Chinese Box Office: Tsui Hark's "Detective Dee" Prequel Uncovers $22M in Three Days

Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

When Tsui Hark’s “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” set the China box office on fire in 2010 with $43.7M, you know it’s just a matter of time for a sequel. But maybe because the producers couldn’t get its star Andy Lau to commit, we instead get a prequel with Mark Chao (“So Young”) in his role. Carina Lau returns as the first Empress of China.

Andy Lau’s absence doesn’t seem to matter commercially, “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” made $17M over the weekend. In just two days, it made nearly as much as what the first film did in a full week.

By the end of Monday, the fantasy/mystery film has already grossed $22M. At its current rate, it’s heading towards the $100M range by the end of its run. Currently, Tsui Hark’s top grossing film is “The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” (Jet Li), which took in $88M in 2011. He may reach a new high with “Rise of the Sea Dragon.”

A handful of reviews available online has been mostly positive. The Washington Post and Hollywood Reporter are mixed, but Variety, The Star Online, and AsiaOne are high praises. Seems like the common critique of the film is that it has one too many subplots, but all gave the abundance of entertaining action sequences high marks.

The trailer looks grand and epic, with lots of beautiful CGI assisted sceneries, swordplay, Titanic-style boat wreckages, and horses either getting injured or doing impossible tricks. If you haven’t seen it, check it out below.

UPDATE 5: $42M after Wednesday. In just five days, it's already nearly equaled the first film's total during its entire run.

UPDATE 4: After Tuesday, its fourth day of release, the film's up to $32.7M. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that it'll reach $100M now.

UPDATE 3: According to Kevin Ma at Film Business Asia, "Young Detective"'s opening day gross of $9.2M is the fourth best ever for a domestic film.

UPDATE 2: According to Screen Daily, "Young Detective Dee" is the top grossing film in the international box office (excluding the U.S.) over the weekend.

UPDATE: Here's another review from Chicago Reader: "... I found it to be great fun. Colorful, silly, and egregiously phony, it went down like a breakfast feast of Pop-Tarts, Fruity Pebbles, and about a half-dozen kinds of ice cream. "

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