Empires of the Deep – China’s Biggest Movie Failure Ever

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… and movie’s finished CGI certainly fit one definition incredible—- very, very fake:

The un-impressiveness of the trailer above inspired ripples of ridicule, all the good will Jiang painstakingly fostered for Empires of the Deep evaporated overnight. As the clip made its way to movie sites around the world, people were baffled by how the film showcased above could possibly have cost 130 million dollars. Where did all that money go, when  Jiang had clearly saved tons of money by casting mostly unknown actors…

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…not hiring a good font designer…

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…and padding the movie’s runtime with the Windows 98 Aquarium screensaver:

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After the public got a glimpse of the actual 3D special effects that Jiang so hyped up in press releases, no one considered Empires of the Deep to be a serious rival to any Hollywood movie. Even Chinese movie goers, who had been presumed to be less discerning, were not enticed by what they had seen. Press coverage from before the trailer’s release vastly differed from coverage afterwards:

Before:

If the producers pull it off — if the finished film looks like they actually spent $100 million to make it — [China] will begin to attract more real co-productions.
– NY Times

After:

Though you wouldn’t guess it from the look of its trailer, Empires of the Deep cost more than $130 million {[to make]
-CinemaBlend  

 Before:

Kurylenko said she took the role because it was a 3D film.  “I had already seen Avatar and I was like, oh my god, it’s amazing and something like that would be great.” – IndieWire 

Get ready for another Avatar experience in cinemas!
 -ChineseFilms.cn

Announced more than two years ago as a Chinese response to Avatar
Hypable 

After:

…a movie that looks like a crappy underwater Avatar
-Collider

Before:

Empires of the Deep features extensive visual effects that will set it on the level of a Hollywood studio production
Empires of the Deep Press Release

After:

I have never laughed so hard watching a movie trailer
-Movieweb.com commenter Jonnred 

Around the time the film’s trailer was unveiled to great ridicule, it also came to light that Jiang’s so claimed “US co-producer,” E-Imagine Studios, was actually just a shell company set up by Jiang himself, so that he could technically call the movie an “international co-production,” and make it sound prestigious.

You’d think a man with that kind of creativity must have written a great script. But no. Jiang’s script was disparaged by several people who worked on the film . Randall Frakes, Jiang’s co-writer and translator, called the real estate mogul’s ideas “at best muddled, and at worst incomprehensible to an international audience.”  Frakes continued, “I did not hold out much hope of this film being accepted by the general public, either in Europe, the States or even in China.”

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It cannot be confirmed what the plot of Empires of the Deep actually is, because it has been reported as something different with each passing year. The generic titles in the trailer don’t help either:

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I’ve tried to piece together some semblance of a plot from the photos I’ve gathered, but every additional photo only makes me less sure of what this movie is about:

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The production generated even further confusion by never even establishing what language would be spoken in the film.“I acted at some point with a guy who only spoke Chinese to me, and I had no idea what he was saying” recounted star Olga Kurylenko.

And while the international crew and cast Jiang assembled admired the tenacity, creativity and focus of their fellow crew members from China, many expressed their disdain for Jiang’s leadership. Apparently, while Jiang knew little about filmmaking, he nonetheless insisted on controlling key aspects of its process.

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After Pitof, two more directors quit the film in frustration. “The manner in which this film had been run was unlike any movie I had ever been involved in and [was] just not something I could continue to work with,” said Michael French, the third director to exit the project. Jiang finally settled on a director to finish the film on his fourth try, employing an unknown named Scott Miller.

At one point, Jiang’s mismanagement brought the shoot a whole 3 months behind schedule. The movie’s release date would be pushed from 2011, to 2012, to 2013, to finally no release date, when the unanimous negative reaction to the trailer indicated that an international release would be financially catastrophic.

The comments section of this blog post  from roberthood.com features the crew and cast’s real-time cries of outrage while on set. There were multiple accusations that Jiang lied to staff and ignored contracts to avoid having to pay people, and that he forced the actors and crew to “jeopardize their health and safety by shooting in dangerous locations and conditions.” Another extra on the film wrote a lengthy, bitter account of his poor treatment on set. He described one instance where the costume department accidentally ordered an oversized rubber suit, then tried to adjust its tightness by super-gluing it to his skin:

“I began to experience some minor irritation. I examined the [glue] bottles they were using and, sure enough, found a large warning in bold caps: Avoid contact with skin.”

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When filming finally wrapped in May of 2010, one extra cheered:

“For all the trials, errors, power outages, bad food and delays, it was a real blast to be part of this production… one year from now when this movie is released the only thing any of us will remember is that we were in it.”

-Roberthood.com, May 14, 2010

But sadly, as of 2014,

“Five years after production began, there’s little reason to believe this film  will ever see a big-screen release.” 

Beijingcream.com, July 2, 2014 

Not everyone who worked on Empires of the Deep had bad things to say about their experience. For instance, when asked about her role in Empires of the Deep, Olga Kurylenko replied “Oh god, I forgot about that! That was a long time ago, what’s going on?”

The film currently still has no release date. Its official website is defunct, and searches for “E-Imagine Studios” and other Jiang affiliates have returned empty. But some recent reports on the film’s status say that another Avatar visual effects artist, Chuck Comisky, has been recruited to refine the effects of the film , meaning a) the budget has grown even past the $130 million last reported and most importantly b) Jiang is pressing on for a theatrical release in the face of adversity.

Here’s hoping that for all the turmoil toiled and expenses expended, Empires of the Deep does see the light of day and make back some of its budget, even if it won’t be the “700-800 million USD” Jiang projected. Ideally Jiang will be able to get his film in theaters before 2016, when it would have to compete with another Avatar-style action film that takes place underwater:  

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  • Treen Bean

    ….and here it is the middle of 2017. I’ve been awaiting the release on at least Netflix damn lol