The similarities are there... but how can you stop a major movie from stealing your ideas?
I saw The Fault in Our Stars at The Grove on opening weekend with a few friends and had no idea what it was going to be about. It was the first time I cried in public, but I wasn't embarrassed, because everyone was crying.
Turns out our theater was not an outlier. On a budget of only $10 million, the movie shocked everyone and returned a box office of over $300 million. It was a massive hit that played all over the world, except China. The producers made a push to get it there but came up empty-handed.
Fast-forward to 2021. The Chinese box office is back in a big way thanks to contact tracing, and a movie called A Little Red Flower. It's a romantic drama about two young people who are battling cancer. The film was directed by Han Yan and opened to $80.3 million. Now it's around $167 million. That's good enough for the best in the globe for 2021... though there hasn't been much competition.
Here's where the drama starts. Popular Chinese movie gossip site, Douban, did a detailed rundown of the similarities between both those movies. There has been no lawsuit, but people on both sides have been left very confused. Chinese fans are very protective of the movie, but similarities, down to the colors of the poster, are undeniable.
It gets better.
The Hollywood Reporter says that after the initial comparisons, "Chinese industry insiders began feeding information to the film buff sleuths who instigated the discussion. Since then, follow-up posts have lobbed claims more serious than suspicious resemblance, or overzealous homage. The allegations now involve a paper trail linking A Little Red Flower's key creative team to former efforts by Fox to create a licensed Chinese remake of The Fault in Our Stars. "
You can read a detailed list of the allegations in THR, but the one that stands out the most to me is that documents viewed by THR say A Little Red Flower came from an effort by Fox to adapt The Fault in Our Stars for the booming China market. That never materialized, obviously, but the people involved were Han Yan and some others who were producers of A Little Red Flower.
It seems like they knew this was a great idea, so instead of cutting the Americans in, they bypassed the rights of the American companies and author John Green and went ahead and made their own version without permission.
These are all allegations right now, but it's not the first time the Chinese market has been hit with this stuff. People in Western markets are really fed up with China being okay with this kind of casual theft, which is costing them millions of dollars.
Disney now owns the rights to The Fault in Our Stars and has had success with lawsuits in China before. They're said to be mulling over a lawsuit.
The hardest thing about this is that ideas are not able to be copywritten, only material. So they have to show the changes in A Little Red Flower are actually changes they proposed for the Fault adaptation in China.
It will be a complicated case to try but could have worldwide ramifications.
Let us know what you think in the comments.