February 16, 2018

Jack Ma — the eccentric Alibaba CEO — has released a martial arts movie

By Jack Rear

Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and now Jack Ma. It seems there is a new celebrity martial artist on the scene.

Traditionally, Alibaba celebrates Lunar New Year by gifting customers with red packets stuffed with money. However, this year, the company’s CEO has quite a different gift for his loyal fans.

Alibaba Pictures announced this week that it’ll be releasing Ma’s martial arts movie globally to coincide with the festival.

The film’s title is Gong Shou Dao which roughly translates as a martial art based on guard and defence.

Ma is the film’s main character, but it also features other Chinese martial arts legends including Jet Li and Donnie Yen. According to Alibaba, all of the stars of the film volunteered their time free of charge.

In summary of the plot: the film revolves around Ma’s character traveling the world to battle with various martial artists to discover the ultimate winner.

The seven minute trailer is really something. It sees Ma punching through a basketball, being thrown through a window by a sumo wrestler, and also unlocking the powers of the various elements through tai chi.

According to Alibaba the purpose of the film is to promote the practice of tai chi. This martial art dates back to 13th Century China. In the modern age it is primarily a meditation technique. It stands out for its slow, graceful movements, putting it at odds with faster, tougher styles of martial arts.

What was said:

Wei Zhang, President of Alibaba Pictures, said:

“GSD is a celebration of Chinese culture, martial arts and all that they represent. We’re proud to be launching this film across the world, especially on the most important day in the Chinese calendar. Our main ambition for this film is to promote Taiji and other martial arts not only to celebrate their rich histories, but also to highlight Taiji’s emphasis on harmony and balance.”

The film has become a runaway success in China. Viewers have watched the film 170m times online since November (when it came out in China.)

To put that in some context, data blog FiveThirtyEight estimates Titanic, the second highest-grossing movie of all time (after Avatar) has been watched by 39m Americans since it was released in 1997.

Still, despite the success of the film, it probably won’t be enough to revive the fortunes of Alibaba Pictures. The entertainment section of the Chinese retail giant posted losses of around $155m in 2016.

The entire film is available to watch on its official website here.

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