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Moviegoers lined up on Monday for the premieres of the new Spiderman and Batman movies in China, where many said the two fictional heroes have prompted reflections on heroes and heroism in real life.
"The Amazing Spiderman" and "Batman 3: The Dark Knight Rises" proved huge successes immediately after their midnight debuts in major Chinese cities, reportedly taking the top slots in most cinemas across the country.
Die-hard fans have been rearranging their schedules or even skipping work to see the two Hollywood blockbusters.
Although the first-day box offices of the films were not immediately available, the two films are expected to rake in 500 million yuan (78 million US dollars), respectively, media reports on Monday quoted insiders as saying.
Many moviegoers said they wanted to see the movies not only for their stunning visual effects and strong casts, but also for their heroes and displays of heroism.
"Yes, I also came for the heroes in the movie," said a high school student surnamed Jiang, who was standing in line to see "The Amazing Spiderman" at the Capital Cinema in downtown Beijing.
"I admire these superheroes, both Batman and Spiderman," added Jiang, who said her definition of a hero is "anyone who benefits mankind and anyone who is selfless."
"A hero is the one who upholds justice," said another moviegoer, a college student who only gave her name as Lu.
"A hero, like Spiderman, would speak out whenever something evil or unjust happens," she said.
"But now there are few heroes in our society, where a lot of people choose to remain silent and indifferent," Lu added. "We do need more heroes in China now."
Experts have echoed Lu's reflections on heroes, saying one reason the two films are popular may be due to the reflections on heroism and heroes they have triggered in an age where too many people opt not to be heroes, turning a blind eye to those in need of help.
"An array of incidents, such as Xiao Yueyue's death last year, are reminding people that our society is running out of heroes," said Prof. Wang Mingmei, head of the Association of Sociology in Jiangxi Province. "That should be one reason why the two films, both featuring heroes and heroism, a universal thing, are becoming popular."
"To some extent, they cater to our society's urgent need for heroes," Wang said.
A public soul-searching has been urged since last October, when a 2-year-old girl, identified as Xiao Yueyue, was run over by two vehicles but left to die in the street, ignored by nearly 20 bystanders in south China's Guangdong Province.
The ensuing moral debate intensified amid a spate of incidents across the country in which people refrained from assisting fallen senior citizens over concerns of later being blackmailed.
Media have been urging people to be "heroes in their daily lives" since these incidents.
"The Chinese people have a long tradition of honoring heroes," said Wang. "But now we need more of them at a time when it's more difficult to make a hero."
Chinese moviegoers who are obsessed with heroes like Batman and Spiderman have their own opinions.
"Although there aren't many, heroes do exist in China," said Wang Linli, 21, a Beijing college student majoring in mass media said after watching "The Amazing Spiderman."
"There are no perfect heroes, as the film showed," she said. "As long as you are true to your heart and do what you can when the unjust is present, you are a hero."
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