Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang
“In the river of time, any small change could create a gigantic shift in the future causing the loss of innocent lives, or the annihilation of the human race. In the distant future, a group of messengers take on the mission of restoring balance to the world…”
What did you think after reading the above? Avengers, the Hollywood blockbuster? Or Heroes, the American TV series? Actually, the paragraph is about China’s first sci-fi web series, Falling Down. The small-production actually received over 25 million click-throughs after just five episodes, with more than 4.3 hundred million total views, making the show the hottest independent web show in 2015. There are many theories about why the show became a hit; some viewers said they’re jaded by the super heroes common in American dramas, while the unique heroes in Falling Down have a Chinese appeal, and the surprising plot twists kept them coming back for more.
What makes Chinese super heroes different? Maybe overseas fans think the Great Ten from DC Comics represent Chinese heroes, but Falling Down tells us that the reality is different.
Falling Down begins on a bus about to fall off a cliff. White collar professional Qu Xiaowan was still upset about her bad luck in love when she realized her screams have stopped the flow of time and saved everyone on the bus. The only passenger unaffected by her power was backpack traveler Liu Xin, who has the ability to read a person’s thoughts when they eat. After time resumed, they were mistaken as criminals by the police, and while trying to get away, they have to fight off their future selves… Time travel elements are popular in a lot of TV shows and movies, but Falling Down uses endless time travel to make its heroes “history-fixers.” A shabby door is used to travel between eras, fix mistakes in time, and restore balance to history.
Unlike Superman and Spiderman, Chinese super heroes do not have a certain look, nor the inborn mission of fighting evil, they are also different from Peter and Claire of Heroes, who were troubled by their superpowers. The heroes in Falling Down are everyday people, they embarrass themselves and spout funny one-liners. Liu Xin likes to say, “I’m stunned,” Qu Xiaowan often says “This is not scientific,” or “My heart breaks for your low IQ,” which soon became fan favorites too. Another superhero, Wang Dasuo, who looks like a dream-hacker from Inception, is in fact a “thought prison” with many famous people in history locked in his mind. The character of Kong Yuan, in a mentor-like role on Falling Down, has the look of an ancient Chinese warrior with his long hair and flowing gowns. He is obsessed with wine from 2014, and possesses a pocket watch which can change time. He seems to know everything, but could also be evil. These innovative characters and features make the show refreshingly different from past sci-fi flicks.
Falling Down won the Most Innovative Web Show Award in 2015. Perhaps there will be even more super heroes in future Chinese TV and movies thanks to the success of this show. Perhaps, the supernatural characters who have inspired the show are really among us and living in our world.