China Sets Blockbuster ‘Wolf Warriors II’ on Oscars Trail

China has selected record-breaking nationalistic war film “Wolf Warriors II” as its contender for the Academy Awards foreign-language section.

The news emerged Thursday from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ list of 92 submissions by countries and territories. Authorities in China appear to have failed to make the announcement themselves. The country is currently on a weeklong vacation, involving the National Day and Mid-Autumn Festivals. It is also heading towards a major political event later this month, which makes many in China hesitate about taking any public position.

The film is the biggest sensation in Chinese cinema in several years. Not only did it break records at the box office, having earned $851 million since its July 25 release, it changed the paradigm for Chinese filmmakers. Earlier, Stephen Chow’s “The Mermaid,” which bagged more than half a billion dollars, had been considered an almost unrepeatable phenomenon.

Wolf Warriors II” struck a different nerve with Chinese audiences. The story of a Chinese former special forces operative who fights back against injustice and a bunch of Western mercenaries, it combined technical quality with a nonstop action script and a theme so patriotic that it could be considered propaganda.

China has submitted films for consideration since 1979 and has received two nominations. The most recent was in 2002 for Zhang Yimou’s “Hero.”

Being a sequel and an action film with an astonishingly high body count may weigh against the film with Oscar selectors. But the film’s astonishing commercial success will certainly up its curiosity value.