On 13 August, the official Weibo account of the film “Born to Fly” made its first post, announcing the release of the film later this year and listing the cast and crew of the production team. With boy band performer Wang Yibo and seasoned dramatic actor Hu Jun in the leading roles. The fifteen second teaser primes the viewer for a story inspired by the test pilots of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in their test flights of China’s most advanced J-20 stealth fighter and latest domestic Flanker models.
“To push our planes to their limit, first you must break your own.” so says the voiceover, as Test Pilot Lei Yu (played by Wang) is stuck in the cockpit of the test plane under grueling sub-zero and roasting temperatures are subjected to the airframe by the test chamber. In the next scene, we see the actors enter the cockpit of a real J-20 and cut to one doing a low pass. In the films’ promotional poster, the aircrew poses behind the Mighty Dragon, which takes a dominating presence in the composition.
The film’s production saw assistance from Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the state-owned aerospace conglomerate behind much of China’s air force, in a reflection to the American Pentagon-Hollywood relationship in film production, which produces films with plots that improves the public image of the Department of Defense in foreign and domestic markets, in exchange of technical assistance and borrowing military equipment. However, previous Chinese films produced with government cooperation have had less than optimistic reception outside the domestic market. Despite this, the Chinese domestic market have been more than receptive to the productions, even propelling “The Battle at Lake Changjin”, a retelling of an American defeat in the Korean War, to the status of the second highest grossing film of 2021.