Sunday, February 22, 2009

Look, Up in the Sky. It's...Pandamen???

Pop superstar Jay Chou (周杰伦 Zhou Jielun) has announced his latest project, a home-grown superhero TV series, possibly titled Pandamen or Panda Heroes. Jay lamented that China lacked a modern-day superhero; all the heroes were from ancient times. (Perhaps he's too young to remember Super Inframan). Jay will direct the series, and will reportedly play the police commissioner. The superheroes will be played by Taiwan pop singers Devon Song and Zhan Yuhao.

At first I thought the idea sounded a little dubious: men in panda suits fighting crime? Will they join the crowded pantheon of lame superheroes alongside such crime-fighters as Hawkman, the Red Bee, and Vibe the breakdancing Spanish superhero? Only time will tell. However, no one could say that Jay doesn't have his finger on the pulse of public opinion. Last year's Kung Fu Dunk was a good example. If Stephen Chow can have a hit movie that combines kung fu and football (Shaolin Soccer), then why not make one with kung fu and the much more popular sport, in China at least, of basketball? A sure-fire winner, only derailed when it turned out that the film wasn't very good.

This time it looks like Jay Chou Inc is following the trail of success left by DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda. The film was a big hit in China, though accompanied by some mutterings along the lines of "Why couldn't the Chinese come up with this, rather than the West appropriating our cultural icons?" Pandamen looks like redressing the issue.

The Pandamen project also means that Jay will now no longer have time to play his own hero, Bruce Lee. There were rumours that Jay would star in the upcoming biopic of Bruce Lee, The Grand Master. It was also rumoured that Jay was director Wilson Yip's choice to play Lee in the planned sequel to last year's Ip Man.

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