of ACT2:
Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau) is unexpectedly identified as a CTRU agent by his childhood friend Ma Sai-kwan (馬世軍) yet he's saved by his police colleagues before explosion. Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau) now realises his duty to prevent the next terrorist attacks on IFC and Hong Kong International AirPort.
Hong Kong police successfully prevents IFC bombing according to Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau)'s instructions; and a nuclear attack on Hong Kong International AirPort is imminent. Therefore, CTRU and Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau) must block hijacked Airport Express in which nukes installed.
Solution: Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau) explodes Tsing Ma Bridge in order to stop Ma Sai-kwan (馬世軍)'s nuke attack.
End of ACT3:Poon Sing-fung (Andy Lau) saves Hong Kong from Vendetta's terrorism by sacrificing his life, dies while on duty.
Politically, there are several logical flaws in this top #2 box office hit Hong Kong blockbuster in the world's largest film market mainland China:
There is no aftermath (radioactivity) for the nuclear explosion in the city after wiping out of entire Hong Kong International Airport by nukes. Everything remains astonishingly and miraculously normal after the nuke explosion in the city. It's purely sci-fi.
It deliberately ignored Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement (March 15; June 9, 2019 - January 7, 2021). Thus, this film ''cinematically'' eliminated and denied the existence of the social movement. It's escapism, self-alienation from reality.
Why the anarchist terrorist group Vendetta (deprived from a colour revolution film of 2006, V For Vendetta) doesn't target government officials, such as chief executive Carrie Lam? Instead, they are strangely self-satisfied by bombing airport and IFC etc.. True and real terrorists will target government officials and buildings yet the filmmakers couldn't depict it in this way due to apparent censorship. Moreover it differs from 911 terrorists who modelled for this film according to their claim. On the contrary, 911 terrorists simultaneously targeted White House and Pentagon not just only World Trade Centre.
At midpoint of this film, Poon Sing-fung (潘乘風) is suddenly revealed as a undercover agent of Pong Ling (Ni Ni), who is the chief inspector of the Counter Terrorism Response Unit. This Infernal Affairs-like plot twist is technically deceptive (plot deception; a mechanistic trick on scripts). It reversed illogically everything audience followed before that plot point. It includes relations between Poon Sing-fung (潘乘風) and the leader of Vendetta, Ma Sai-kwan (馬世軍). They are unexpectedly and abruptly revealed as childhood friends at the end of ACT2.
In conclusion, Dir. Herman Yau apparently endeavoured to use every different emotional range and characteristic layers through the development of the protagonist and his actions in order to achieve the maximum diversity of film expression in one film. That's always ideal as a creative work. However it still failed to meet inner consistency of the Three Act Structure despite of skilful adaptation of the structural framework. Thus I myself still think Shock Wave (2017) as his best Hong Kong-Mainland China blockbuster film.
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